Religious Persecutors



I recently watched the film Patriot Days, which tells the story of the Boston Marathon bombings. It details the lives of some of the victims as well as the bombers themselves and the law enforcement officials who apprehended them.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, like many fanatics, used religion to justify the murder and maiming of innocent men, women, and children. His brother Dzhokhar, who seems less ideologically driven, does not come off any better in the film, showing a selfishness and callous disregard for human life. He even ran over his own brother with a car in his haste to save himself. Tamerlan is dead, and Dzhokhar languishes in prison while lawyers appeal his death sentence for the bombings and the shooting death of an MIT campus police officer.

Today is Good Friday, and Christians all over the world commemorate the suffering and death of Jesus Christ at the hands of the Romans but at the behest of religious leaders who saw Jesus as a threat to their power. These leaders used trumped up charges of blasphemy to justify handing over an innocent man to be crucified, a cruel and ignominious form of execution.

Although the larger story of Christ’s passion and death points to his resurrection and the salvation of the world, the actions of the chief priests and Pharisees of Jesus’s time are echoed in history’s many instances of people using religion to justify violence.

The world is filled with many faith traditions, each with its own beliefs, rituals, and customs. People of faith may disagree with and even criticize each other. But our religious beliefs should never be the basis for hatred or killing.

As Jesus neared his death, he prayed, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” If Jesus can forgive his tormentors, we too should seek to promote peace and healing, not violence and death.


New Pass



The New Pass Grill sits on a strip of beach overlooking Sarasota Bay in Florida. A modest shack with a large following, it serves simple fare such as burgers, fries, fish and chips, and beer to the line of people snaking along its deck. Just next door is another shack where one can purchase live bait for a fishing excursion in the bay.

On this Good Friday, I stood in line with the lunch crowd at New Pass and reflected on the great goodness of a savior who would suffer and die an agonizing death for every single soul, even all the oblivious people down here vacationing, overeating, getting sunburned. No one here seemed to be praying or pondering the momentous nature of this holy day.

I should have felt guilty, but all I felt was an inexplicable joy and fondness for all the people I saw eating, drinking, laughing, and talking. Not the personal fondness I feel for family and friends, but a feeling born from the recognition that Jesus loves them so incredibly much that he willingly gave his life for them, whether they pay attention to him or not.

Humans – in all our imperfections, needs, weaknesses and cravings – hold a spark of the divine. Each of us is on a path, a journey that we hope will lead to peace and love.

The sun shone and the breeze blew outside the New Pass Grill as I sat with my two girls on stools facing the sparkling blue water of the bay. I filched fries from their baskets and reminded myself to pray in thanks for the most precious gift I have ever received.

A Good Friday indeed.