Rejecting the Dead?

Did you see/hear this story on NPR?

The body of suspected Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev languishes in a funeral home because no cemetery will accept it for burial.  Interestingly enough, the story quickly notes that this impetus for “justice” and punishment is an old one, and it begins with the following example:  “The notion that some individuals may have been so villainous as not to deserve burial is an ancient one. In the book of Mark, Jesus speaks of Gehenna, the valley outside the walls of Jerusalem, where bodies of those who disobeyed God were unceremoniously dumped.”

One of the people quoted in the article suggests this reason for why there has been such an outcry against burial in this case in particular:  “It’s not clear why the body of Tsarnaev has sparked such strong reaction, when other killers have been buried without incident. It’s possible the combination of a horrific terrorist attack and the fact that Tsarnaev was an immigrant and a Muslim have fostered a sense that he was not part of the local community,” Sloane says, “and cemeteries are very much seen as belonging to communities.”

Christians should know better than anyone the importance of not allowing this kind of marginalization and scapegoating–especially when someone is an outsider–as though anyone were beyond the bounds of the human community, as though we have the right to place someone outside the bounds of God’s grace and mercy, even in death.  That’s what Christ died on the cross to prevent, after all.  We can try as hard as we can to “reject the dead”–but God doesn’t, and won’t.

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