Happy are they?

Church-Stained-Glass__________________The bombing in Boston ignites our moral indignation and  challenges our moral imagination. It’s difficult to
conceive of an act more morally repugnant than indiscriminate killing and maiming of people assembled for a sports event. It is just as difficult to imagine what might be accomplished by such an act.
I find it impossible to discern the logic behind such
a thing.
When I try to put myself in the place of the two young men who seem to have been the bombers, empathy fails. I know intellectually that there must be all sorts of factors that contribute to the making of a terrorist, but my own limited experience finds no points of commonality. I just can’t imagine what
would make people do that to other people.

Nor can I imagine the feelings of whoever penned Psalm 137, the psalm that begins, “By the waters of Babylon — there we sat down and there we wept.” This psalm is often set to music, but never do we sing the last three verses:

Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites the day of
Jerusalem’s fall, how they said, ‘Tear it down! Tear
it down! Down to its foundations!’

O daughter Babylon,
you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay
you back what you have done to us!

Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them
against the rock!
Most of us just can’t fathom the hurt and anger of those terrible verses. It’s easier to sing of picturesque waters of Babylon than to put our selves in the place of those who would happily kill children.

That this and similar passages appear in Scripture is evidence that God is all too familiar with the feelings and twisted logic that motivate acts of terror. What, after all, could justify nailing an innocent man to a cross? I suppose it’s the same anger, fear, and loathing that motivates two young men to set off bombs in crowded places.
God alone knows our hearts, and God alone judges our actions. May God have mercy on us all.

About Brant Copeland

I was born in Brownsville, Texas, grew up in San Antonio and in Lake Charles, Louisiana. I'm the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Tallahassee, Florida.
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