Boston Strong!?

Fear Sad Angry Lonely

I felt fear and sadness when the news of the bombing in Boston erupted upon our television screens.  Later that evening, my initial feelings about the incident gave way to an even deeper fear and sadness over what was becoming of our country.  I posted the following statement on my FB status:  “911 burst through the ‘innocence’ of our borders and fundamentally changed our nation in ways no one could have imagined.  This horrible tragedy today in Boston will have a ‘doubling down’ effect.  If you have done much international travel you have seen it and felt it – only to be comforted by your return to the USA.  That is changing.  The loss today is very personal (almost hard to imagine) and very national (we are the world).”

Now almost two weeks later, my sadness grows for something . . . and wants to honor something I believe has been lost.  While I understand and acknowledge the nobler sentiment in statements like “We are Boston Strong!” my sadness honors a deeper loss evidenced in a collective response ABC News described as the “defiant spirit” city officials say “united the city in the face of terror.”  Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz “Big Papi” exemplified the sentiment I am referring to when from the Fenway Park during a pre-game ceremony to honor the dead and wounded, he shouted into the microphone, “This is our (expletive) city!”

Boston Strong?  Really?  A 25 year old blows up a pressure cooker and kills and mames innocents.  Then his 19-year-old brother evades a military style manhunt that keeps an entire city under lockdown at a cost of $333,000,000 per day.  And when the 19-year-old fugitive is finally captured before he has a chance to bleed to death in the back of a covered boat, we celebrate in the streets convinced the “threat” is over . . . as if it’s over.  On the contrary, killing one bomber and capturing another did not end anything -- it only exposed two realities:  we are vulnerable and our demonstration of “strength” masks our true weakness.

What is our weakness?  Our weakness is that we seem to have forgotten where our true strength comes from – evidenced in how so little of the post bombing response credited a dependence upon God when we were helpless and humbled, a cry out for His ever present help in times of trouble, or a gratitude to Him that an entire city under marshal law is finally free to leave their houses and go back to work.  

One citizen interviewed in the post-capture celebration stated while shaking his clenched fist like a hammer, “Moments like this don’t show our weakness, they show our strength.”  Whose strength?  What strength? Ours?  It felt like I was watching an ant shake its fist at a giant.

I'm not advocating weakness in the face of those who wish to hurt us or destroy our way of life.  I just don't think what I saw in the outfield at Fenway had anything to do with strength.  It was more like the rage that stems from unacknowledged un-surrendered fear.   

In the Voice of the Heart, Chip Dodd writes about how FEAR brings us to a place of strength when it leads us to risk, trust, depend, collaborate and ultimately realize our need.  

This rings of a greater strength than the loud but thin protests that imply "you can't get to me!"  The truth is they can and they did -- and it hurt! 

The Bible presents a picture of strength where stout yet humble men like the apostle Paul declare from bended knee (as opposed to hammered fist) that in his weakness he is strong . . . preferring to boast about his weakness that the power of Christ might dwell in him. 

One Boston media headline exclaimed, “City unites in the face of terror.”  My sadness and fear is that we seem to have united around a misguided confidence in our strength as a people rather than the strength of a God who gives grace to the humble but opposes the proud.  

Much has changed since 9/11 when churches were packed and Bibles flew off the shelves after that fateful tragedy.  I know there are many in Boston and the rest of the nation that have been on their knees since the Boston Marathon bombing.  And while I acknowledge that my observations are not inclusive, I do sense a  shift has occurred.  I do fear something is changing, something intangible has been lost . . . and the loss grieves me.