Welcoming Tsarnaev home

People are quite adamant that the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev not be given a burial ground.  Even people within my faith community are questioning why any Unitarian Universalist might offer a grave site to this man who caused so much pain in his last few weeks of life.  Here is my response.  It will not be a popular one, I am sure.

Unitarian Universalists ever since the shooting within one of our congregations in Knoxville have redoubled our  insistence to respond with love.  A whole new movement sprung up within our faith about Standing on the Side of Love and not allowing hatred or violence against us thwart us in our pursuit for justice. And so the reasons for that shooting became the motivation for us to be even more public in our support for equal marriage rights, immigration reform, and reproductive rights.

Being on the side of love, however, does not mean doing the popular thing or even the feel good thing. It does not mean doing the thing that will win the cheers of people the world over.  Being on the side of love means doing the hard thing, the thing that is right because we believe as our Universalist heritage teaches us that all people are loved, that all people are received back into their eternal home.  Yes, even mass murderers are welcomed home to god.  We all return to that which we were before. And being on the side of love recognizes this.  All people are saved.  All people are loved and embraced by god. All people go to heaven. Love wins. That is what our Universalist forebears taught.  And so to respond with compassion for a body, to grieve for the unseen unrealized potential of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and provide him with a burial ground is very much in line with our tradition of unconditional love.  It is very much in line with our values.

We may never know what Tsarnaev true motivations were for the acts of violence he committed.  But the truth is each of us have the same potential for violence within us just as we have the same potential for love.  So providing a burial site for Tsarnaev is a very strong proclamation of the Love that loves us all–inspite of his sins, inspite of all the hatred he spewed in his acts of violence.  He is still that little baby boy that his mother held close to her breasts when he was born. He is still that laughing child on his father’s knee. He is still that child of god. And the god that loves unconditionally, our Universalist forebears taught, welcomes him home.

I understand the repulsion people are feeling towards him.   But the reason I understand that repulsion is because I recognize within my self the same potential for committing evil given the right circumstances.  And the repulsion is a denying of that potential for evil that lies within.  We know it and we want to distance ourselves from it. So we abhor it when we see it committed by another, especially another who claims to be one of us.  Anyone who denies their potential for committing evil has not truly looked into their own hearts and reflected on what is there. They have not recognized that righteous indignation and the acts of violence Tsarnaev committed come from the same root within us.   This is  the 40 days in the desert where Jesus wrestled with temptation / the evil one,  this is the internal demons that Gandhi talked about wrestling. It is the harnessing of nuclear power for good and then building a weapon of mass destruction and releasing that destruction over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  This potential for evil lies within each of us.  Yes, I mean you and me.

Tsarnaev expressed the potential for evil instead of the potential for good. It is sad. It is grievous.  It is painful to witness and experience. But in spite of it all.  He still is welcomed home into the hands of a loving Universe. His body will return to mother earth whether we bury him or not.  I can bury his body as I grieve the lost potential of his life.

My faith teaches me to love.  That does not mean I condone his actions.

What is the compassionate thing?  What is the most loving thing?  What is the thing that will bring about healing for the living–his family, his victims of violence?  Certainly it cannot be to leave his body to rot in a cooler. I applaud those who are offering to bury his body and return him from whence he came.  Back to the universe, back to mother earth, back to the loving hands of a creator who loves unconditionally and also grieves over this child’s lost potential for creating good.


Universalism: Love Wins

I had posted as my Facebook status the following: Universalism is the belief that all people, and I mean all people, are loved and received home by the creator. Therefore no matter how far we stray from our human ability to express love to our neighbors we, like the prodigal son, will be welcomed home into the arms of an all forgiving, all embracing creator. Love Wins. The choice is in whether we allow love to win now or later.

A friend then asked the obvious question, “Even Hitler?”  Yes, even Hitler. In the story of the prodigal son there were two brothers, the younger brother took his share of inheritance and wasted it all on prostitutes and drugs.  When he had become destitute he returns to his father’s home. The older brother is filled with rage that his father would throw this lavish party for his no good for nothing brother while not once had his father given him even so much as a young goat that he might celebrate with his friends.  That older brother is us.  It is easy for us who work hard to be just and loving, to do what is right to then become angry when mercy and love is offered to one who is so far from us in our actions.  It is easy to point our fingers at another and say that person is not worthy of love, look at what they have done!  “Give him the Death Penalty!”  “Crucify Him!”

They have conspired to murder, to rape, to terrorism; clearly these things are wrong and therefore worthy of death.  It is easy to justify this.  We as a society must have a standard conduct of behavior or else chaos would reign, right?  And so when a Hitler who has caused directly and indirectly so much evil and untold suffering in the world it is hard to believe that even Hitler could be embraced by Love.

I don’t remember who said it, but there is a quote out there in the universe that goes something like this, “It’s a pretty good bet that if God hates all the same people that you do, then that is not God.”  God should not be made in our image.  If God is all loving then that love extends to even those we detest with our whole being.   Hitler, in  the history of the world, might be such a candidate to be detested with our whole being.

There are some that argue, if everyone gets to heaven, then what motivation is there to do what is right/ to have a moral code of behaviors.  Love wins. If I have been so swayed by the power of love, if I have been so convinced that Love is worth my devotion with my heart and soul then I will choose to seek to do what is most loving, most honorable, most just. To embody Love becomes my motivation to change myself and to change the world towards justice.

I have just purchased the book by Rob Bell entitled Love Wins.  Today is the day it became available.  But it is not a new thought. The notion that God loves all and all will go to heaven is deeply rooted in Unitarian Universalism.  The title says it all.  Love Wins.

If there is any limitation on that love, then love does not win.  If Hitler is not included in Love winning then Love is not love.  If Love refuses a Hitler then it is not love but something else. And if Love refuses a Hitler, who else does Love refuse to embrace? Who else is Love powerless to embrace? Who else is love unable to transform and heal? And who gets to declares this powerlessness, this limitation of Love? Jesus did not.  Buddha, Mohamed, Confucius, Abraham-Hicks, Ram Dass, Thich Nhat Hahn, Dalai Lama, Marianne Williamson, all the spiritual teachers that ever walked this earth never once declared Love to have its limits of being Love.

Either Love wins or Love is not love but selective and prejudiced and biased and judgmental and unforgiving and condemning and vindictive and capricious and …