It’s tragic what he did and how it happened. And he still holds power even after he’s dead. The power to keep people from offering rest.
See, Tamerlan was sick. It’s not an excuse by any means.
He was a terrorist. His brother is a terrorist.
But he’s also human. And he’s also dead. And he was sick.
Only sick people do what he did. And although some would label him an “asshole” as well as sick (which I would agree with), it doesn’t discount the fact that he was sick.
But to let him still hold power like this, to deny a body rest: it’s adding tragedy to tragedy.
We, the Christian community, should bury him.
Thomas Long’s wonderful book Accompany Them With Singing: The Christian Funeral provides some good insight on why Christian burial practices are so important as a witness of the faith. He writes,
Early Christianity inherited (a Jewish understanding of the body) and intensified it with strong convictions about the incarnation and the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Doing so stirred Christians not to idealize bodies (as the Greeks did in their perfect sculptures) or to romanticize them (as Sports Illustrated does in its swimsuit issue), but to care for bodies, real bodies, both living and dead, in ways that perplexed and confused their pagan neighbors….What was even odder to Roman eyes was that the Christians “volunteered to take care of bodies, both living and dead bodies…not just of their own families but also of the poor surrounding them…this immediate almost instinctive urge of Christians to care for the sick, the hungry, the old, and the poor aroused comment from their neighbors.” (Long, 29)
To care for the sick, the hungry, the old, and the poor.
In the stories about Jesus, as Jesus was caring for these people, it doesn’t always mention how they got to be the way they were. Perhaps they were people who had done terrible things in their lives, things that forced them out of circles of care, forced them into solitude. Perhaps they were people who were just plain sick, and no one could be around them because they were dangerous.
The Christian’s responsibility isn’t to who the body was, it is to the body as it is now.
Because Jesus had a body, and bodies are important and good, and need to be buried somehow…even if we wouldn’t necessarily categorize the person as being good.
In antiquity Christians would volunteer to bury the bodies of those around them. Their own savior was once a body without a tomb for a home…a tomb was donated.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s crimes were horrible and tragic and beyond the pale.
This is not up for debate.
But his body must be buried, and as a witness to self-giving hospitality, as a witness to our hope in redemption, as a witness to embodiment and incarnation, the Christian church should bury him.
And with him, bury some of the power he somehow is still wielding.
And the fact that we’re reluctant to do so because we’re afraid, or because we hold the flag in front of the cross, or because we think it will be unpopular makes me reluctant to call myself Christian.