The Boston Marathon Massacre

Exactly twenty years ago yesterday I was running the Boston marathon… it was Patriots Day 1993. It was one of the greatest and most religious experiences I have ever had, and it strengthened my faith. Patriots Day, the day we remember what the Patriots did to help us secure our freedoms, our democracy. It is always a day of celebration, joy, and for the marathoners who finish, agony and ecstasy. I remember well my dear old friend Rick Sanders meeting me at the finish line, taking the pictures, helping me off the course. I had never been so tired and so happy in my entire life. On Patriots day, shops close, the Red Sox play an 11 a.m. game, and in general it’s a Boston holiday. Of course it is. Paul Revere would have been proud. Samuel Adams would have passed out free beer! A great day.

But now that day has been marred and marked with tragedy. Senseless tragedy created by cowards who seem to think that blowing up innocent human beings is somehow a noble thing to do, even a thing that can get you commended and a special place in Paradise. What a lie that is. What an absolute lie. God is weeping with those who mourn on this day, not celebrating with the butchers of innocent runners and their families.

Yesterday I went running here in Durham. Actually it’s just jogging these days… and I came to a hill that reminded me of Heartbreak Hill, only much much steeper. I had to walk up most of it so it didn’t become Heart Attack Hill.

I have been thinking about my Marathon experience twenty years ago. The explosions happened yesterday at 2:50 and killed four people and injured 140. There were two explosions. I kept thinking, what if it was me crossing the finish line then? I could have been killed as well. In reality, I did not cross the finish line until near 5 p.m. Had I been in this race, they would have diverted me to Commonwealth Ave. and I would have finished in an odd place, not the traditional finish line.

Today is a day to reflect more seriously on the stupidity of random and senseless violence, whether it’s gun violence or the violence that explosives bring. It is a day to pray for the families who have suffered loss through this pointless and hate-filled act.

It is a day to also remember that no matter how much security we have, we are never ever entirely safe, and that leads to the question, is it really worth it to spend trillions of U.S. dollars every year on security everywhere, when in reality we are not secure anywhere, even in Chitlin Switch N.C.? I don’t think it is worth it.

Why not? As long as there are idiots with guns who are allowed to buy and use them, as long as C4 and other explosives or the chemical components to make such explosives are readily available to people, as long as their are wicked human beings, anything beyond reasonable precautions and normal security measures is probably a waste of time, money, and effort. It just is.

We would do better to trust in the Lord, and not in elaborate, expensive security measures. There is one practical thing we could do. We could pass much stricter controls on all things that go boom— guns, ammo, explosives, grenades etc. Much stricter controls. That might help some. But the only cure for human wickedness is actually conversion, a deep work of grace by the Lord in the soul of a fallen creature.

Yesterday is a day that will go down infamy. A day when the Boston marathon became the Boston massacre. A day when runners all over the world come to Boston with the same peaceful purpose and goal in mind and encouraged each other to run the good race and finish the course. I trust that this wicked act will not prevent the racing of the oldest marathon in the modern era to continue. After all the first marathon was run precisely because of a battle, the battle of marathon.

The best answer to senseless violence is to go on living a normal life with normal precautions, not allowing the wicked plans of evil persons to alter what is good, and true, and beautiful. For if you allow acts like this to put an end to good and godly activities, then the wicked have won a brief victory. And they must never be allowed to think they have won— because in the end, they will not.

  • http://tailormadefs@yahoo.com Mary Liz

    Thank you for this. I have shared it with my tean of prayer warriers and pastor friends. Be safe in England. Your writings are feeding me.

  • Brandon Bishop

    Ben, isn’t it a little early to say that the person was doing this so he/she could get entrance into paradise?

  • Ben Witherington

    Probably not Brandon. They have a bead on who did this…. a Saudi national it looks like from the Boston sources, and there are lots of them with Al Qaeda connections. BW3

  • Dave

    “We could pass much stricter controls on all things that go boom— guns, ammo, explosives, grenades etc. Much stricter controls…. ”

    It is being said that the explosives were made using pressure cookers. Should we ban those too? Where is the line drawn when it comes to banning things? If you follow your reasoning to its end, it seems absurd, in my opinion, that you could ever curtail the violence of the wicked by trying to ban any number of items.

    “…That might help some. But the only cure for human wickedness is actually conversion, a deep work of grace by the Lord in the soul of a fallen creature.”

    Ahh, now you’re on to something! The Grace of the Lord overcoming the sins of the wicked. This, not a list of banned items, is the only thing that can hope to stop these things.

  • Marcin

    Dr. Witherington, thank you for your thoughts on that tragedy. I have a question though. I am an European guy and I have always wondered one thing: why do some Americans feel the need to carry or to have a gun? What is the reason behind such a need?
    This question comes from a guy who has never seen a gun and tries to understand American culture.
    Thank you and God bless you.

  • mochajava76

    reports now are that the Saudi national has been cleared.
    “The man was considered a “person of interest,” but is no longer under suspicion, said a federal law enforcement official who requested anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation”
    http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-student-boston-marathon-bomb-hunt-20130416,0,5904809.story

  • Jeannie

    This very incident does go to show that violence and murder come from many, many other forms and fashion. I am sickened and saddened that the country I grew up in is no more. I remember asking my daddy if there would ever be war in this country (before 9/11) and he said no, he didn’t believe so. If he were alive today he would know that we’ve never been safe. Even when we thought so.

  • Ben Witherington

    Dave in fact after the Dunblane disaster here in the U.K. much stricter gun and ammo and weapons controls were instituted, and it has reduced violence enormously in the U.K. The same is true when a similar disaster in Australia and the laws they passed. Things were much better thereafter. Obviously, human beings can always find ways to kill each other even with tooth picks, but the point is to not make it easy, readily available etc…… Not too many people know how to turn a pressure cooker and nails into a bomb, now do they? BW3

  • Marcin

    Dr. Witherington, thank you for your thoughts on that tragedy. I have a question though. I am a European guy and I have always wondered one thing: why do some Americans feel the need to carry or to have a gun? What is the reason behind such a need or desire?
    This question comes from the guy who has never held a gun in his hands and tries to understand American culture.
    Thank you and God bless you.

  • Dave

    While I’m not interested in getting into a useless debate as it is unlikely either of us will budge, there is a lot of conflicting data on the effects of the gun restrictions in the UK, Aus, and Canada. A lot of data indicates violent crime has in fact increased dramatically. There is also similar data for US states like California.

    It is of no relevance how many people know how to make a bomb from common items. It only takes one, just like in Boston. I don’t know how, but could certainly figure it out. I also doubt that most people know how to use a firearm too, so your argument doesn’t hold water.

  • Ben Witherington

    Sorry Dave but there isn’t any conflicting evidence about the reduction in gun violence in Scotland and Australia. The evidence is clear, circumstantial, and can’t be explained away. As for California I have no doubt violence has increased there. Their border with Mexico and of course other states that are pro gun is like a leaky sieve.

    Marcin, most Americans probably do not have handguns. I don’t know that many who do. I know far more people who have hunting rifles in the south, which is fine. But if you want to know where all that comes from, in part it comes from the Wild West days of American history. Parts of our country in the Midwest and West just never grew up, basically. BW3

  • Luken

    Now I’m starting to think that you are just screwing with us Ben. Nobody can be this obtuse or unable to follow their thought process to its logical conclusion as you seem to be every time you rant about violence. Start thinking Ben, or go back to what you do best. Answer me this: Why is it that I never hear you rant about the dozens of children your president has killed through his bombings in Pakistan? Why is it that you can so easily turn a blind eye to his murders and instead focus on banning things from people who have had nothing to do with any senseless violence in their entire lives. Grow up! Your childish antics on this topic grow wearisome. I have shown you your errors repeatedly yet you drag out the same tripe time and again. I can only conclude that either you are either being disingenuous or willfully obtuse.

    “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” -The other Ben

  • Dave

    I admit to being a bit dumbfounded about your last comment, Dr. Witherington. It is so obvious that conflicting data on violent crimes (as it relates to certain weapon bans) exists, that I’m wondering if you are joking? If there was no conflicting data, there wouldn’t be so many differing opinions on this, would there?

    Your last sentence is so illogical, it is saddening. Mexico has a complete weapons ban for private citizens. How does that fit into your paradigm? And when I mention that there is data that supports the conclusion that banning certain guns in California increased the rates of violent crime, what does that have to do with what the laws are in neighboring states? The rates INCREASED over their previous levels. If the problem were people from Nevada going over to CA and shooting the place up, it would be logical for the rate to have dropped because of the ban, and then maybe have localized increases where out of staters came over, guns blazing. The real issue, though, is that your statement presumes that because CA or another state bans guns, all the criminals suddenly find themselves law-abiding and don’t carry, so the only guns are coming from another state. That is a real head scratcher.

    I really enjoy your commentaries, and other books on the NT and the social world of the Bible, but when it comes to this subject it seems as though you throw all logic out the window.

  • George

    Ummm…the cartels get their guns from the US, that’s how it fits the paradigm. I believe it was the Washington post that ran a whole series on this.