The Boston Bombers’ Turning to Religion Caused Them to Murder and Maim Innocents? UPDATED

That seems to be the thesis over at the Wall Street Journal.

Once known as a quiet teenager who aspired to be a boxer, Tamerlan Tsarnaev delved deeply into religion in recent years at the urging of his mother, who feared he was slipping into a life of marijuana, girls and alcohol. Tamerlan quit drinking and smoking, gave up boxing because he thought it was in opposition to his religion, and began pushing the rest of his family to pursue stricter ways, his mother recalled.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was known to visit Al Bara Market and other Cambridge locations prior to his alleged involvement in the Boston Marathon bombing.

“You know how Islam has changed me,” his mother, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in Makhachkala, Dagestan, says he told her.

The changes drove a wedge through the Tsarnaev home at 410 Norfolk St., in Cambridge, Mass. Tamerlan persuaded his mother to cover herself up, which she says at one point distressed her husband, Anzor. “He said, ‘You are being crazy, covering yourselves,’” she recalled her husband saying. She said that she told him, “This is what Islamic men should want. This is what I am supposed to do.”

The parents’ marriage broke up about two years ago. The father—a former boxer himself who was distraught when Tamerlan gave up the sport—has since moved to Dagestan after falling ill. Both parents believe that their sons are being framed for the Boston attack.

Over the past two years, Tamerlan became more confrontational about his religion, engaging in arguments with other worshipers at a Cambridge mosque he sometimes attended, according to a mosque spokesman and worshipers there.

His growing religious interest coincided with a rocky period in his life during which his boxing career stalled, he drifted in and out of community-college courses, he was charged with assault by a girlfriend who said he slapped her, and a friend of his was murdered.

I can’t help but juxtapose this possibility against what happens when one turns with similar zeal to the teachings of the Catholic Christian religion. For when someone really spends some time with the gospels, really listening to their message, even when they don’t have a pocket sized New Testament, for example, why the next thing you know, they may find themselves working barefoot in the snow outside of Assisi, rebuilding a church, and turning the world on it’s head.

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That’s the effect the Christian religion had on St. Francis of Assisi, and all of the rest of the Communion of Saints, come to think of it.

Reading a little about St. Francis in Paul Rout’s Francis and Bonaventure, for the Great Christian Thinkers series published in 1996, I see that contrary to notions of religious zealotry turned violent, and unguided,

 It is important to remember that Francis never felt that his belief that God had called him directly justified him in ‘doing his own thing.’ He insisted that his conviction should be tested by the wider community of the Church and he sought
confirmation of his calling from the Church’s representatives —firstly, his local bishop, and later, the Pope in Rome. In 1209, Pope Innocent III approved Francis’ Rule of Life. God may call individuals directly but it is very possible for people to be mistaken about the nature of such a call. In recent years we have seen tragic consequences following the actions of self-labelled “prophets” who were convinced God had called them, but who refused to submit their conviction for the approval of the wider religious or social community. Francis, however, realized that his calling was not meant to make him greater than God’s people, but ever more a part of God’s people. Just as yeast achieves its potential not by being separated from the dough, but by being immersed in it, Francis immersed himself in the community of the Church and brought it new life.

St. Francis, and all Christians who put their heart, mind, and soul in learning the ways of the Church, understand the following truths from the earliest days of her inception, before all of the Gospels had been written.

There are two ways, one of life and one of death; but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this:

First, you shall love God who made you; second, your neighbour as yourself; and all things whatsoever you would should not occur to you, do not also do to another. And of these sayings the teaching is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there, if you love those who love you? Do not also the Gentiles do the same? But love those whohate you, and you shall not have an enemy. Abstain from fleshly and worldly lusts. If someone gives you a blow upon your right cheek, turn to him the other also, and you shall be perfect. If someone impresses you for one mile, go with him two. If someone takes away your cloak, give him also your coat. If someone takes from you what is yours, ask it not back, for indeed you are not able. Give to every one that asks you, and ask it not back; for the Father wills that to all should be given of our own blessings (free gifts). Happy is he that gives according to the commandment; for he is guiltless. Woe to him that receives; for if one having need receives, he is guiltless; but he that receives not having need, shall pay the penalty, why he received and for what, and, coming into straits (confinement), he shall be examined concerning the things which he has done, and he shall not escape thence until he pay back the last farthing.  But also now concerning this, it has been said, “Let your alms sweat in your hands, until you know to whom you should give.”

Which explains why I keep returning to the Sermon on the Mount, time and time again.

UPDATES:

Fr. Dwight Longenecker on the difference between religion and ideology.

Michael Gerson on being tied in knots by radical Islam.

  • Theodore Seeber

    I’ve done a detailed study of Islamic theology. Chechen in particular is as troubling in it’s own way as Muwahiddun; the difference being Chechen is even more individualistic. The lone wolf is the symbol of the Chechen male; he does not do jihad but he does do vendetta.

    Right next to where the first bomb went off there was a group of Russian tourists flying the Russian flag. I do not think that was a coincidence.


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