Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston echoed the words of Jesus, Jane Addams, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others, in asserting that “we must build a civilization of love, or there will be no civilization at all.” Many criticized O’Malley for his focus on loving while we mourn the death of four people during and after the Boston Marathon on April 15. However, I think his words were apropos considering the increase of violence in our society and around the world. He emphasized the importance of living in community, not in isolation, in order to build meaningful and purposeful existence. He warned against prejudice towards all Muslims and immigrants.
At one point in his brief statement, O’Malley used abortions as a way of pointing to the devaluation of human life. I would not have gone in that direction. Furthermore, he coupled that with the assertion that even entertainment has “coarsened” us—making us all largely insensitive to the pain and suffering of others. I understand his concerns, but as a proponent of pro-choice and a frequenter of the big screen and a civil libertarian, I believe his comments were not accurate about their negative effects and were a good example of political rhetoric and were not germane to his phrase concerning our “culture of violence.”
Dr. King once said: “We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools.” We are not all willing to love, especially during times of such tragedies. We are more apt to think about revenge. Certainly, during the moments following the explosions, ordinary citizens risked their lives in order to help others. They should be applauded along with the emergency responders who valiantly did their jobs. But the notion of avenging what happens to us returns to similar voids of responsibility germinated in ancient times. It was a little brown Hindu man from India who, on one occasion, stated: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.” He opined that “love is the strongest force the world possesses and yet it is the humblest imaginable.” Jane Addams, the founder of Hull House in Chicago, emphasized that “social advance depends as much upon the process through which it is secured as upon the result itself.” Hence, the ends never justify the means; rather, the means and the ends must cohere.
When will we make it to the point where we examine how we relate to other countries? Instead, we major in declarative arrogance when we choose after a tragedy to pound our chests and affirm the greatness of our lifestyle and no terrorist action will change how we live. If it is too sensitive a time to talk about how we act internationally when smoke is still rising from Boylston Street, then should we not look inward in between such devastating occurrences with constructive criticism and endeavor to improve foreign and diplomatic affairs? We may still be the greatest military power on Earth, but might does not make right. Besides, our economy is clearly not the best in the world, and it needs a drastic overhaul if the masses of our citizens are going to participate fully here at home and not lag behind other nations whose educational and creative prowess surpasses our own.
As we mourn the terrible loss of Martin Richard, Lu Lingzi, Krystle Campbell, and Sean Collier and commiserate with the more than 170 injured, let us also meditate on the power of love: not only on the love of family, relatives, and friends, but also on that force which seeks after the welfare of others unconditionally, including those who by their actions are our enemies, as Jesus instructed two millennia ago. Amen.