U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey, the Democratic candidate for the Senate seat that John Kerry left to become secretary of state, orates that Tamerlan Tsarnaev should continue to decompose above ground: “If the people of Massachusetts do not want that terrorist to be buried on our soil, then it should not be.”
Many Bay Staters agree. Cambridge city officials said nyet to burial in the city cemetery. Other cemeteries did the same. When the corpse arrived at one funeral home, protesters said it should go elsewhere and called funeral director Peter Stefan “un-American” for being willing to handle the funeral.
Stefan replied, according to Politico, “We take an oath to do this. Can I pick and choose? No. Can I separate the sins from the sinners? No. We are burying a dead body. That’s what we do.” Good for Stefan. No matter how heinous Tsarnaev’s actions were, he was made in God’s image.
The protesters’ sins, and mine, do not appear to be as great as Tsarnaev’s: We like to judge by a human good-enough standard. God’s standard is different: If anyone who did evil could not be buried, then no one would be buried. God is gracious, so we should be gracious as well.
And if you want to see the great movie scene about refusal to bury a person, watch the beginning of The Magnificent Seven, a fine half-century-old Western: Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen make sure a body is buried (see the two video clips below).
The issue there was racism rather than murder, but I wouldn’t mind some Massachusetts evangelicals driving up with a wagon and insisting that, out of respect for God, Tsarnaev deserves to be buried, even though he did not respect God or his fellow man.