Events of this past week have caused everything from terror and fear, to fascination and awe. And the power of quick global media coverage enabled local events to affect people around the world.
First, tornadoes swept across the southeastern United States. Here in Atlanta, we are wary and familiar with those turbulent weather patterns. Most of us know how to behave. But these tornadoes were fierce and terrifying, wandering indiscriminately across our region. They destroyed everything from college towns to historic churches to leisurely lakeside mansions, and many of our neighbors died.
We reacted with fear and fascination, some of us tuned to our weather reports and radar screens for hours. Violent weather fascinates us. Then, we reacted with sorrow and aid. Good and beautiful relief appeared from neighbors and strangers.
The royal wedding was next in line. Of course, any wedding is a fun and fascinating celebration. But this one almost made us Americans believe in constitutional monarchies! Weddings give us hope"”whether we are the young flower girl or the distant cousin or even the old bachelor. The commitment of two people to love and honor each other for the rest of their lives fascinates us.
Done well, wedding liturgies show us beauty and mystery; and the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton did just that. We Anglican Christians were especially proud of a service that combined drama, music, and fine words into an event of powerful grace. In fact, God's graceful blessing turned two individuals into a couple, turned them into the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Finally, on Sunday evening, just as a new week was beginning, the world heard the startling rumor that Osama bin Laden was dead. The President of the United States was to deliver a speech late that night. Many of us stayed up late to hear the official news. Others rushed to the White House or to Ground Zero to celebrate. At a baseball game, the crowd learned the news on their smartphones and begin chanting spontaneously, "USA, USA."
How were we supposed to react to the news and details of Osama bin Laden's death? I heard everything from jubilation to vengeance. I heard both revenge and justice. Some religious people were quoting that the one who lives by the sword will die by the sword (Matthew 26:52). Others remembered Ezekiel 23:11, "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live." We were all fascinated; and, in the end, I heard careful relief.
I was one of those with somber relief. Violent death should never be a source of our fascination and awe. But it is worth cheering when a war is over, no matter who started or ended it; I hope this event signals the end of something. And it is certainly worth saluting the brave operation that found the person responsible for decades of terror and fear. I give thanks for such courage.
Unfortunately, violence is a part of this fallen world; and, unfortunately, violence fascinates us. We have a choice to remain fascinated with it or to focus on the mystery of healing and hope. The mystery of healing and hope is harder, but it is much more gratifying. It turns our fascination into the energy of grace and blessing. May grace and blessing be with us during these weeks to come.
The Very Rev. Sam Candler
Sam Candler is Dean of the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, Georgia. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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