Yesterday, while the younger Tsarnaev brother lay recovering and apparently unable to communicate, receiving treatment in the same hospital as some of his many victims, the bishop of Long Island visited an Episcopal church in Brooklyn. He began his sermon by asking us to think “especially about how the United States is perceived in the world, and how we act — and overreact — sometimes.” The rest of the sermon was a plea to the congregation that we practice Christian kindness even when it is hard to do so. The sermon was inspired, he told us, by reading many hateful tweets and Facebook posts, some from people he knew and respected, that urged all kinds of vengeful punishment upon the 19-year-old bomber. The bishop found the tweets shockingly, unspeakably vile — un-Christian — and he criticized himself for not responding. He exhorted us to be better Christians, his vehemence shading occasionally into anger. He was very angry . . . at the Americans who gave unseemly vent to their anger. In his entire sermon, he had not one word of remembrance for the bombers’ victims, not a single suggestion that we pray for the traumatized families or the many fear-stricken Bostonians. He made no mention of the murderous act that might impel Facebook users, even Christians ones, toward rage at Dzhokar Tsarnaev. See no evil, apparently, unless it’s within our own souls.
Looking at the photo of the skinny youth dragging himself into a boat, seeing the image of his bare torso as the police checked to make sure he wasn’t wearing a suicide vest, I found it hard not to feel a surge of compassion. Where did this kid go so wrong? How many mistakes did he have to make to get to this point? But compassion is one thing; willful and selfish blindness, as Andrew McCarthy and Charles Cooke put it, is quite another.