“There’s deep consternation in the religious community and deep desire for this to be resolved,” Everett said. “Religious leaders are weighing how best to be useful in that.”
Some observers wonder whether something less charitable might be unfolding. Christian leaders in past centuries called for burning witches at the stake and having criminals buried at crossroads, where vehicles would run over them, said Gary Laderman, a historian who studies death rituals at Emory University.
Laderman said he sees “echoes from previous eras” in calls from the general public for burials to be denied to an enemy such as Tsarnaev. He warns that religious leaders can contribute to desecration by what they sanction, encourage, say or don’t say.
“There’s a way in which religious leaders and cultures can inflame the passions even more about wanting to desecrate (the bodies of) the most vile people on earth,” Laderman said.
Christians beyond the Boston area are taking steps to see that Tsarnaev gets a burial. The group Evangelicals for Social Action has collected 42 signatures for a new petition calling on Christian cemeteries to accept Tsarnaev’s body. Paul Keane, originally of Hamden, Conn., has offered the Tsarnaevs a plot beside his late mother in a church cemetery. It would be in her memory, Keane said, since she “taught me to’love thine enemy.’”
Boston Christians, meanwhile, worry some of their peers are cowed into silence by vocal opponents, such as those who’ve targeted funeral director Peter Stefan for saying he will find a burial site for Tsarnaev, perhaps in Russia if not the United States.
When Anderle said on his Facebook page that Christians should be “utterly scandalized” when a burial is blocked, others say he’s taking a risk.
“There is this sense of,’I really appreciate what you’re saying, but that sure seems a dangerous thing to point out in a society that’s hell bent on retributive justice,’” Anderle said. “We can’t engage without fear of being ... vilified and attacked. That’s sad.”
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