Bombings and Christian Responses: Toward a Kingdom Ethic

Warning: A graphic wartime picture is included in this post.

Though law enforcement officials have yet to find the culprit or culprits responsible for Monday's Boston Marathon bombing it was quickly certified a "terrorist attack." Whether the work of Al Qaeda, Hamas, the Red Brigade or some white power group no one knows. What we do know is that three were killed and scores injured.

Overreaction was swift and certain. On Twitter NY Times columnist Nick Kristof both overstepped good decorum and stepped back within moments. I was called out by Daily Beast and Newsweek columnist Alex Klein.

To what did he take exception? My response to this tweet: Alex Klein ‪@alexnklein

Alex Klein ‏@alexnklein 15 Apr
@martyduren You are both bad at social media and following Jesus. Please correct your bio.

My suggestion to Klein was it is the same evil when it involves drone strikes.

The drone being executed by the current administration has been found lacking. In addition to killing at least one American citizen and one teenager, new reports indicate top level Al Qaeda operatives are not the sole targets. Rather, tribal leaders have been killed instead. In addition, reports last year revealed United States drone strikes in Pakistan often targeted funerals or first responders.

Some might argue we are at war, a context validating all but the most egregious decisions. But what if the Boston Marathon bomber(s) are responding to our attacks on civilians around the world? Are those actions as valid as ours, or invalid if the action is not declared by a specific nation? There remain questions as to whether our drone war is even legal according to international law. That would not be our government's interpretation of said laws, of course. And so it goes.

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Child killed by an American drone strike.

How is this different than Kermit Gosnell's "House of Horrors"?

Followers of Christ must be more consistent in our ethics of war as understood in the context of God's kingdom. The Boston bombings were a tragedy. Whether first responders were targeted remains unproven, but what if they were? Is it intrinsically evil to target American first responders as opposed to the Pakistani variety? Is it morbid to attack runners, but morally acceptable to bomb mourners?

To be a citizen in the kingdom of God means the primacy of that kingdom over every other kingdom. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount has been interpreted as the ethical fabric of the Kingdom robes. Living in that means consistent ethics based on God's revealed truth, not political shenanigans, military aggression, terrorist atrocities or hyper-nationalism. Jesus declaration of a kingdom "not of this world" was not merely an assurance to Pontius Pilate. It was both affirmation and instruction to centuries of His followers. Opposing violence for violence sake works for some, but when the same types of violence and aggression are used, our response should be Kingdom informed and evenly applied. Uneven responses may betray a subtle–or not so subtle–shift in allegiance to an earthly kingdom from the heavenly one. May it never be.

Marty Duren is a former pastor, Christ follower, husband, father, writer, social media strategist and general provocateur who lives in Hermitage, TN. His blog, Kingdom in the Midst can be found at