April 20th, 2013
05:14 PM ET

My Take: Reconsidering a sermon amid SWAT teams

Editor's note: Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio is an ordained Episcopal Church priest and author of "God and Harry Potter at Yale: Teaching Faith and Fantasy Fiction in an Ivy League Classroom."

By Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio, Special to CNN

Boston (CNN) — The day after the Boston Marathon bombings, the Belief Blog published my thoughts on what it meant to be a Bostonian and person of faith in the aftermath of such horrific violence. I described what I planned to preach to my congregation Sunday, that even in the face of darkness and evil, light will prevail.

That was before the manhunt in Watertown, where my husband and I have lived for three years. In the dark of night, I woke up to banging noises and sirens followed by phone calls to stay inside.

From approximately 5 a.m. onward, we heard horns or helicopters every couple of minutes. We questioned our own safety, and when we peeked through the blinds outside, it looked like all our neighbors had deserted the town, though we knew they were holed up in their apartments, too.

At 6 a.m. we began scheming about exit strategies, should a quick exit from our apartment be needed:

Was the glass in our apartment building bulletproof? (No.)

Where could we hide if things got violent outside? (The bathroom.)

If absolutely necessary, what were the chances that we'd hurt ourselves if we jumped out the window? (High. We live on an upper floor.)

As the morning progressed, law enforcement officials moved closer and closer to our apartment. I began to reconsider the message of my sermon as SWAT teams swooped in and more sirens sounded.

Living the quest for justice and light (albeit in a passive way) was terrifying, another extension of the darkness, even though I knew that hundreds of law enforcement officials were doing their best to capture bombing suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev.

Around 3 p.m. I wondered if the outdoor ban would end by Sunday, or if the other priest in my church would have to deliver the sermon for me.

Around 4 p.m. I began to wonder if we had enough food in our apartment should we be quarantined through the weekend.

Then night fell again. Law enforcement officials found Dzhokar Tsarnaev in a grounded boat. My husband and I joined other Watertown residents as they took to the streets, creating an impromptu parade to applaud local police, bomb squad teams, FBI agents and state troopers. In the darkness, we stepped outside into warm and clammy air and cheered for every lit police car we saw.

Yet as I clapped my hands and hollered, my mind's eye flashed to the deceased MIT police officer, to the man who lifted the white tarp on his boat to find a pool of blood, to the nurses and doctors who had the responsibility of healing the suspect's body, to the young children in Watertown who may have seen fear flash through their parents' eyes for the first time.

I can only guess how overwhelming the day must have been for law enforcement officials who weren't given the luxury of showing their fear, how terrifying it must have been for their families. And then there were the people from the marathon bombings who lost their legs and the three victims who lost their lives.

Standing in the cheering crowd of Watertown, I wondered: Is this the light I believe in? The light I will preach about on Sunday?

That law enforcement officials captured the suspect as efficiently as they did is an enormous triumph, and that an entire community could unite to help make it possible is a testimony to the solidarity and goodness of the human spirit. But I cannot forget that even as some of us cheered for justice, others went to bed traumatized, devastated, very much feeling the weight of darkness upon them.

So, I cannot help but wonder whether there is any light or justice that emerges from evil that is worth their suffering. It makes me wonder about the power of the light and hope that define Christianity, because even if Friday was a sign that light can prevail, it felt more like seeing a sliver of the sun radiating behind the moon during a solar eclipse, more like seeing police lights rotate in the darkness. Such light, such hope, may illuminate the scene a little, but so much still remains invisible, mysterious and unknown.

My sermon will be different on Sunday morning because of what I experienced in Watertown.

Yes, I still believe in the power of light to triumph over dark, perhaps even more so than I did earlier this week. But I also believe that light, at least for now, comes with a price tag. It is even harder won than I believed. But it is worth the fight, and when we see even a glimmer of it, it is worth taking to the streets to applaud and shout as long and loudly as our lungs will allow.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Opinion

soundoff (78 Responses)
  1. His panic

    The Light who is Jesus Christ already shines in the darkness but the darkness does not understands it and rejects it. So really is not a matter of when and where the Light [Jesus] will triumph over darkness, it is a matter of the darkness having refuse the Light.

    John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

    April 21, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      That is not only a lie, but a bad analogy.

      April 21, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
    • Al

      This is not only a lie, but a bad analogy.

      How about this. Jesus is a flashlight with dead batteries. No?

      April 21, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
    • Kroth the Bunny-Hammerer, Viking God of Sporks

      Jesus heap weak god to not be able to convince all peoples. Real god like Kroth do it whenever wants.

      Kroth still not sure why he talk like Tonto in old Westerns.

      April 21, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
  2. His panic

    Panic affects both men and women, young and old alike. Panic has caused human stampedes, riots, brawls and many other bad situations. But those who really trust in God will no suffer Panic and will see the Light who is Christ Jesus Himself. All other "lights" will run out and extinguish.

    John 1:4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

    April 21, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
  3. nuclear mike

    And where was your firearm? Or was Gid going to protect you in the batroom? You must learn to "pick up the sword and smite thy enemies"...or die and meet Jesus that day...

    April 21, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • His panic

      Seems to me that you are in a state of Panic.

      April 21, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
  4. Reality

    "Yes, I still believe in the power of light to triumph over dark, perhaps even more so than I did earlier this week. "

    The power of might makes things right. And there are no god or gods to make it so only great and gracious folk who know right from wrong.

    April 21, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      I find hope and faith irrational yet necessary. The fact is that we are dying on a dying world in a dying solar system in a dying galaxy in a dying universe. Perhaps there is some hope that the universe is "tunneling" down into another state, and one of that when all motion stops in absolute zero, another force will emerge from one of the four we now know, but there's no guarantee, and certainly there's no hope of human consciousness surviving such a process.

      Darkness wins over light, apparently, which is all the more reason to celebrate the light while we yet see it.

      April 21, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Reality

      What we do know: (from the fields of astrophysics, biology, biochemistry, archeology, nuclear physics, geology and the history of religion)

      1. The Sun will burn out in 3-5 billion years so we have a time frame.

      2. Asteroids continue to circle us in the nearby asteroid belt.

      3. One wayward rock and it is all over in a blast of permanent winter.

      4. There are enough nuclear weapons to do the same job.

      5. Most contemporary NT exegetes do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture.

      6. All stars will eventually extinguish as there is a limit to the amount of hydrogen in the universe. When this happens (100 trillion years?), the universe will go dark. If it does not collapse and recycle, the universe will end.

      7. Super, dormant volcanoes off the coast of Africa and under Yellowstone Park could explode cataclysmically at any time ending life on Earth.
      8. Many of us are part Neanderthal and/or Denisovan.

      Bottom line: our apocalypse will start between now and 3-5 billion CE. The universe apocalypse, 100 trillion years? But at the moment, human life is mostly good so enjoy the Spring and its abundance of color and beauty.

      April 21, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  5. Bob1god

    Is this like a chat room for special children ?

    April 21, 2013 at 4:49 am |
    • Science

      Hey Bob1god................facts work best for teaching children !

      Evolution wins hands down ..........time for god(s) to get the HELL out of the way................so humanity can evolve !

      Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young


      Source above is better than the bible's


      April 21, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • Righteo

      No Bob, your special ed chat room is down the hall, third door on the left.

      April 21, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • Science

      Righteo................special classroom is the chessy banny when it shows up on top of page !

      Until then copy and paste link below OK



      April 21, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • Science

      Oops banner!

      April 21, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Kroth the Banny-Hammerer!

      No banny?

      April 21, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Science

      The banny


      url's funny science.


      April 22, 2013 at 6:30 am |
  6. Fr. John Franck

    The story of Dzhokar Tsarnaev also changed my sermon this Sunday, but not for the same reasons that the author gives. This Sunday's gospel in the Catholic Church from John 10 on the Good Shepherd begins, "My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me." What voice was Mr. Tsarnaev listening to? He had his own "shepherd" ... one that filled his mind and hearts with thoughts of violence and hatred. The Good Shepherd of John 10 is willing to lay down his life for his sheep, not take their lives. Inevitably, we all follow the voice of someone, something. We have a choice in that regard. Mr. Tsarnaev's decision made me reflect on the choices we make and, if we are Christians, what it means to follow the voice of the Good Shepherd. How will my parishioners react to that reflection? To be continued.....

    April 21, 2013 at 4:44 am |
    • Ted

      Your good shepherd demands murder througout the bible, so stop your disgusting preaching and attempts to sell your sermon here, father Franckenstein.

      April 21, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • Righteo

      Fr. John is just another self-promoting ego case. Whole lotta Christians cashing in on the tragedy this week.

      April 21, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • Doobs

      Lots of cash in the collection plate today, eh, Father? Frightened people want reassurance, and will pay good money to get it. Church attendance always goes up in the wake of tragedy. Make hay while the sun shines, padre, because next week your congregation will have moved on to the next big thing.

      Tell them that this is all part of god's plan. Tell them not to worry, because god will protect them. Be sure to talk about the eight year old boy and how god needed him in "heaven" for some reason. Dead children always get to them to open their wallets.

      In other words, keep telling them the lies you've been telling them for years.

      April 21, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  7. Roger that

    Around 3 p.m. I wondered if the outdoor ban would end by Sunday, or if the other priest in my church would have to deliver the sermon for me.

    Around 4 p.m. I began to wonder if we had enough food in our apartment should we be quarantined through the weekend.

    Around 5 p.m. I created the website trapped.in.my.apartment.without.food.com.

    April 21, 2013 at 1:30 am |
    • And then

      At six you realized you were out of weed and that website idea looked really stupid when you were sober.

      April 21, 2013 at 1:43 am |
    • Roger that


      April 21, 2013 at 1:50 am |
  8. Jeebusss

    Wow what a bunch of self-indulgent bulls**t.

    April 20, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • Kroth the Bunny-Hammerer, Viking God of Obsolete Bowling Technology

      This chick has mirrors instead of wallpaper so she can dig on herself every moment.

      April 21, 2013 at 1:00 am |
  9. FreddyCanuck

    That's two articles by this b8*ch now. Reading them both, and all the blog comments worth reading took 15 minutes. Does that mean we don't need to spend anymore time on her?

    April 20, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
  10. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    @Rev. Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio

    this is a much more thoughtful and relevant essay than what you posted on Tuesday.

    In their own deluded way, these two Chechnyans ideologues probably thought they were as equally patriotic and heroic as the so-called heroes of the revolution that you celebrated in your piece tying the events in Lexington and Concord in 1775 with notional "reservists among us are fighting a war to defeat violence and evil, and that one day they will permanently win it." which frankly I found grotesque.

    Sometimes war creates a positive outcome. It did in the American war of revolution. What ever war these Chechnyans thought they were fighting did not. War is always tragic. Please keep that in mind and stow the American exceptionalism.

    April 20, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
  11. brian

    "She certainly does seem rather self-absorbed."

    Yes, she over uses the first person pronoun.

    April 20, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
  12. Just Call Me Lucifer

    Save the world. Kill a zealot.

    April 20, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
  13. Dan Jones

    What ever she is she is certainly not a minister. Paragraph after paragraph and a lot of sentiment but but not one mention of God.

    April 20, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
  14. Russ

    @ Danielle Tumminio:
    the way you talk about the light, one might wonder whether or not you believe in the resurrection – or that Jesus himself claimed to be the Light of the world. I expect many of the readers here give little credence to such biblical claims, but for one who claims to pastor a congregation in the name of Christ... is the Light really contingent on the Boston Police? how did trusting earthly legal systems work out for justice with Jesus?

    Why not rather see it as Sam Gamgee did from under the pitch dark of Mordor?

    “There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
    ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

    April 20, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
  15. lionlylamb

    I so Love the Light! It brings warmth to all and brightens up many places. Societies lights put colors upon the crowds giving rises of moralism's distinctiveness allowing for an understanding to take place that imparts pleasantries to many of egoistic concernments. We are all chosen to be here upon the celestial boundaries of leavened cosmological breadths. From before inception we were all living upon the depths within and upon the atomic cosmos of our generational fleshly roots. We will all one day return back into the chasms of the atomic cosmos to tell God's brethren the stories of ones' Life that we lived upon the shorelines of the celestially divine cosmos.

    April 20, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
    • Kroth the Bunny-Hammerer, Viking God of Obsolete Bowling Technology

      Kroth make poemy stuff too! Here is Kroth Theme Song!

      Kroth the Bunny-Hammerer
      Him the real God
      Kroth the Bunny-Hammerer
      All the other gods are frauds

      Kroth the Bunny-Hammerer
      Knows all there is to know,
      Kroth has super powers,
      Hairy back and a speedo

      Kroth will come and save you
      If his favorite show's not on
      Kroth will battle bad guys
      If the big scary ones have gone

      Kroth the Bunny-Hammerer
      Pride of Idaho!
      Kroth the Bunny-Hammerer
      Can whoop Barry Manilow!

      April 21, 2013 at 1:42 am |
    • Science

      Hey LL ........... been awhile ............good read for you and her..?

      Where do morals come from?

      By Kelly Murray, CNN


      Learning is fun with facts.......................... and facts work when teaching children.

      Atheist Prof. Peter Higgs: Stop calling Higgs boson the ‘God particle’

      Professor Peter Higgs said recently that there is no God and so people should stop referring to the theoretical partial that
      bears his name as the “God particle.”


      Pope praises science, but insists God created world updated Thur October 28, 2010
      Stephen Hawking is wrong, Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday – God did create the universe. The pope didn't actually mention the world-famous scientist, who argues in a book published last month that the laws of physics show there is no need for a supreme... \



      Heaven is 'a fairy story,' scientist Stephen Hawking says updated Tue May 17, 2011
      By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor The concept of heaven or any kind of afterlife is a "fairy story," famed British scientist Stephen Hawking said in a newspaper interview this week. "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when...



      It would be nice......... but
      Maybe they should not have created the wedge !!!
      The wedge strategy is a political and social action plan authored by the Discovery Insti-tute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. The strategy was put forth in a Discovery Insti-tute manifesto known as the Wedge Docu-ment,[1] which describes a broad social, political, and academic agenda whose ultimate goal is to defeat materialism, naturalism, evolution, and "reverse the stifling materialist world view and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic

      April 21, 2013 at 5:21 am |
    • Science

      And FACTS work best when teaching children !!!

      Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young


      April 21, 2013 at 6:08 am |
    • .

      LL is the belief blog pseudo intellect, it's not worth reading so just laugh and move on.

      April 21, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
  16. Bostontola

    The vast majority benefit from being good (light), a small minority benefit in the short term by taking from the good (darkness). While the small minority can inflict painful damage, history says they lose in the long run. The vast majority eventually puts them down. I'm not sure why some want to attach a mystical quality to that.

    April 20, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
  17. tallulah13

    I tried reading this article. As other have said, it's pretty much all "me, me, me". I have no idea why they published this.

    April 20, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
  18. Woof

    How did the freaking Harry Potter scholar-ditz become the authority on what God thinks about Boston? Living there is her only qualification?

    She sure is using this for self-promotion!

    April 20, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • Platypus Rex

      Have you read her articles? It's all "me me me".


      April 20, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Akira

      She certainly does seem rather self-absorbed.

      April 20, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • Answer

      Getting laid more often would help this blog writer.

      April 20, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • Kroth, Bunny-Hammerer of Throgonia

      Getting not-published more would help us.

      April 20, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • Bleeding Like Sheep

      I'd do her.

      April 20, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • Akira

      Kroth: lol! (Interesting handle, btw)

      April 20, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • Akira

      I now believe, I once was lost but now I'am found. Thank you Jesus!

      April 21, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
  19. Doobs

    Until the light of logic and reason prevail and the worship of imaginary beings ceases, there will be religious zealots who use violence to promote their cause.

    April 20, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Doobs, Jesus is light. Your hatred for His truth makes you a big part of the problem today. i noticed you nonbelievers are ripping off His truth and calling it your own .... again. LOL.

      April 20, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • Platypus Rex

      Yes Doobs, because of your atheism, religious people are blowing things up.


      Religion: the less you think about it, the more sense it makes

      April 20, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • Doobs

      @ HS

      What you mistake for "hatred" is simply indifference. I don't think about what Jeebus said any more than I think about what Ixtab said.

      @ PR

      I'd respond, but I have no idea what your post means. I simply stated that as long as religion exists, there will be religious zealots.

      April 20, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • Platypus Rex

      I was mocking HeavenSent's ridiculous attempt to blame atheists for social ills. Apparently I need a new comedy writer.

      April 20, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • john


      April 20, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • Doobs

      @ PR



      April 21, 2013 at 12:05 am |
    • Dan

      Ah Doobs, there's been a lot more violence committed for non-religious motives. So why don't you swear off your non-belief or else you are part of that problem, using your own logic.

      April 21, 2013 at 1:01 am |
    • Dan

      Oh yeah, Woosh!

      April 21, 2013 at 1:06 am |
    • Doobs

      @ Dan

      The god of the bible murdered every man, woman, child, infant, fetus, and animal by drowning them for their "evil deeds". I'm not sure what evil deeds the animals or the babies committed, but christians don't seem bothered by that contradiction. Religious zealots of all stripes have been following that example for centuries by murdering those who don't believe in their god and their dogma.

      I've never read a science book that called for the reader to kill someone for not believing that bubonic plague is cause by bacteria, or that the earth revolves around the sun. I don't see scientists killing each other over disagreements about the natural world and how it works.

      April 21, 2013 at 11:38 am |
  20. The difficulty of light and darkness

    clap on! clap off!

    April 20, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • Akira

      Okay. I laughed.

      April 20, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • CS

      You're welcome. 😉

      April 20, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Jesus freaker

      Now look what you did. You made her change the ti tle.

      April 20, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • Akira

      So she did! That's one heck of a clap!

      April 20, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
    • Zingo

      You gave her the clap.

      April 21, 2013 at 1:45 am |
    • Akira

      Easily preventable by the use of a condom.

      April 21, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.