The Incendiary Wrath of the People
The reality of wildfire became much more tangible for Portland metro residents as we woke to find everything covered in a fine layer of ash, like a grim snowfall. The news channels provide constant coverage of the Eagle Creek fire which has closed a section of I-84 in the Columbia River Gorge, forced thousands of evacuations and is devastating some of Oregon’s most scenic landscape. Worse, the fire jumped the river sometime in the night and Skamania County is now battling the blaze on the Washington side. Hundreds more evacuations have been ordered with many more imminent.
The proximity makes the reality of destruction especially sobering. But it is the cause that really took my breath away. Reports indicated this fire was the result of two teenage boys lighting firecrackers and throwing them off a cliff above Eagle Creek. They were apparently caught in the act and the suspects have been identified. No further word about the suspects has been released.
The readers of Willamette Weekly, however, have lots to say about the suspects.
“Try them as adults, convict and sentence to long prison terms. Hold idiot parents financially responsible.”
“Charge them as adults and please post their names so the shame follows them like a dark cloud.”
“…they deserve whatever pain and suffering comes their way.”
“No measure of revenge could add up to the justice these kids deserve.”
The last commentator went on to suggest the kids be suspended in steel cages high above one of the burned out canyons until they die. Other posts were so foul I cringed to read them. But what struck me most was the purity of the collective wrath. Most posts contained no trace of mercy. The few who suggested any measure of restraint immediately had the heat directed at them. I could almost envision the crowd surrounding the culprits, screaming for their punishment.
Are those boys really so different from everyone else? Who among us has never done anything foolish that could easily have resulted in nightmarish devastation; especially when we were teenagers? And what about things we’ve said and done as adults, not in rash moments of stupidity, but in cold and calculated manner simply because we wanted to?
As we pray for those affected by the fire, I urge you to pray also for those boys. May God’s post be our guide. “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment! (James 2:12–13)