An Echo from Lockerbie

Pan_Am_Flight_103._Crashed_Lockerbie,_Scotland,_21_December_1988With the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in the news yesterday, we share this excerpt from James Whyte’s sermon for the mourners at the Lockerbie Memorial Service 1988.
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That such carnage of the young and of the innocent should have been willed by men in cold and calculated evil, is horror upon horror. What is our response to that?

The desire, the determination, that those who did this should be detected and, if possible, brought to justice, is natural and is right. The uncovering of the truth will not be easy, and evidence that would stand up in a court of law may be hard to obtain.

Justice is one thing. But already one hears in the media the word ‘retaliation’. As far as I know, no responsible politician has used that word, and I hope none ever will, except to disown it. For that way lies the endless cycle of violence upon violence, horror upon horror. And we may be tempted, indeed urged by some, to flex our muscles in response, to show that we are men. To show that we are what? To show that we are prepared to let more young and more innocent die, to let more rescue workers labour in more wreckage to find the grisly proof, not of our virility, but of our inhumanity. That is what retaliation means.

The  Right Rev. James Whyte was the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, still suffering from grief and physical fatigue following his wife’s death. He had recently retired as Principal and Professor of Practical Theology at the University of St. Andrews’ divinity school, St. Mary’s. The full text of the Lockerbie Memorial  sermon was published in Laughter and Tears: Thoughs on Faith (Reflections), pp. 92–5.

Every Thursday afternoon in the summer of 1991 the Right Rev. Professor James (“Jim”) Whyte brewed a pot of tea and served scones to the complete stranger he’d welcomed to St. Andrews, an American Presbyterian minister seeking his tutelage in practical theology during a sabbatical from pastoral duties at Knox Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati. His hand-written prayers delivered at Hope Park Church in St. Andrews remain a priceless treasure.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, July 5, 2017.

 

2 thoughts on “An Echo from Lockerbie

  1. I profoundly admire his careful distinction between justice and retaliation. Most unfortunately, retaliation seems easier, and justice can be *very* difficult to discern.

    Like

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