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Tag: Justice

Church Sign: An Eye for an Eye

Church Sign: An Eye for an Eye

An Eye for an Eye church sign
An Eye for an Eye Church Sign

At first glance, this is a good sign for a Christian.  After all, Jesus replaces “an eye for an eye” with “Do not resist the one who is evil” (Matthew 5:38-39).

But I think it illustrates the way we fail to understand certain phrases as they were intended.

“An eye for an eye” or lex talionis was originally also a way to keep the whole world from going blind.  It was intended not to mandate revenge, but to limit it.  Modern Christians understand it as some sort of command to mass mayhem, and are thankful that Jesus overruled it.

But in fact Jesus simply moved us further along the same path.  Limiting revenge was good.  Forgiveness was even better, though in justice we still find some value in the idea of proportional penalties.

This sign demonstrates a quite frequent response to the Old Testament, and in many cases to other things that are old.  In seeing the New Testament as good, these Christians have to see the Old Testament as bad.  It is almost as though there was no grace for thousands of years and then suddenly at the appearance of Jesus God’s grace came into being.

But in fact the grace that Jesus taught was also taught in the Old Tesament, with the teaching accommodated to time and place.

So yes, I think Jesus improved on the attitude of “an eye for an eye.”  But “an eye for an eye” was, in its time and place, also a forward looking measure of justice.

We Can’t Have Acquittals

We Can’t Have Acquittals

. . . is what the former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, Air Force Colonel Colonel Morris Davis informed a court there he was told by superiors, according to the Washington Post.

I do believe that we will need some special options for dealing with terror suspects taken in war. Many are not recognizing the fact of war in their criticism of detention. Yet most of the criticism is valid. There is no need to keep people as long as they have. There is no need to prevent civilian review and accountability as they have. It is certainly improper for political pressure to be placed on the prosecutors.

This is yet another situation in which necessary goals have been pursued in a clumsy manner that creates injustice. What’s going on at Guantanamo Bay is not only immoral, it appears to also be incompetence.

Jena 6 Overview at Pursuing Holiness

Jena 6 Overview at Pursuing Holiness

OK, I’m generally pretty slow in getting on these political cases, and this is no exception. But Laura is right about this case and the need to get something done. I suspect the online position will not be useful either, but perhaps some mail to the appropriate government officials will help.

Public opinion, properly applied, helps keep government officials accountable.

The Duke Lacrosse Players and Prejudice

The Duke Lacrosse Players and Prejudice

According to this MSNBC commentary, Mike Nifong has received a severe penalty but it is precisely what he deserves:

Lawyers usually try to understand a fellow practitioner’s blunders and usually reprimand their colleague without issuing the ultimate penalty, the death penalty for a lawyer: disbarment. While it is public disgrace indeed, it also says “you are the worst of the worst and do not deserve to live as a lawyer. You are not trustworthy. The public has to be protected from you.” Plus, it strips Nifong of the only way he knows to make a living. Instead of collecting his pension and retiring, he will have to start from scratch. It is a stunning fall from the height of his power. And it is absolutely the right thing to do. Nifong had many chances to escape this fate, yet he never chose to do the right thing. Not once.

I agree completely with the article. Prosecutors and other law enforcement officials generally deserve our respect, but they should also be held to a high standard. When they start playing with the truth in order to make political points or because of prejudice, they should be held accountable. Mike Nifong has now been held accountable.

But the reason this story caught my attention was not quite so noble. You see, when the accusations were first made against the Duke University Lacrosse players I reacted with prejudice. Without fully processing the information, I categorized them as spoiled rich kids trying to take advantage of a poor victim who didn’t have the resources to defend herself. As it turns out I was wrong.

I don’t know if Nifong reacted as I did. Even if that was where he started from, as the evidence came in, he had every reason to change his mind and correct his actions, yet he did not do so. He couldn’t let his high profile defendants go. As stated in the MSNBC article I quoted above, “. . . he never chose to do the right thing.”

I was surprised when it turned out that the Lacrosse players were not, in fact, guilty. And why is that? I guess I have a prejudice against the rich, the assumption that their money will get them off. That’s not a good thing. I think many of us do have the flip side of that prejudice, a prejudice against those who are down and out, homeless, vagrant, seemingly out of place. I have heard such prejudice acknowledged many times. But it’s good to realize that we can have a prejudice against the successful as well.

The one cure of prejudice is a willingness to have your opinions corrected. So many times I have answered “I don’t know” when someone asked me my opinion of some popular case. That’s usually the right answer. In general we don’t know, because we don’t have all the evidence. This would have been another good case in which to say, “I don’t know.”

This reminds me of a Bible text:

?15You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. — Lev. 19:15 (NRSV)*

*The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1996, c1989. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.