Sunday, April 21, 2013

Justice for Teroroists?

I’m sure the events in Boston this week are the basis for blogs and commentary worldwide. What can one lonely blog like this add? Probably nothing new. Yet from a Christian perspective there is always something fresh to consider.

Justin Trudeau’s remarks this week have stirred up controversy. His reasoning for the bombers’ actions was based on them feeling excluded from Canadian community. Subsequent facts indicate they were well established within their societal framework after all.

Never-the-less, the liberal idea that perpetrators of this sort are victims is a common reason given for their actions, usually leaving the real victims of the attack sidelined. In fact, I’m sure we’ll hear much less about those bereaved or injured in Monday’s blast than about the bombers themselves.

Of course, we are all victims of some sort, but few of us resort to life destroying acts. Our awareness of our vulnerability should, and does, lead to empathy for others, not violence against them. The Bible exhorts us to love those we may consider our enemies.

So how do we figure justice for the remaining bomber? He, like his victims, was created in the image of God, and as such should be treated with the same dignity as anyone else. I’m glad that western courts, imperfect though they are, seek to ensure guilt before judgment—a legacy of Christian influence.

But justice also requires that the penalty fits the crime, inherent in the idea of an eye for an eye, and life for life. That regulation required just punishment but also denied escalation of revenge as well as. If someone knocked one of my teeth out, I could not knock out two in response!

I can’t help musing on where we have come in regard to the death penalty. In many western nations it has been removed completely, capital crimes now often penalized by some years in prison. This devalues the life of the victim to just the length of the violator’s sentence.

By contrast, we terminate the life of the person in the womb for any and every reason, euthanize those near death despite their innocence, and increasingly kill infants who survive the torture of forced abortion—capital “punishment” for the innocent is alive and well in Canada.

We also need to separate forgiveness from consequences. It may well be that one of the bombers’ maimed victims is a Christian, willing to forgive his assailant and cancel the debt to himself, reflecting God’s cancelled debt against us. But the bombers’ debt to society remains.

God demands, “from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man,” and the Bible forecasts that “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed” (Genesis 9:5–6). Human courts derive their authority from God (Romans 13:2).

The first bomber met his death while continuing the rampage he began. The second was hunted down to face the consequences of his crime. Will the punishment fit the crime? I doubt it. From past experience, sympathy for the perpetrator will outweigh justice for the victims.

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