EvilTony's been pondering stuff again!

Justice and vengeance

Some of the reactions to the killing of Osama Bin Laden have been thought-provoking, to say the least.

“Justice has been done” is probably one of the mildest. But – raised in a western democracy – one must ask if “Justice” – as we would like it to be applied to ourself in all circumstances – has been done?

While finding it understandable that he was killed, and having some, but not too many quibbles with that, having been brought up to believe that justice is dispensed in impartial courts by independent juries and judges I find it extremely hard to accept that “justice” was done. Certainly not “Justice” with a capital “j”.
This is not to say that there was prior intention to deny him justice, (or to put it better, to deny him to Justice) – it would appear that he was quite prepared to prevent his being brought to justice.

Those who died at the hands of Bin Laden’s puppets have been avenged – certainly. But vengeance is not always justice – even if many seem to believe it is. One often sees in it the aftermath of murder trials, where the bereaved claim that sending the guilty to jail is not justice, how can it be justice when their beloved is dead and the murderer is still alive. This is the old “an eye for an eye” concept of justice among a tribal people struggling with their very existence.

While not a Christian, one cannot fail but to agree with the sentiments in Mark chapter 5

  • Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
  • But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
  • And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

Those who believe in Jesus might do well to consider that he delivered himself to what would nowadays be termed “due process” – even if the process was faulty, he submitted to the civil power and it’s judicial process.

I am, more and more, convinced that we created gods to give us explanations for the dark areas of our lives of which we had – at the time – no understanding. The God of thunder, the God of War, the God of Spring; they all controlled their domains wherein they interacted with us.

One of the chief functions of a God was to mete out their personal justice. And humans, in the face of the God’s incomprehensible concept of justice, created myths to rationalise the process. If the crops failed it was because the people had erred somehow. If the rains failed they could be summoned by appeasing the God.

One of the major problems with this approach to creating one’s own gods is that known villains escaped their justice. It was seen that A murdered B and yet his life was not blighted, in fact often it blossomed. And so we created the vengeful afterlife day of judgement. That way we could reassure ourselves that A would – sooner or later – pay for the crime.

But, more and more, we seem to be turning away from seeing that as a ‘satisfaction’ of the offence. Many self-professed Christians seem to want a return to visible vengeance – the guilty must be seen to pay, and to pay in measure equal to the offence. The courts are seen as futile. Locking A up for the rest of his natural life is not enough anymore.

The reason that the courts are futile is a whole either day’s pondering.


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