Friday, August 15, 2014

Was Jesus joking?

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

It was an informal setting, and I was doing my usual grumbling about the way man treats man. Matt and I never cease to be amazed at the way human beings treat fellow human beings while they are in prison. I was complaining about prisoners preying on elderly sex offenders. Unscrupulous guards looking the other way when alleged violent criminals get brutally beaten by fellow inmates. The callous decisions by the state to punish some inmates by sending them to far-away facilities in the U.P., making it prohibitive for family and friends to visit.

And that’s when my friend said, “Really? Even when you know the person is guilty of an evil, horrific crime? I can see it for those who have been wrongly convicted, for those who have received an unfair and lengthy sentence. But do you really feel that way for the ‘worst of the worst?’”

Yes, I do, for two reasons: one non-religious, and one religious. Number one, the constitution prohibits “cruel and unusual” punishment. In other words, incarceration is the punishment for the alleged crime. We may not add to that. And number two, Jesus insists that the way we treat our prisoners is the way we treat him. Take a look at the top of this article, where we quote his words in Matthew 25. I don’t see any way around it, do you?

And yet, my friend and many other Christian people just can’t get their minds around this subject.

The same holds true for criminal defense. I know that some Christian people say to defense attorneys who represent persons who have committed heinous crimes, “I don’t know how you sleep at night!” When the real statement should be: “If we didn’t guarantee constitutional rights to every person charged with a crime, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.”

This is not some radical position of liberal, bleeding hearts. It comes straight from holy scripture. The Bible just doesn’t give us any “wiggle room:” Remember those in prison as if you were together with them…

There but for the grace of God…

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