All writing is a form of prayer - John Keats

Monday, April 23, 2018

And Part Three, on the purpose of punishment

It’s been a long time since I’ve thought this much about punishment. Probably not since March, 2007, when I viewed the execution of my friend Anthony in Texas, where they love to punish killing by killing. Anthony was put to death right before my eyes, for something he didn’t do.

I’ve just returned from the funeral service for my friend David, a Michigan prisoner who took ill and died of pneumonia complications. He claimed he didn’t commit the crime, but still his sentence was life in prison without parole. I got the feeling, though, that friends and family of the victim felt that even a life sentence was not punishment enough. Their vitriolic comments could be heard in the courtroom and read in the media.

And to me, that raises questions about the reason for punishment, as well as its effectiveness.

I like this quote by Haim Gnott: 

When a child hits a child we call it aggression
When a child hits an adult, we call it hostility
When an adult hits an adult, we call it a crime
When an adult hits a child we call it discipline.

That’s really what we think we’re doing with the death penalty and life without parole, isn’t it? Discipline! If they can’t learn it any other way, by God, this will teach them!

In John MacMurray’s soon to be released book, A Spiritual Evolution, he asks these powerful questions---

“Can punishment undo, offset, atone, or make up for sin in any way?
Can punishment, regardless of the amount or its severity, change or untwist the wrong into, right?
Can punishment change and heal the brokenness in me that wanted to do evil in the first place?
I’m suggesting punishment is powerless to do any of these things. And if I’m right, that punishment has no ability to amend, undo, or atone for evil, then why do we believe that punishment is required for justice to be called justice?”

God bless those who are clamoring for restorative justice in our state! Contrary to the position of the Michigan Attorney General, being an advocate for victims does not necessarily mean harsh punishment of the perpetrator. 

Author Paul Young, who discusses the fallacy of the death penalty in his blog THE KILLING HOUSE, says:

“Should we turn a blind eye to injustice, to betrayal, to murder, to abuse? No. That is exactly the point. There should be no blind eyes. And yet human justice stands with eyes covered, blind. With such blindness, we lose sight of our humanity. The restorative justice of God requires eyes that see, not only the victim, but also the human being who is the perpetrator.”

Back to David, again.

Even with his passing, those hateful folks won’t be happy. They'll feel no closure.

The only one smiling through all of this is David. Jesus is explaining to him how his own death settled this whole business. Once and for all.


Bob Bulten said...

So good, Doug! Keep it up.

CR said...

Thanks, again, Doug, for prompt and poignant commentary. We can't have too many converaations about this. We appreciate your encouraging people to take advantage of opportunities such as the one at Church of the Servant on Sunday, April 29, 2 p.m.
where Prosector Chris Becker, State Rep David LaGrand and CAPPS policy director John Cooper will present and discuss what shall we do to move restorative justice solutions forward.