A random encounter on the metro yesterday turned into an unexpected debate.
Upon reflection, I realized that the evangelical mindset has a worrying impact on our justice system, and how we approach both crime and criminals. In other words, I had run smack into the premise of one of Amanda’s posts over at Pandagon.
During the course of our debate, we came to the question of Justice. I was taking the position that God would never commit murder, while my evangelical friend asked “what about justice?”. One particular story we sparred over was that of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Two points of contention arose. One was whether a perfect being can commit an imperfect action. If a person were to say, set off a bomb in a city, killing all of its inhabitants, this person would be rightly condemned to prison for life. The biblical god does it, and he is praised for his “justice”. This is a similar problem to the questions of God having emotions like anger and jealousy. Why would a perfect being possess imperfect, negative, human emotions? By the same token, one wonders why it is the biblical god gets away with murder.
Which leads into the second point of contention. “Do you suppose”, I asked, “that there were children under the age of two in Sodom?”. After this was affirmed, I asked whether such young children could be justly punished so violently and cruelly for their parents sins. The answer? “Its different because when God does it, it is just. The children would go to heaven, which is better than Earth.”.
This immediately raised a very worrying question. Was this evangelical suggesting that it was ok to kill children under 2? That sending them to heaven was somehow just, or even kind? What kind of a God was being worshiped, when his actions were cruel and evil enough that were they committed by a human being, they would be harshly condemned?
The actions we ascribe to God as moral are those we ourselves aspire to. I cannot think of a theistic religion in which the practitioner does not attempt to be like God. So how does one interpret scripture that insists God killed the innocent? How does one read this and continue to believe that those words describe or even approach perfection?
What does such a mindset bring to practical questions of law and justice as practiced in our country?