I was reading an article in the most recent Maclean’s magazine in which writer Michael Friscolanti details the Shafia honour killing trial that has just concluded in Kingston, Ontario. I was heartened by the author’s assertion that the justice system had been scrupulous in its effort to assure fairness towards the accused in what I suspect most Canadians would adjudge to be a grisly, tragic and incomprehensibly evil act.
Fairness towards someone facing trial is something that most people would long to know had occurred, no matter how obviously guilty a person might be. Fairness or just process is an essential right to be protected because who knows that someday it might be that just fair process that works for our own safeguard. A bulwark of a democratic society is, after all, that a person has the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty, beyond all reasonable doubt.
It’s too bad we didn’t practice that principle in ordinary relationships. Too often I’ve seen people’s reputations demeaned, slandered and ruined by a three-fold character assassination. First comes the mean-spirited attack that can be based either upon a downright lie or else upon a portion of the truth but which has been so callously twisted and deliberately distorted that it is only a shadow of the original facts. The second level of assassination occurs when too many other folk give thoughtless acceptance to the attack, never bothering to check whether there is any credibility to the charges by speaking to the person involved or to anyone other than the complainants. Then, thirdly, the assassination continues as folk jump on the proverbial bandwagon fanning the wildfires of outrage through conscienceless gossip.
I’m not sure what perverse part of our sinful, fallen hearts it is that just loves to think, believe and repeat the worst about others. We seem inordinately eager to dehumanize and demonize. It is as if we believe that if we can make somebody else out to be some sort of terrible monster or evil-hearted scumbag, then we don’t have to deal with the ugliness of our own souls and the monstrosity of sin in our own lives.
Mark McMinn, in his book Why Sin Matters, noted that sociologists have repeatedly documented our tendency to over-inflate our self-perception, whether in terms of intelligence, ability or morality. We want to think more highly of ourselves than is reality, so one sure-fire way to prove it to ourselves is to focus the spotlight of condemnation on someone else. Always the perceptive judge of human nature, Jesus pointed to our terrible blindness and arrogance in the story of the Pharisee and tax collector at the temple. The sinner who knew he was all that and more dared not enter the holy ground of the temple but stood outside, begging God’s mercy. The sinner who refused to admit that he was blustered into the temple, advising God how fortunate He was to have him, the Pharisee, on His side. Only one of these two, Jesus said, went home at peace with God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Luke 18:14)
I wonder how many marriages might have been preserved and renewed had the partners spent less time condemning each other for their supposed faults and instead gave serious attention to acknowledging and repenting from their own dysfunctions, selfishness and pride. I wonder how many fine public servants our nation has lost because they finally got tired of being a punching bag for insult and contempt by every self-appointed critic, all too many of whom know virtually nothing of the sacrifice required in public office nor understand the complexity of leadership in our day. I wonder how many friendships have been ruined because tongues got too quickly busy wagging abuse, rumor and spite and then, when challenged in their behavior, stubbornly refused to admit wrong and ask forgiveness.
Justice was certainly on the mind of Jesus when he warned that we ought not to judge lest we be judged, for in the same way we judge others, will we be judged, and with the measure we use, it will be measured to us. (Matthew 7:1–2) Jesus also said “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)
To whom might we owe some justice for a change?
Hi Kerry, Just a note to say hope all is going well for you and Jan and to make a little comment on your essays. I am getting a great deal from them and want to thank you for taking the time to put your thoughts down and sharing them. (Once a journalist, always a …..) but good on you. I thought this Judgement one was very good as well as the Trespassers article. I have not read them all, but am getting around to it. The things you mention should be so commonplace for Christians but we remember how Paul had to keep at all the folks in the various churches to remain faithful and firm in their beliefs and to remind them to live what they believed. Twas ever thus…so keep at your flock for we need it!
Remember to give us a call when both of you are heading this way and Ed and I look forward to being at St. Andrew’s sometime very soon. with love and blessings, Lily