American Justice and Politics
Oct 19, 2006
On the BBC News last evening, they reported a recent poll taken worldwide in which they asked if torture was acceptable as a government policy. In Europe, 72 percent of the people said NO. Among Israeli Jews, the answer was 53 percent YES--the highest in the world.
I wonder what the percentage of Christians in America answered YES as well. The Middle Ages are suddenly a lot closer to us than we had thought. It seems that we have not progressed as far as we had previously thought. The same arguments that were used in past centuries are now being used today, and many men's carnal minds are finding those arguments quite reasonable.
Christians ought to ask themselves, "What would Jesus do?" Can anyone imagine Jesus torturing people to extract information that might save His life? The only serious explanation for such a view is that so many Christians believe that Jesus will torture bad people in hell after they have died. Such people do not know the divine law or its system of justice. In fact, they do not realize that the Scripture speaks of the law itself as the "fire" and that any judgment of the law, including restitution, is the application of the "fire" to the sinner.
Injustice breeds crime. When injustice is meted out in the name of justice, the sinner is not restored but embittered and angered, which removes his motivation to do what is right after he is released from his time of punishment. The fact that crime is increasing in America and that we have more people per capita in the prison system than any other country in the world should tell us something about our system of "Justice."
The biblical system of justice is based upon the simple application of phileo love. Phileo love is rooted in fairness and equality. Justice is not done until full restitution has been paid to all the victims of injustice. That restitution is calculated precisely according to the value of that which was stolen or destroyed. No more, and no less. This is biblical justice.
Man, however, thinks he has a better idea. Borrowing from the Roman legal system that emphasized "law and order," the prime directive is no longer justice but deterrence. And so before every election, we hear candidates advocating "getting tough on crime," which means longer and harsher sentences. Prosecutors run for office based not upon their record of determining who was guilty and who was falsely accused, but rather upon the successful conviction rates--their ability as lawyers to convict those that they prosecute.
America has steadily moved from a society seeking equal justice for all to a society that punishes as a deterrence. Lawyers and prosecutors are usually more interested in their personal success rates than in finding out the truth, because the most successful of them may then use their success as a career move. One of the most glaring evidences of this is seen in political ads, where each side presents his half of the truth without regard to the other half. Half-truths are the standard of morality in political campaigning.
The problem is that these ads actually work. That is why they pay money to run such ads. And there is no law against half-truths. Politicians do what is legal, not what is right. "We broke no laws" is the common defense of those who do immoral things. They do not live lawfully, for they are mere legalists, who work diligently to stay as close to the line as the law specifies.
President Bush's policies using pain to extract information is another good example of legalism. In changing the definitions of torture to allow the imposition of greater pain, he has appealed to legalism to justify mistreatment of suspected terrorists. In moving them to Guantanamo and other secret prisons in Europe, he has employed legalism to allow immoral behavior without actually breaking an American law. Since we could not legally torture people on American soil, he keeps them in foreign lands, so that he would break no American law when they are tortured.
Christians should be up in arms over this. And, indeed, it appears that more and more Christians are beginning to question this behavior. Polls show a significant drop in evangelical support for the President. In fact, if the Republicans lose big in next month's election, it is likely that President Bush will be impeached in the same way that President Clinton was impeached. Such a trial would probably focus primarily on the illegal wiretapping scandal, because the President has already admitted doing this--justifying his actions on the grounds of necessity in the "war on terror."
The American Constitution was not written to restrain Americans. It was written to restrain government. Our founders made a division of powers in order to keep all branches weaker and use the other branches to check and balance. President Bush has long criticized the Supreme Court for "legislating from the bench" during the Democratic Party's rule. But he himself legislated from the White House as soon as he overruled Congress in the wiretapping scandal.
Everyone who oversteps their bounds is quick to justify their actions. But each time it happens, the Constitution is marginalized, and someone's governmental power increases beyond the boundaries and restrictions set by the Constitution. Such tendencies are not restricted to any particular political party, for all major parties are led by carnally-minded men who are seeking more power.
None of this will really change as long as the American people are ignorant of Jesus and His Word. The people will continue to be led by those who most resemble the majority view. As long as we expect government to deter crime, rather than to do justice, we will not see justice, and crime will continue to rise. As long as we fight the war on terror instead of addressing its root cause in the Israeli-Palestinian situation, we will continue to defend our own injustice--and Israeli injustice--until we are overwhelmed by bloodshed and bankrupted by the high cost of continuous war.
When injustice is rampant, crime increases accordingly. When injustice is done internationally, war increases accordingly. There is an Age of Peace coming, but it will not come until we have become sickened on the flesh that we have desired to eat. Jesus is "the Desire of all nations" (Hag. 2:7), but at the present time, not many people know Him or His heart. Not many Christians really know Him. But I am confident that soon this will change, as His Spirit is poured out upon all the nations, and we begin to see that He has a love for all people, not just "us."