Renee' gave up TV for Lent, which pretty much means I gave up TV, too. But I sneak enough minutes during the day, and I listen to enough podcasts, read enough papers to know that the #1 story on the news is, as it has been for some time now, the "Crisis in the American economy." A mortgage crisis; failing banks; businesses bleeding money; round after round of layoffs; modern-day shanty towns
springing up from California to Georgia.
It's crisis time, and people are ticked off.
Fr. Davenport's sermon on Sunday (not up here
yet, but it will be soon) talked about the justified anger against the "Masters of the Universe" financial guys who bear a large part of the responsibility for this crisis. He confessed to secretly (turns out it won't stay a secret long after you preach about it) wanting to see them paraded in shame wearing manacles and riding bulls from Wall Street to Central Park, a perp walk complete with jesters, floats and balloons. Or, he'd settle for some of them going to jail. I can't even begin to understand the complexities of the economics involved, but I'll admit I'd like to see some get-back too. I'd like to have some justice; let's have some righteousness raining down over here, thank you very much.
But what are our options, justice-wise, in this crisis?
Off the top of my head, it seems the first option is that nothing happens. No justice @ all, not even a head fake to it. Simply let people walk scot free. Some would say that's the Christian thing to do, right? WWJD and all that? But that's viscerally unsatisfying because it's not fair
. No matter how much we believe God = Love, that kind of emphasis on mercy and glossing over wrongdoing offends our sense of justice, so let's ditch that option. The second option is @ least some kind of justice now. Mete something out to somebody -- jail terms, restitution, stoning, the dunking stool, whatever. Get medieval. But the problem is that lots of people (especially rich people) don't
get their just desserts in this life, so that's unsatisfying, too. So a third option: Justice not in this life, but in the next
one. This is how it goes: The Madoffs of the world die some day, the first sound they hear after it goes dark is the "doink doink
" that signals that Law and Order
is coming on, and they find themselves 'cuffed up and in a courtroom. God gavels the proceedings to order, hears evidence about greed and Ponzi schemes and fraudulent derivatives (of course, an expert economist would give testimony here b/c probably not even God understands how derivatives work), renders a guilty verdict and sentences the defendants to a gazillion years in Purgatory. But there's a problem w/ that option, too -- If those guys get justice, I
should expect to get it, too. And I'm just as culpable, only to a different degree. I haven't bilked investors of billions of dollars, but I've been a user. I've gotten over. I've lied, cheated, stolen, hated. So, if they're screwed, I'm screwed.
But my hope is that there's another option. It's an option w/ justice (God's holiness cannot allow sin, whether it's mine or Bernie Madoff's, to go unpunished), but it's merciful, too. It's an option rooted in "crisis," or, more accurately, it's rooted in "krisis
," the Greek term John uses to record Jesus' words just hours before his arrest, trial and lynching. Jesus tells his friends: "Now is the judgment (krisis
) of this world; now the ruler of this world be cast out." (John 12.31
) There was a time when justice and mercy met. In the "now" of Jesus' death, the sins of the world were judged, and the punishment was meted out on God himself.
It's really the only option that satisfies. And, ultimately, it's the only one that can free my soul from bitterness and hatred toward Fr. Davenport's Masters of the Universe because, when I see the justice of the cross and understand my own implication in it, in short, when I see grace
, it drives me to mercy. Instead of being driven by lust for vengeance and comeuppance, we can start to feel something of the mercy that Tim Keller describes as "the spontaneous, superabounding love which comes from an experience of the grace of God, [and t]he deeper the experience of the free grace of God, the more generous we must become." (Ministries of Mercy
, p. 63.)