Sunday, August 03, 2008

How far is too far?

How much is too far? Like when should we not turn the other cheek? Or when should we stop forgiving? Or when should we stop having mercy? Should there ever be an eye for an eye...or at least some eyelashes for an eye?

Oh well - with some people you cannot just turn the other cheek - you have to catch them and thrash them so badly, that they or their cheeks will never darken your doors again. Sometimes you have to stop forgiving, because forgiveness is taken to be weakness, and weakness to which more strength and pain is inflicted. Sometimes you have to stop having mercy, because mercy is seen as inactivity and fear, and is a code for generating more pain or disaster.

Sometimes there has to be the policy of taking out both eyes, the teeth, the nose, ears and tongue. So that eyes can do no more harm by being able to see and spy, so that the mouth bleeds so bad that nothing more can be said, so that breathing is difficult, hearing is impossible and the tongue can generate no more threats or vileness, speak no more filth, throw no more obscenity, produce no more terror, induce no more pain.

Sometimes I think, that in giving forgiveness, having mercy, and turning the other cheek you permit the unleashing of unbridled poison that spills over, and marrs life. Sometimes Justice is required and not mercy. Sometimes punishment is required and not forgiveness. Sometimes, just sometimes I think, wisdom should dictate that the only cheek that should be turned is one that has its teeth punched in.

Some people might say this is unchristian, that this is violent. But one learns with hindsight, and often too late, that another course of action would have made such a big difference. One hates violence. One abhors revenge. But surely one should uphold justice and righteousness at all times, and these two should never be sacrificed for the sake of mercy and forgiveness.


At 4:08 AM , Blogger Paul said...

Turning the other cheek is not the first and greatest commandment - nor even the second, which is quite similar to the first. It cannot be turned on its head as a demand to the victim, to let us avoid Biblical demands for justice for the helpless, the widow and the fatherless. That would be perverse!

In the West we have the luxury of [at least assuming that we have] a working system of justice. Where that breaks down, then how do we respond? I'm struggling with that.

Here we assume that "taking justice into your own hands" is a bad thing. But what if the state cannot or will not help? What then? Must evil triumph?

I suspect not.

But if we're taking justice into our own hands, we should beware of the lines between prevention, deterrence, punishment and revenge.

But what if someone is intent on causing more and more harm, and acting with impunity? What then?

The victim and the perpetrator are both my neighbours, metaphorically speaking. But the safety of the innocent must still be protected. Is this a time for "smiting"?

Hmmm.... I wish I had some answers.

At 1:18 PM , Blogger Flaming Firegeni said...

Maybe it is time for a smiting...I am beginning to think that it is. I am tired of tolerance, mercy, forgiveness, compassion right now. I think I just want to see some fire and brimstone hit a very targetted destination, with all the fury of a volcano unleashing its lava.

Yeah - it is obvious that the mood is rather volcanic ;)


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