by Keith Williams
With the spate of crimes committed in Grenada over the past few years, and the anger expressed by the Grenadian people in response, it might not be too surprising to find that the most common subject of discussion making the rounds as families get together to celebrate the festive season, would be on the need for criminal law reform in the Spice Isle.
And with Grenada being touted as a Christian society, one of the perspectives from which the matter might be viewed could very well be centred on just how Jesus might have felt about the situation.
Needless-to-say, the idea of welcoming Jesus’s opinion in the conversation would be more than appropriate since as ‘The Reason for the Season,’ there doesn’t seem to be any logical reason why ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ should be denied the opportunity to move a toast. More significantly, given the Christian belief that Jesus is God Incarnate, there could be no greater authority on the evils plaguing modern-day society, and Grenada in particular, than the God-Man himself.
But there is a further argument which could be posited for giving Jesus the last say on the subject of criminals and criminality. For unlike most judges, lawyers, police officers, social workers and other types of law enforcement personnel whose claimed authority on the subject of crime is mostly based on the vicarious experience which they have garnered during their years of study and practice, Jesus’s pronouncement would be derived mostly through his personal experience of having been dragged through the criminal justice system and been saddled with a criminal record even to this day.
Now while it might be improper to question the Christian doctrine that Jesus’s crucifixion was the preordained consequence of God’s coming down to earth in the form of a man to die for the atonement of sin, an astute observer might find it very difficult to ignore the obvious inconsistency of that belief with the biblical teaching that ‘God is not a man’ (Numbers: 23: 19; 1 Samuel 15: 29).
And since the bible further teaches that God is immutable (Isaiah 43; 10-15), it becomes even more difficult to reconcile the notion of God having to necessarily transform himself from a spiritual being to a physical being in order to save humankind from eternal damnation by being born in a miserable stable in Bethlehem on a cold winter’s night some 2,000 years ago and ultimately being subjected to the ignominious experience of dying on a cross. For as the law of contradiction states, it is not possible for a thing to exist and not exist in a particular state at one and the same time.
To add more fuel to the fire, consideration must be given to the fact that since the gospels record a number of occasions on which Jesus had forgiven the sins of several persons even before he was crucified (Mark: 2: 1-12; Luke: 5: 21; Luke: 7: 48-49), the question of whether he necessarily had to die on a cross for the remission of sin must loom large in the minds of seekers after truth.
Needless-to-say, the believer would retort that since ‘with God all things are possible,’ such doctrinal mysteries as the Incarnation of God and Substitutionary Atonement would forever defy any logical explanation. But then it would be very interesting to see exactly how the faithful would respond to the skeptic’s query as to whether it is possible for God to create a stone that is too heavy for Him to carry. For whether the response is ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it would necessarily bring God’s omnipotence into question and the entire exercise would be back to square one.
And such lines of reasoning should never be regarded as being frivolous. For as the Catholic philosopher/theologian, Saint Augustine, has taught, God would not have given human beings the faculty of reason if he had no plans for them to use it (Ockham’s Razor). And the scripture itself beckons human beings to come together and reason among themselves (Isaiah 1;18). And since the faculty of reason establishes itself first and foremost on the principle of non-contradiction, it must be inferred that any doctrine which establishes itself on a set of contradictory beliefs must be recognised as existing barely at the level of dogma on the epistemological scale.
It would seem more plausible, therefore, to suggest that the primary reason why Jesus had suffered the fate that he did was his refusal to conform to the decadent values of the Roman Empire; and for which he was unjustifiably accused of sedition and made to pay the ultimate price. And the seeker after truth scarcely has to look too far for a confirmation of this fact. For Pontius Pilate himself had acknowledged that he had seen no fault in the man standing in judgement before him on the particular occasion.
Thus, as someone who ‘had been there, done that,’ Jesus would be more than qualified to add his two cents worth to the discourse on the subject of criminal law reform in Grenada and elsewhere. And it should come as no surprise that he would feel a profound empathy for those who might have run afoul of the law since his personal experience would have taught him that there are times when the state might seriously err in its dispensation of justice.
But before delving into the meat of the discussion, Jesus might express serious concern about the notion of Grenada being a ‘Christian Nation.’ And so, he would try not to miss the opportunity to inform his well-intentioned listeners that the Christian religion was the brain child of Saul of Tarsus (aka Apostle Paul) who had misappropriated Jesus’ mission as a deliverer of the Jewish nation from Roman rule, and had completely repackaged it in its present form in which Jesus is presented as the saviour of Gentiles (or the Christ).
And because Paul’s teachings were at such variance with his own teachings, Jesus would proceed to make it quite clear to those who might now attempt to associate him, under the guise of Christianity, with such demonic retributive policies as public hanging, castration and other forms of dismemberment, that he was personally averse to any and every kind of man’s inhumanity to man. And there is no doubt that he would strongly demand that they cease and desist from invoking his name in connection with any of that sort of barbarity.
Even so, reflecting on his own past and the many occasions on which he had wept after losing his loved ones, he would not hesitate to point out how human it is for persons to feel angry at anyone who might violate the law or any moral principle. Probably with a little smirk on his face, he would recall the time when he and his friends had beaten the (blank) out of the money changers who had profaned the temple. And he surely would have begged to be forgiven for his apparent penchant for vigilante justice as was evidenced by his recommendation that anyone who might offend children should suffer the fate of having a mill stone tied around their neck and drowned in the sea (Luke 17: 2).
But while Jesus might agree that there are times when such kinds of righteous indignation might be appropriate, he would be the first to realise the inconsistency between that kind of violent mindset and the degree of compassion which he had espoused on so many other occasions; as when he had rebuked the mob about to stone Mary Magdalene to death for engaging in the act of prostitution by simply pointing out that just about everyone has something hidden in their closet.
However, since Jesus would not like to lose the opportunity to impress upon the minds of the Grenadian people the folly of retrogressing into the dark ages in terms of their attitude towards solving crime, he might abruptly put an end to that kind of philosophising and pontificating; and instead resort to the kinds of platitudes for which he had become so world-renowned.
Accordingly, he would remind his listeners of the sanctity of human life and he would invoke the negative form of the Golden Rule which categorically states that no one should do unto another person anything which he or she would not like to have done unto themselves. In other words, even as he recognises that ‘to err is human [while] to forgive is divine,’ he would remind them that they should love their neighbours as they love themselves (Matt 22: 36-39).
And as he had taught some two thousand years ago, he would reiterate that it is only by being merciful to others a person could expect to receive mercy in return; even going to the extent of forgiving others as many as ‘seventy times seven.’ And, to further illustrate his point, he might even add that if capital punishment had been imposed on Paul and Moses for the murderous deeds with which their names had been associated, Judaism and Christianity might never have become two of the world’s greatest religions.
And just as a last shot, Jesus might invite the gathering to take a hard look at the statistics on crime in Grenada. Thus, he might express the view that with a population of just about 110,000, and a police force of approximately 900 officers; with a ranking of 12th in terms of police officers per capita, Grenada is too heavily policed. Also, with Grenada ranking 21st in the world in terms of prisoners per capita, he might even conclude that something clearly is not working and that new approaches to law enforcement should be considered. Then, in keeping with his usual practice, he would end by saying: ‘Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.’