Lamech’s Patsy

“The Left might be godless, but the Right has only the form of godliness.”

Just chucking some ideas around here, so comments are welcome (especially from actual Americans.)

From the New York Times (April 2008)

U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations

The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.

Indeed, the United States leads the world in producing prisoners, a reflection of a relatively recent and now entirely distinctive American approach to crime and punishment. Americans are locked up for crimes — from writing bad checks to using drugs — that would rarely produce prison sentences in other countries. And in particular they are kept incarcerated far longer than prisoners in other nations.

Criminologists and legal scholars in other industrialized nations say they are mystified and appalled by the number and length of American prison sentences.

How do you explain this phenomenon in the most Christian country in the world?

I read Ann Coulter (Godless: The Church of Liberalism) explaining how naive the Left is for believing that everyone can be rehabilitated. Fair call. She points out that the reason crime rates have fallen is because the prison population has grown. Prison is the solution. Vengeance is the answer.

The cases that Coulter documents prove that Left wingers have made some really dumb decisions concerning convict releases. Regardless of that ineptitude, it does look like they have more of a heart. They might not believe in “sin,” but they do believe in mercy.

In a country constantly divided like the two goats on the Day of Atonement, the easiest solution for the moral majority is a scapegoat. Perhaps there’s something deeper going on.

James Jordan has discussed Rene Girard’s theory concerning the communal lust for a scapegoat in various cultures throughout history. Once the blame is fixed, things can go back to normal. He sees it in Job. He sees it in Jesus. To avert the crisis, one man dies for the people.

The story of Lamech, like all of Genesis, follows the structure of the Feasts (yes, centuries before they were instituted!) [2] The Day of Atonement (lit. “Coverings”) in that narrative fixes the blame, unrighteously, on a young man who struck Lamech. The man was guilty, certainly, but his crime was not worthy of death. In the usurped role of High Priest, instead of turning the other cheek and modeling mercy for his people, Lamech modeled an unrighteous vengeance. His personal sin as ruler became a corporate sin. The world was eventually filled with vigilante violence. Nobody was willing to be wronged and bear it—covering a multitude of sin with love.

We see a similar situation in the first century. Among other things, Jesus called out the Pharisees for their lack of mercy. Note that he was not calling for an end to actual justice, but for the leaders to model the merciful, yet righteous and just, rule of Yahweh.

Perhaps this is the situation in America today. [3] An increasingly self-righteous Pharisaical Right scapegoats the weak. When good citizens call for mandatory sentences to curb growing crime, they are in fact part of a culture that is attempting to exorcise its own demons. Rich Bledsoe observes that this was most likely the situation with the demoniacs of Gadara. [4] That story also follows the Feasts pattern.

With so many in chains, the Left believes more (borrowed) government funding for rehabilitation of criminals is the solution. This strategy, too, will end in failure.

The Left might be godless, but the Right has only the form of godliness (2 Timothy 3:5). The only real hope is the Gospel, the mercy of Christ, the love of God displayed in His fulfilment of the Day of Atonement on Golgotha.

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[1] See (for example) James B. Jordan, Was Job an Edomite King? Part 1.
[2] See The Significance of Adah and Zillah.
[3] Although things have improved, at least in some states, since 2008. Some states report declining rates of incarceration, but this may be due to less police on the streets. Like the widely reported “College Bubble,” it seems there is also a “Private Prison Bubble.”
[4] See Mad Men.

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9 Responses to “Lamech’s Patsy”

  • Chris W Says:

    I think the right needs to actually learn what ‘eye for an eye’ justice means, because I honestly don’t think they get it. The punishments they dish out are rarely fitted to the actual crimes committed. But I think this is a critical century for the US.

    Creation: Declaration of independance (1700s)
    Division: Civil war (1800s)
    Ascension: Rise to power/prominence (1900s)
    Testing: Threat of Islam (2000s)
    (to be continued…)

    How they handle this step determines how the rest of their history progresses!

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Good comment. Hadn’t thought of applying the pattern, except for this point in history being the end of the one started at the Reformation. I guess it will be clearer in hindsight.

  • Mark Sunwall Says:

    Creation itself discriminates in the case of drug use and other crimes which fill the Federal prisons of the US of A. In other words, the action is its own punishment. However both left and right chime in with extra-creational legislation which guarantees both incarceration of a large segment of the population and growth in civil service and/or outserviced employment. Both left and right want positivistic law which legislates equally and righteously. However there is no such thing as equality and no such thing as right apart from the minute fractal geometry of creation.

    When humans are allowed to create their own world you get something like the US Federal prison system.

    And yeah, I’m a native son.

  • Mark Sunwall Says:

    Oh, and tangetially. I’m glad to see James Jordan’s name mentioned in connection with Rene Girard on scapegoating and the foundations of human culure. There is a movment afoot to assimilate Girard’s thinking to either liberal humanism or some sort of Bultmanniacal theological liberalism. I’m dedicating myself to fighting this tendency. Girard is a kind of theologically naive but relgiously deep “evangelical Catholic” who has boldly “stripped the Egyptians” of secular social science…whether he would put it that way himself or not. Now the opposing forces are rallying and hope to assimilate back to normal. Normal humanist nihilism that is.

  • Patrick Says:

    From a spiritual basis, it’s just not clear to me it is reasonable or proper to release violent offenders due to any logic.

    All other crimes non violent, I have a different view. In fact, I’d stop the drug war here, it leads to much violence, empowering of criminal enterprises and nearly destroyed Colombia and is currently destroying our Mexican neighbors.

    Scapegoating here? Yea, we’ve always done that though, nothing new today.

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Patrick

    I agree concerning non-violent criminals. The Bible prescribes restitution rather than incarceration. It repersonalizes the crime and also the criminal.

    It’s not just the scapegoating (which can be found anywhere) but the underlying social reason for the scale of the incarcerations as a whole. It’s a government left with Law because it has lost faith in God and His transforming grace.

    These are all generalizations of course.

  • Patrick Says:

    I imagine you’re too close to accurate for comfort.

    Pray for us over here, I do. I ask Christ to transform His church’s heart and mind here and globally every time I pray.

  • Mike Bull Says:

    It will come. History never repeats itself very accurately. It’s more like aircraft disasters. Every crash is the last of its kind. We do learn, and the Church is right at the heart of that process.

    An example might be the awareness of many today of the path to socialism. There are many who are willingly ignorant, but now it takes willingness. We know what lies ahead.

    I think men will try anything to avoid doing simply what the Bible says. We do what works in the short term and think that’s a solution. Long term solutions generally look crazy in the short term.

    The plans of the godless are always short term.