Imagine yourself arrested. The Police even placed you in handcuffs. You’ve already been transported to jail, searched, fingerprinted and photographed. You’ve been advised of your Constitutional Rights. You’ve secured the services of an attorney. You’ve had your Preliminary Hearing before a magistrate. You’ve already been formally charged by the Prosecutor. You’ve entered a plea of “Not Guilty”. A Trial Date has been chosen. Bail has been set. While released on bail, You’ve consulted with your attorney and prepared your legal defense. Likewise, the Prosecutor’s Office has prepared their case against you.
The day of trial arrives. You are seated at the Defense Table busily consulting to the last minute with your attorney. Deeply focused on your consultations, you barely hear the Bailiff announce the opening of the Court Session:
Bailiff: “Hear Ye, Hear Ye; The (mumble, mumble) Court is now in Session.”
Bailiff: “The Honorable (mumble, mumble) presiding.”
You didn’t quite catch the judge’s name.
Out of the corner of your eye you barely notice the judge silently enter from his chamber door, he adjusts his black judicial robes as he ascends the raised platform to the Bench.
Bailiff: “All rise.”
Your attorney, knowing better, cuts off the conversation and gains his feet.
You do likewise, raising your eyes to the bench.
For the first time, you look the judge fully in the face. He looks strangely familiar.
He is your father.
No man knows justice. A judge always rules in his own favor. If a judge is an elected official he always feels the pressure of the next election. He rules, not to provide justice, but to maintain and enhance his reputation in the eyes of the voters. He favors his friends. He punishes his enemies. Even the judge who is appointed for life bends justice to favor family and friends or just to enrich himself. He is biased in every direction. He is slothful, sleepy, indifferent, illogical, moody and arrogant. He is a stranger to you. He does not love the people he judges. And he never ever rules against himself.
If a man takes another man’s life, should he be punished life for life? Is seven years in prison too little? Is 45 years too much? Does the loss of liberty equal the loss of life? Is the defendant repentant? Is he remorseful? Is he even guilty? With so many doubts and so many variables how can any man truly and justly judge another?
In order to have a just society every citizen must practice justice. We know our justice system is deeply flawed if not downright corrupt. In order for justice to even exist we must seek it with our whole heart and whole mind and practice it every day and every waking moment and harder still, teach it to our children.
We are admonished by Christ not to judge. Yet we judge everything every day because we can and because we feel we must. If all men are flawed how will we ever find justice? Some men say “God is my judge”; but they become a law unto themselves because their vision is clouded and they know not what God really thinks of them. While God will surely judge us all in the end, what will we do for justice in the interim? Who should be our judge?
Justice, and the knowledge of justice, is a technology, and all technologies tend toward perfection. Christ wants us to forgive our trespassers. We forgive according as we keep faith in God’s Justice. God’s Justice is perfect and we are infidels who deny it. We seek justice because we are infidels and because we place no faith in God’s ability to provide justice for us. “Vengeance is mine.” saith The Lord. “I will repay.” It is we infidels who seek justice from flawed men. It seems not a question of finding the perfect judge but rather a question of finding the least flawed judge.
When I was a child I did not concern myself with the opinions of judges (or my neighbors or teachers or principal, Scoutmaster, etc.) or even the police so much as I dreaded my father getting wind of my misdeeds. As a child, being called on the carpet to answer for my actions to my father was the worst thing that could ever happen to me.
In pondering justice and the true meaning of trespass, that is to say, the imposition of one person’s will upon another, It struck me that your father would be the almost perfect judge. We are not to impose our will on each other except as a fatherly duty.
If your father was your judge, rather than having a stranger and self-serving tyrant passing judgment on us we are given a judge who is invested; – a judge who cares. You are caught in the act or accused of a crime. The police haul you into court, the Prosecutor presents evidence, but the judge is your very own flesh and blood father? Preposterous? Perhaps not. It answers so many complaints we have about the current justice system that it is hard to know where to begin:
It is the prosecutor’s theoretical duty to prove to the judge that the accused is guilty of the alleged crime. A loving father would impose a very high standard of proof.
If a father spoiled his child by indifferently allowing an egregious or infamous crime to go unpunished, lex talionis (the law of the talon) replaces justice. The mob outside will dispense it’s own brand of justice, perhaps on both father and son. Justice and vengeance are close kin. By dispensing true justice the father protects his child from vengeance.
While it is said that “ignorance of the law is no excuse”, it is a father’s duty to imbue his children with at least a general sense of right and wrong. To that same degree to which this fatherly duty was fulfilled or neglected is the same degree to which it becomes a mitigating factor. The son’s guilt is also his father’s.
No man knows you better than your father. Remorse is often expressed by criminals – after they are caught; – after they are tried, – after they are convicted. But is it sincere? Other than God himself, no man would know this better than your father.
Rather than having one judge (appointed for life) imposing his will and his conception of justice on thousands of others over decades we would have every man given a limited scope in which to implement his. A fool or a madman would do less damage to justice.
Since we do have a justice system of sorts in place, the general population tends to abdicate responsibility for the maintenance and practice of justice. We just don’t think much about it. It’s out of our hands. If your father were your judge, he would dread the day he would be compelled to pass judgment on his own offspring before an angry throng and a sobbing victim. You, on the other hand, are given a new relationship with your father; a relationship, not just of fear, but of awe, hope and respect. The father is now motivated to teach justice and the child is now motivated to learn it.
The Death Penalty
Would you be so eager to cry out for blood if it was your own child in the docket? If your father were your judge, only your father can condemn you and only your father can spare you. He would be your Court of Final Appeals. He would be your executioner. ‘Father’ means life-giver. Your father is your nearest kin to God.
In a judicial system where your father is judge, No black man would ever be judged by a white man again. No white man would ever be judged by a black man.
Why my father? Why not my mother?
Mothers do act as judges in their child’s tenderest years but they still become delinquent. Aside from Original Sin, fathers enforce the superego especially in the transitional years: the years when the reins of parental control become self-control. It was his father, not his mother, that made Alexander ‘Great‘. If only mothers were judges the fathers would abdicate all parental responsibilities.
Wouldn’t such a system simply collapse into chaos?
There are countless instances wherein parents have called the police in order to save their children from the path (of life) they were taking. True justice is true love. Our sense of justice is very much a part of our character and personal identity. Ideally, a father/judge would do justice for his own sake (in the eyes of God); justice for his accused child; justice for the alleged victim (s); justice for the nation (the People); and justice for The World (for all future generations).
What of the Victims?
Who are the victims? Nosey neighbors with half-baked opinions? Rape victims out to castrate all men? Robbery victims out to hang all robbers? Justice Crusaders out to right all wrongs in their own lifetimes? Ambitious prosecutors out to make a name for themselves? The victims are those who the accused has allegedly trespassed against. Surely, if a loved one is murdered, you feel the loss and are in part victim, but where do you draw the line and say to yourself “this case is none of my business?” It is the judge’s business to see that all affected parties leave court with the sense that justice has been done. A lynch mob has never dispensed justice. If the victim (or victims) feel that justice has not been done, there is an empathy shift. If the judge is a fool it partly explains the behavior of the accused. You see, the judge is his father.
What if your father is dead?
You choose your own judge from the other fathers. A man without children has no investment in the future and simply doesn’t care about justice for future generations.
What if your father is dead but your grandfather lives?
Your grandfather may have been the cause of your father’s early demise. Choosing your grandfather to be your judge would remain optional.
Wouldn’t the ‘accused’ just get away with it‘?
It only seems so.
God is perfect. God’s Justice is perfect:
“For I, the lord God, am a jealous God;
Visiting the inequity of the fathers upon the sons
unto the third and fourth generations of those that hate me.”
The judge’s child knows when he’s been given a pass. In the natural course of life, children generally grow up to be parents themselves. They may let their children slide from generation to generation, but in the end there is always retribution. In such a case each generation would become more outrageous than the last. Remember the mob outside. Justice is better than vengeance.
God is Our Father and he loves us dearly. His justice is perfect in timing, nature and severity. He forgives as a father forgives his child but he also lets us pay our own price for the things that we do to each other.
The ‘jury is still out’ on this one.