Scotland Endorses Mercy, Compassion

I am thrilled with the justification Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill gave for the release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi. Announcing extremely unpopular decision for the release of Megrahi, convicted as responsible for destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, MacAskill made this justification:

[Megrahi] now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power. It is one that no court, in any jurisdiction, in any land, could revoke or overrule. It is terminal, final and irrevocable. He is going to die. (New York Times Link)

and

[Megrahi] did not show his victims any comfort or compassion. They were not allowed to return to the bosom of their families to see out their lives, let alone their dying days. No compassion was shown by him to them […] But, that alone is not a reason for us to deny compassion to him and his family in his final days […] Our justice system demands that judgment be imposed but compassion be available. Our beliefs dictate that justice be served, but mercy be shown. Compassion and mercy are about upholding the beliefs that we seek to live by, remaining true to our values as a people – no matter the severity of the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated […] (New York Times Link)

Our beliefs dictate that justice be served, but mercy be shown.”


Maybe I’m a sap. Maybe I’m just too compassionate. Maybe I’m just too merciful. But that statement is the kind of justice I would like to live under: Justice, tempered by mercy and compassion. In fact, it reminds me an awful lot of the Justice of God: Justice, tempered with mercy and compassion. Megrahi faces that. He is dying. I hope he’s able to repent of all his crimes, in time. Who knows? I might even pray for his repentance.


The thing that makes this situation more complex is that Megrahi steadfastly proclaims his innocence. According to NPR this morning (when I first learned of their situation), many Britons believe this. So, we have a convicted terrorist who claims his innocence, released by the convicting power for reasons of compassion.


For balance’s sake, most of the victims’ families are outraged (this is according to the CNN headline, as well as the body of their article). It is not difficult to understand why they are. But I am not a victim, nor a family member of a victim. I cannot pretend to argue for them, nor do I think I should pretend to. It doesn’t seem particularly respectful or soothing to their pain.


I’m not arrogant enough to pronounce that Justice or Mercy or Compassion has been served/abused in this case. But I am confident enough in myself to say that I am encouraged by Scotland’s language, if not by their actual motivation (which is politically murky and probably very corrupt, which is probably why they dressed it up so nice).


It is an awfully brave thing to do, to affirm mercy, when no one would fault you for saying, “No.” When your best friend in the entire world (played by America) is saying, “No.”


So I applaud Scotland for their decision today. To show compassion and mercy is to display godliness. I hope that was MacAskill’s goal today. If not, I do not greatly care. Mercy and compassion were shown. Glory to God, who has mercy on whom He has mercy, and compassion on whom He has compassion. Pray that you are one of them. Pray for me. Pray for Megrahi.

Love yourself. Love your neighbor?

Stephen Colbert’s guest on August 12 was Mark Johnson. He’s from a group, or the organizer of the group, called Playing for Change. The basic gist of the organization is to create peace through music—showing its power to unite people regardless of difference. Religion, politics, status, color—the organization tries to show that none of this really matters. What matters is the basic dignity of humanity.

This is my understanding of this group’s music (it’s actually a globe-trotting web series). For what it’s worth, I think it’s a good goal. Understanding the basic dignity of all humanity IS a good and valuable goal. Humanity is created in God’s image; somewhere in the Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan makes a statement to this effect. It’s something like, “Every man is a Son of Adam and every woman a Daughter of Eve. That is enough to cow the proudest king, and lift the head of the meanest beggar.” Or something like that.

Like I said: It’s a good goal.

What I take issue with was Mr. Johnson’s statement that the purpose of the music was to allow each individual to love themselves. In turn, after loving ourselves, we can turn that love toward others.

I am hesitant to disagree vehemently with this simply because I do not know Mr. Johnson and I am taking the words out of his mouth and I didn’t record them or anything. But, even if that’s not his exact meaning, I disagree with that premise: that by loving ourselves first, we can love others.

My reasons for disagreeing are rather simple. Like most good things that are simple, it is also quite complex. Or I’d like to think so. For me, complex equals good.

I think it’s the other way around: only by loving others can we learn to love ourselves.

My belief is Christan, of course:

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)

For me, there’s not much argument with this. I have trouble justifying anything beyond Christ. I have trouble justifying anything beyond what Christ has said here.

Rereading the above paragraph, and the one before it, I realize I should explain more—previously, I had left off arguing here.

The above statement is one made by Jesus in response to a stumper of a question by certain unfriendly elements. (That is, they were unfriendly toward him; they were likely friendly to their friends). He’s supposed to pick the best command in the whole Bible.

So he chooses one, appropriately about loving God. That’s expected. Then he leans more radical, and quotes a rather obscure verse from Leviticus—okay, it’s not that obscure, since he knows it and so does everyone else ambushing him—which says something about how people are to treat one another.

When this verse would occur in bible study (which, for those of you unchurched, happens quite frequently), Hal Hays would just as frequently perform the hermeneutical equivalent of waggling his eyebrows: he’d inquire about the context in an arcane way. I think it was supposed to make me reach a conclusion. What that conclusion is, I am not aware. End footnote.

So, this verse… it’s apparently rather important. One could argue from it Mr. Johnson’s principle, but one who does that is fairly dumb, in my humble opinion. That is a syndrome with which I am intimately familiar called: “Missing the Forest for the Trees.”

Christ’s basic assumption in quoting Leviticus 19:18 (the verse that says “love your neighbor” etc.) is that people love themselves. It is not something that people need to learn. We feed and clothe ourselves—or attempt to do so—and do not regularly commit suicide. To argue that one must love themselves to love their neighbor is to belabor the obvious. People already love themselves.

There’s a famous teaching philosophy states that teaching something to someone else is the ultimate display of mastery. I think that applies to this case.

If there’s interest, I may continue this. But for now, I think I’ve thoroughly pulverized a dead horse.

Apologetics (I)

At the dinner table, my father said: “People are not persuaded to believe in God by apologetics. They believe because they need Him.”

I’m not sure if he’s correct, but I know he isn’t wrong. (Aren’t I the paradox smith?) I was not persuaded to believe God, nor to believe in Him, because of the validity of the New Testament as a historical document. Nor did I believe because of the sheer impossibility of life assembling itself out of nothingness.

I believed because I experienced God. I believed because a man died and rose again. I continued believing, though, because I knew that this Christ was a man, that the Bible was all I had, and that God could create a stone that He could not lift, and then lift it. Or something like that…