Monday, October 16, 2006

Man's Justice - God's Justice

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! (Psalm 37:1)
Last night I watched Sudden Impact (I think that’s the name of it), another part of the Dirty Harry series.

It would be understandable if there were some who did not think this film was as good as the others in the series, I can appreciate that. The film did open up however some interesting moral issues concerning the nature of justice. I guess that’s the whole point of the series to promote the right-wing version of justice that cuts through the crap … errr … I mean the unnecessary lily-livered liberal media manipulated bureaucracy and deals with situations as they deserve to be dealt with – tough justice if you will. I am concerned however with the message that it gives out which is essentially if the socially agreed constructs of justice are inadequate for whatever reason you the individual are entitled to deal with matters yourself.

So the scenario is built in a sympathetic manner. A lady tormented by a brutal gang-raping that also sent her sister into a mental vegetative state wreaks vengeance on those involved in the crime. Harry Callahan, whilst creating chaos wherever he goes, is assigned the case and becomes embroiled in a small-town situation where justice is a family affair as the chief of police’s son was also involved the scene. As it transpires most of those involved in the rape are despicable characters and thus we the audience are lead to believe they are deserving of their fate. There is one character who has endeavoured to reform his ways and become a respectable member of society, he is not spared the bullets. When it comes to killing the chief of police’s son, the lady is stopped by two things, first the fact that the son is also in a vegetative state as his guilt lead him to ram his car off the road in a bid to kill himself. Sadly the chief of police doesn’t last long as the real nasty piece of work – the final member of the gang – pops up with a few of his crew and kills the chief. Harry pops up at this point, having pieced the case together via sleeping with the lady, and saves the day with his .44 Magnum automag. When the police come to clear up the debris Harry covers the indiscretions of the woman after the offending weapon is found on the nasty piece of work.

So the point is ‘we understand why you killed those people because of your physical, emotional and mental torment by their hands, so it’s only fair at the end of the movie that you are redeemed by the man of the law’. I cannot really live with that because it still promotes a vigilante approach to justice where the legal methods mean little in as much as they serve the individual’s concept of justice. Imagine if that was worked out in society at large, order as we know it would go to pieces! People would literally be killing, maiming, manipulating, torturing and tormenting others as the whim took them if they felt an injustice had been committed. As we look at people’s attitude to the criminal justice system and the state of prisons that sentiment would be exacerbated to render the whole law and order structure irrelevant and two minutes later anarchy would rule the roost.

Alternatively if the system is to be enforced it has to be respected and submitted to even in situations where it may not appear as true justice as been done. When that happens, those without Christ have no recourse and that feeling of injustice can quickly lead to bitterness at the system. Believers do have the reassurance that at the end of the day God has the last word and a scripture that’s really helpful in this regard is Psalm 37. Now when I say at the end of the day I’m not just talking about at the end of time, I do believe that in this life true vengeance can be delivered even if we never see it. The Psalm helps us to get a better perspective on our response and attitude to injustice – living justly, living right and looking and depending on the God who does right and even expressed that rightness in offering His Son as a sacrifice because that was the only way justice could be met. Someone had to pay for every sin ever committed – Someone pure, Someone without guilt – that was satisfied in Christ. As a result believers can commit all things to God and live right even in a wrong world.

On a lighter note, if such a thing could be garnered from such a bloodthirsty film, there were some real doozy one-liners. The first was when Harry interrupts a coffee-shop robbery and as ever shoots first and asks questions later. Before he conducts his official duties, he informs the robbers that ‘we’ cannot allow that to happen. Noticing only one person, one of the robbers asks who is the ‘we’, after which Harry produces his gun and states ‘Smith and Wesson and me’. (For the uninitiated Smith & Wesson is the name of a make of gun and presumably the surname of two men intrinsically linked with the creation of the company.)

Most of the great one-liners took place in the first half of the film – they over-egged the ‘make my day’ line, though. One I had to remember though, is when Harry is in a dressing down by his boss in a conference meeting and when the boss, Briggs by name, feels Harry’s not taking him serious he gets all pompous and says ‘You know who you're talkin' to? Hmm? You know my record?’ to which Harry replies, ‘Yeah, you’re a legend in your own mind’. That was brilliant. It was the perfect put-down. On wider consideration it’s a most appropriate response to others who in their pomp and pride declare themselves to be someone, when they’re actually no one. Reminding me of the important principle Paul outlines in Galatians 6:3 - For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

4 His Name’s Sake
da man cd

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