Recently I received a flyer in my mailbox from the Interlake’s local MP, James Bezan. I normally do not bother reading these as they tend to be the same old rhetoric: “this political party doesn’t do its job, we do”. However, this time the image on the front shocked me enough to give a second look and when I did, I became quite saddened and angry:
Now, let me be clear and fair in my response to this mail-out. When someone is taken advantage of in our society, especially in such a personal way, there is NO justification for it. In other words, it is clearly WRONG for someone to do that. However, how we deal with such wrongdoings will tell us much about what kind of people we are and what kind of world we live in. The sad reality is that we live in a society that does not have the patience for the work of healing and reconciliation that is so desperately needed not only in cases of sexual offences, but in many many other ways. The image shown above is meant to make a very specific claim: sex offenders should not be issued pardons. On the surface, such a claim is not all that offensive, especially in a system that has, no doubt, pardoned people who have then had a repeat offence. However, what is offensive is what lies beneath the political posture exemplified in this picture, namely, a desire to keep the “troublemakers” out of sight so that communities can go on contributing to the economy in a productive and efficient manner. Never mind dealing with the effort of reconciliation, instead, let “the system” take care of the offender. In some ways, the way “the system” deals with offenders is an obvious consequence of the way our society is ordered and purposed and so is not, to many, all that shocking an approach (indeed it is desirable for many).
The real question is, as part of the global church, can we accept the story being told in the picture above? Do we think there are limits to redemption and reconciliation — both in this world and in the world to come? Should some hands never “come clean”? Should we simply let “the system” take care of issues of “justice” (for that is indeed what reconciliation is about) when the system itself in many ways contributes to factors that encourage many “offences”? I can’t help but wonder what the Apostle Paul would say. He was a murderer and a persecutor of many Christians and then became one of the foremost apostles of the faith. His life was changed and his hands washed clean. What if Paul would have been told by the Christians, “sorry, you persecuted us and so we cannot let you be healed or accept that you could be healed. The bottom line is, Paul, some hands should not come clean and your hands are some of them.”