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In the Wake of the Norwegian Massacre
|by R. D. Ashby|
The world has become increasingly a place of lack of forgiveness in the face of unforgiveable crimes. Perpetrators of these crimes are considered uniquely evil or deranged beyond redemption. Often, the mass murderer ends it all by ‘topping’ himself, to convey the impression that it was something he was responsible for, self-acknowledged as unforgiveable. When taken alive, as in the case of Anders Breivik, he is locked up, as if conclusively; reasons and motives limited to the man’s ‘warped’ mind; now, everyone is safe, and the damage done by him regrettable but, in review, that had been largely unpreventable in the circumstances.
Increasingly, also, the world has become a place of the global effect of what is a local incident, relayed especially through the medium of television, affecting all humanity. In this witness, suddenly, we’re all of us implicated. This is more apparent in our compelled response in humanitarian aid to victims of natural disasters like a tsunami or an earthquake in foreign countries. Not quite so apparent is our involvement in the shock and horror of the deeds of mass murderers, having thus stated it.
Regarding all matters of human suffering or weakness, there used to be a cherished saying: 'There but for the grace of God go I'. Though virtually obsolete, this still applies to all circumstances of crime. It is now widely accepted that the criminal is a product of society, acting with as much justification and conviction of doing the right thing as any honest man, with a difference – that he is redressing the balance in his favour in what he estimates as the wrongs of society against him. But because he is breaking the law, he is defined as a criminal, and pays the penalty when caught.
Further, the criminal acts out of an irresistible compulsion: in a sense, it is not himself but something driving him; as he will most often attest. In the case of Breivik, it was evident. That such a compulsive action occurs at any given time in the life of a society depersonalises the act as something that ‘had to happen’. As one who believes in God, you would say it was providential, the fact of its occurrence. Thus, the criminal act is the judgment of God on the very society, even global society, that condemns the criminal, the instrument, at one with the crime. Never does that society reflect on the occurrence of the crime as a Divine judgment on itself: no, it finds consummate justice in condemning the criminal, thus exonerating itself. Forgiveness of the criminal is out of the question, and it takes an act of humility for the criminal to ask for forgiveness.
In a Divine perspective, it is sin that is the cause of all tragedy and disaster. The question now is, but how are we so immoral as to deserve Divine retributive action in the form of a mass murderer’s killing spree? For don’t forget, its occurrence is what makes it a providential act. Or is it the case we think we are perfectly moral; leaving the door wide open to Divine measures that reinstate a sense of our moral short-coming, alas, through the instrumentality of the mass murderer or the bomber, on whom we conveniently shift the blame; or does Divine providence take this immunity to correction into consideration in the magnitude of each catastrophe?
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