I’m not going to look up the names, because they’re irrelevant to my intent, and I also don’t want to leave the impression that I am judging harshly any particular individual. I can’t slip myself into the soul of the daughter whose aged father was gunned down last week by the so-called Facebook killer. Within a day or so of the incident, she appeared on CNN and announced to the world that she forgave the murderer and would indeed give him a hug if he were captured. Somehow or other, maybe this was what she needed to say for her own inner peace—and when CNN comes bearing down on you with a mike and squinty, manipulative questions, you might very well want to say certain things just to tie the reporters’ tongues into pretzels. I sure would.
What really disturbed me, rather, was the second line of talking heads—those who jabber about other media jabberers—eager to purvey this blanket forgiveness as a splendid testimony for the Christian faith. Glenn Beck’s channel, The Blaze, was ablaze with such interpretation. With all due respect to the grieving daughter… no, I wouldn’t call her words a beautiful testimony at all. God places us on earth, we must believe, to find our way toward Him as well as we can during our allotted span. Anyone who interrupts another’s journey, deliberately and wantonly, is playing God with the most hideous arrogance. It’s a wicked act, that peremptory cutting of the cord called murder; and ultimate forgiveness for it can and must come only from God himself. For such creatures as we are, striking a beatific smile and warbling, “It’s okay, it’s okay! I forgive you!” is not an option. The benediction sounds a bit as though we have decided to play God in one of His other famous roles.
We must take the murderer at his word if he claims that he has indeed sought God’s pardon, and we must wish him well in that endeavor while also holding him accountable to the laws of men. We are not to enact cruel vengeance, which would corrupt our souls as the criminal has corrupted his; but we must take all legal steps to deny him chances at committing similar outrages in the future. To shrug off the deed of someone who has presumed to declare life meaningless and short-circuit whatever meaning or understanding might have been emerging for another is to participate in belittling the divine plan. I don’t like the smell of that.
If a narcissistic lunatic like the callous Facebook murderer had cut down someone dear to me, I think I would have said this: “You’ll be caught, and I hope you are safely in a cage before you interrupt someone else’s life. I hope you stay in that cage until you can do no harm to anyone, or else—if it’s the will of society—that you be legally executed so that your sad end may intimidate other self-obsessed lunatics. I don’t wish agony upon you: may your end be swift. If you want to see me, explain yourself, and beg forgiveness, then I will consider myself bound to hear you out… but I’m afraid I haven’t the power to absolve you of anything. Beg forgiveness of him whose life you took, and of Him who gave no man the right to end another’s life for amusement. As for me, I have nothing to forgive. We’re all mortal, and we all leave this world in one way or another. I pray that the soul of the one I’ve lost has found peace. If you want peace for yours, then ask it of Him who can give it. That’s in your power.
“I will warn you, last of all, that I’m inclined to regard your contacting me as another bit of grandstanding—and I’m not in the least interested in being one of your spellbound spectators. You’ve already committed murder to put yourself in people’s eyes. If I detect that this plea for forgiveness is Act II of the same sick drama, then I get up and walk out when I get the first hint.”
Evil exists. You can’t fight it by forgiving it—and what portion of a troubled man’s soul it may occupy is not for us to determine.