Jack Schaap, the former pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, has been arrested and is in jail, at the time of this writing, awaiting sentencing that will occur in January 2013. He has admitted to transporting a 17 year old girl across state lines in order to have sex with her. The reaction has been loud and angry. Some have said he deserves to “rot in hell.” There are some who would sentence him to life (he is facing 10 years to life). Others, would sentence him to “time served.” And others (far too many), would simply give him a pass on the basis that “we’re all human,” and attribute his fall to one of the following reasons: (1) he was too stressed; or (2) he had a lot of pressures at home; or (3) the victim was too blame because she was sexually active and knew what she was doing, and she’s really to blame. I have heard all of those rationales.
Justice is where penalties are paid. Justice is where punishment is meted out. Justice is where a perpetrator of a crime, or an individual whose actions brought harm to others, is punished. During the trial, the defense attorney is either arguing that his client did not do the crime, and therefore justice would be ill served to convict him, or there were mitigating circumstances which would warrant a jury and judge finding that justice would be better served by finding him not guilty, or guilty of a lesser crime.
Justice is deemed to be sought in a criminal trial by both sides.
The defense attorney does not argue for justice for his client at the sentencing. Instead, he argues for mercy. He argues for mitigating circumstances or facts which will serve to diminish the punishment. Mercy is very much something that the defendant wishes to have the court display at his trial. The defense attorney sees justice as a variable. So does the Prosecutor. And, so do the Courts. This is because, in a strict sense of the word, it is a variable, if one views justice as being a prescribed application of punishment which is dispensed according to some kind of rule or standard that is set forth in a statute. Thus, for the Prosecutor in a murder trial, justice is a finding of guilty and a subsequent sentencing of the maximum penalty prescribed for the crime.
However, justice is not a variable. Justice is pure. It is immutable as is truth. What is just in one case may not be just in another case. The fact that a jury finds a defendant guilty and the judge sentences him to 10 years does not mean that justice has been done. It merely means that in the eyes of the law, its definition of justice has been served.
But, will true justice be done?
Depending on who you ask, justice will not be served at the end of his sentencing, regardless of the outcome. If the judge gives Schaap 10 years, it will be too little for some. For others, it will be perfect and fitting. And, for some (such as Schaap’s family), it will be too much. There will not be a consensus as to whether or not justice has been served.
Jack Schaap will enter the court room hoping for mercy, not justice. The family of his victim will be hoping for justice. Mercy will not be on their minds. Many church members and Christians around the nation who are viewing this case will be hoping for mercy by the Court. Victims of abuse under the Schaap administration and under his brand of fundamentalism will be looking for justice (and perhaps a bit of vengeance, too). They will want a different kind of justice, here. They will want vindication. They will want a justice that declares that this man was a fraud, as they’d declared to deaf ears. They will want a justice that is bereft of mercy because they will want an example made of the man who cursed his way to fame, and arrogantly elbowed his way through Fundamentalism, whilst declaring it to be the only legitimate posture of Christianity.
For them, whatever comes at the hearing is somewhat irrelevant.
For them, they understand that they have been a witness to perfect justice.
And, they will be content that not only has justice been served, but mercy came to Court that day, too.
copyright 2012 Voyle A. Glover