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Is it celebration time?

May 14, 2013

I’ve been struck by two different celebrations I’ve seen on the news this past week.

The first was when Jody Arias was found guilty of killing her boyfriend after a long, lurid and highly publicized trial.  As the guilty verdict was announced the split screen the news network had up showed two images side-by-side.  On the left was a close-up of Ms. Arias sitting expressionless except for a lone tear running silently down her cheek.  On the right was an overview of the large crowd outside the courthouse erupting in loud cheers and celebration over the verdict.  I accept the verdict and was glad to see justice done but somehow the contrast between the two images was chilling.

And then yesterday it was “déjà vu all over again” when abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell was found guilty of the murder of three live-born infants in his clinic, along with a host of other charges.  Again, within minutes the screen had pictures of joyous celebration in some pro-life gatherings.  Here too I think the verdict was just and fair but somehow the partying seemed wrong.

Justice is a wonderful thing and our society is the better for its competent administration.  Even in cases like these two, where a death sentence is a real possibility, the fairness of administrated justice gives order to our world.  But how has it become that seeing someone die, even someone who has committed a heinous crime, is a cause for wild celebration?

At best justice can balance the scales.  In the Arias case she took a life and now will probably forfeit her own life in return.  Perhaps this is right.  But even if it is, why should I celebrate?  Why do so many who never knew either Arias or her victim need to celebrate?  At best it is a tragic symmetry.  It seems such a stark contrast to the rejoicing in heaven that we see in the Bible.

The Gosnell case is even more complex.  Again I don’t doubt for a minute the justice here.  I would be glad on the day when all such barbarous clinics, and I don’t doubt for a minute that there are others out there, are gone.  And I find my sympathies on the abortion debate fall firmly on the pro-life side.  But I wonder what would happen if every abortion facility, even safe and sanitary ones, were shut down.

Gosnell was not dragging women off the street in his 30+ years of operation.  An uncounted number of women, the vast majority of whom were poor and underprivileged, used his services.  Do I for one minute think that because this clinic, or any other, is shut down that the number of such women will drop to zero?  It seems to me that the problem is not that this “service” is provided but that so many women feel it is needed.  If we are really pro-life shouldn’t we focus our attention on the “demand” side of this equation?  Shouldn’t we try and reduce the number of women wanting and needing the “supply” Gosnell was gruesomely giving?  Why don’t we?

The answer is easy.  It is because when faced with the demand the situation is much more complex.  We’d need to deal with the issues like sexual morality, birth control, poverty and the breakdown of the family.  How odd it is that both pro-life and pro-choice camps focus on the supply side.  One side wants to eliminate the suppliers, the other wants to make them larger, safer and more available.  One side is desperate to protect the babies, the other to protect the women.

It is easy to win the supply side argument.  If, in one edict, we could shut down all the clinics the problem would go away, the babies would be saved.  Or, if those people clamoring about the babies, which we prefer to call fetuses because it doesn’t sound so grim, would be quiet all will be well.

Except it won’t.  One-step solutions sound good.  No clinics, no abortions, end of story.  Enough clinics, no roadblock to them, all is well.  Too bad both those solutions are lies.  It is too bad that the demand side problem is so difficult.  It is a hard, one-at-a-time effort with no pat answers, no standard techniques.  Every victory would be difficult, hard fought and probably expensive.  And each victory would be a drop in the ocean of need.

But wouldn’t it be better to model our celebrations on those of heaven; where they celebrate one soul rescued in an ocean of unbelief?


From → Christianity

  1. Hey Tom,

    Good comments. I understand why this blog post was honored. It is so easy, too easy in fact, to rejoice at the demise of perceived enemies or opponents. I am rebuked.

    Ken Aune

  2. I find it hard to celebrate in these situations too. I had similar thoughts when I read of people celebrating the death of Margaret Thatcher – no matter how much you hate someone’s political views, it seems strange to party because an old woman died after a long illness. You’re so right that it’s a complex issue. Although I would personally never have an abortion, I can’t feel right about saying that they should not be available when so many women end up in desperate circumstances unable and unwilling to support a child. If all the energy that is poured into celebrating these verdicts were rechannelled into fixing the issues that led, directly or indirectly, to them then the world would be a better place.

  3. Are you trying to do an examination of those celebrating a murder conviction or an examination of the huge demand for access to birth control in this nation? Because when you started talking about the latter, it became hard to tell.
    That’s just me though, I have no idea on anyone else reading this post.

  4. I think you have a good point. Perhaps we should be ignorant and model our celebrations like those in heaven with rescued souls with very bad ocean of unbelieves!

  5. It’s difficult, but it is a battle that needs to be fought at ground level. That is, out of love I must try and help others and recruit them (for lack of a better phrase) to adapt what I believe as truth. Ultimately, in the name of freedom, it is hard to justify the anonymous legal forcing of one’s belief on another. In fact, what good would that be if they hadn’t internalized the belief themselves (I’m speaking of rules/regulations promoting morals of any sort).

    Live as an example of what you believe in and hope that it spreads.

  6. thatvoiceinsidemyhead permalink

    “there is far more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who has been saved than over a hundred who have never sinned.” – Can’t quite remember exactly where that’s from, but I thought it reflected your final words. Great post!

  7. It’s never right to rejoice in someone’s death, even if that someone is a murderer or has committed some other terrible crime. Even if you think the death is deserved, there’s a difference between that and feeling happy about it.

  8. Good points, I agree, it is sad that our society celebrates any guuilty verdicts or deaths. Our society has degenerated to a very low state. Instead of getting better and safer and more civilized, “we” as a whole have become lovers of violence and desensitized to horrific crimes. It is like a feeding frenzy when something horrid happens, “we” can’t get enough coverage.
    As for the abortion debate? it matters not… abortions will happen regardless… they always have. Better they be regulated. although murder is still murder and they should be charging the mothers too.

  9. Well written. Especially on such touchy, and controversial, subjects as mentioned. Congrats on the Press!

  10. Amy Pond permalink

    The problem with illegalising abortion (if you even agree with that, which I don’t – I believe that whether or not someone gets an abortion should be up to them, for a number of reasons) is that then you get illegal back-yard abortionists springing up, who are often unqualified, unethical, and most of all unsafe – when women cannot get abortions legally they will become desperate to get them however they can, even if it means going to mercenary people with no real idea what they’re doing, and then women die because of botched procedures or disease contamination.

  11. I had been following the Aria case, and I felt relieved at the verdict. But the idea of celebration the death of a person – innocent or guilty, sickens me to my core.

  12. Thoughtfully written, and deserving of Fresh Press status.

  13. If you go back and look at accounts of public executions in western society from as recent as a couple of hundred years ago, all the way back as far as history records, you’ll see that humanity has a long history of celebrating the deaths of those sentenced, even those whose guilt was dubious. I’m honestly surprised we don’t broadcast executions via pay-per-view.

    Good post. I enjoyed reading it.

  14. Great post. Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed. The celebrations are, indeed, a bit disturbing.

  15. This is a great post! It is sad to see people rejoicing from a persons death. A loss of life is not something to be happy about.

  16. I totally know what you mean when you talk about people rejoicing when accused criminals are found guilty or given the death penalty. I have wondered the same thing numerous times. Perhaps the world would be a better place if some of these accused people were removed from the world, but I’ve always felt that celebrating the death of anyone is probably not something that God, or any higher power for that matter, would approve of. Truth be told, when news stations reported that Osama Bin Laden was killed and they showed mass gatherings of people celebrating in the streets, it just didn’t seem right to me. In no way am I defended Bin Laden, he was a horrible person and the world is definitely a better place without him, but for me celebrating that just seemed wrong to me.

  17. Reblogged this on wordsofwistim and commented:
    There’s a lot of truth in this article. Definitely one worth reading.

  18. I love the part where you say that one group is desperate to protect the babies and the other is desperate to protect the women. That softens my heart a lot toward the pro-choice movement…

  19. themodernidiot permalink

    The Boston funeral servicers refusing to bury Tsarnaev got me. No problem burying scores of child molesters and baby rapers; but you bet, stand on principle over a guy who blew up a race.

    • I couldn’t get the opening scene of “The Magnificent Seven” out of my mind. There was a time when we celebrated heros willing to face down an angry public to bury the unwanted.

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  21. Thanks for sharing this wonderful commentary. However I must add, that to celebrate or not to celebrate in the two references made, depends on which side of the families you belong. I personally don’t belong to any side, but, I would like to think that in the case of the stabbed boyfriend, his parents and siblings do have a bit of celebrating to do,( justice has been served.) But also considering– how much celebration can restore the loss of a love one? Can there any real celebration in these instances, or should there be, just a grateful “Thank you” for the Law and the many who serve in it’s enforcement.

  22. Oh my – I am so glad to have read this blog this morning (I’m in India; it’s morning here). You have summarized how I have felt for years about the pro-life/pro-choice debate and the death penalty. It’s not black and white. And it never will be. Thank you!

  23. I blame Hollywood for our increasingly retributionist society.

    At the end of the movie the bad guy gets his comeuppance and everyone is meant to be happy about it.

    You get a crowd of people fed Hollywood from birth together and they’re pretty likely to start acting the way Hollywood suggests.

    Not that I’m suggesting the impulse to revenge isn’t a basic human trait.
    I’m talking here about the impulse to appropriate someone else’s revenge and to revel in it.

    Hollywood is probably also why so many Americans think problems can be solved with guns or executions. That’s how John Wayne and Clint Eastwood always handled it.

  24. No, this isn’t Hollywood (though I do agree we have had lots of our thought processes shaped by the constant input of media in our culture). This is the eternal struggle between compassion, tolerance and generosity on one side (light) and bitterness, resentment and hatred of “the other” on the other side (dark).

    • Yes, but the question here is how people can publicly celebrate the ‘dark’ side without fear of widespread condemnation.

      In fact they seem utterly convinced they are on the side of ‘light’, simply by virtue of opposing someone who has done something ‘dark’. And the more bitterness, hatred and resentment they express towards someone of the ‘dark’, the ‘lighter’ they think they are.

      I still blame Hollywood (and much of the rest of the media).

  25. kellyscott57 permalink

    Ill just say this…as a Christian , I can not and will not pray for people like Arias, why? lets say to those who do?? try having this happen to one of your family? when it hits home???
    and what did thye do in biblical times?? stoned people? and im not talking drugs!

  26. I admire your insight , the issues you addressed are very crucial . leaving the roots and cutting the the body of the tree won’t forbid it from growing again so to solve the problem we should target the right causes .
    much enjoyed
    thank you for sharing

  27. Good thoughts, you bring up a myriad of points but I walk away with your take on fixing the morality of it before shutting all clinics down. the womans need or feeling of need to go through with their choices. Definitely some things to ponder. there is a solution hiding in all the rubble. I agree totally that the celebration is definitely uncalled for. congrats on being pressed!!!!

  28. Agree. Culture of death in this country must stop

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