Like everyone else I would guess, I have been horrified, appalled, and spiritually and emotionally paralyzed by the news regarding the recent rescue of the three young women in Cleveland.
Like most of us, my first response was that no punishment, no public humiliation, and certainly no legal prosecution could be great enough.
This man, this human being, called ‘a monster’ by his own family, has allegedly committed a sin so great, so full, and so all-encompassing that we can barely take it in.
I get the feeling sometimes that there is a public contest that I am not aware of; a contest to be the most vile human being to walk the face of the earth.
By this standard, the sleazy and corrupt politician or depraved Hollywood celebrity, or even the most blatant racism and exploitation that we see nearly daily in our headlines, is no match for evil that will forever haunt that Cleveland neighborhood and be tied to the crimes perpetrated against three young girls.
Every family involved, every neighbor, even those of us who look on in horror, will be forever stained by this horrific, sustained act. If any human act warrants eternal punishment, this clearly does. As much as I consider the death penalty barbaric, in this case death seems far too merciful. The perpetrator will never breathe a single breath free of shame and disgrace. The sin, by any standard, is beyond the pale. The case makes me wonder what judgement, punishment, and mercy might even mean. And like everyone else, my first impulse is to put as much distance as I can between this ‘sin’ and my own.
But we lie to ourselves if we imagine that our sin is no less ugly in the eyes of God. Is my, or your sin, really so different?
When I see photos of the suspect, this so-called ‘monster,’ I don’t see a monster. I see a pathetic, broken, and haunted man under a bondage few of us could even begin to imagine.
Yes, he may have welcomed, and probably even cultivated, a sin that grew to consume and overwhelm him.
But if we imagine that we are so different, we too sin.
I would like to imagine that the perpetrator is a slimy creature of another species. I wish I could convince myself that he and I have nothing in common.
There are those who hold that no sin is greater than any other, that any sin breaks our relationship with God – and each other.
But this sustained act of depravity defies us all. There literally is no punishment great enough.
And our mercy and restoration toward his victims cannot be great enough.
Perhaps that is the point; only God himself can punish – and restore – to the degree necessary.
On a human level, it seems, no healing is possible. But this is one of those times when we see, far too closely, the depth of sin that lies, dormant and restrained within most of us, but waits, like some surging, seething ‘monster’ within each one of us.
Editor's Note: This referenced quote in the article's headline comes from a suicide note allegedly written in 2004 by Ariel Castro.
Morf Morford considers himself a free-range Christian who is convinced that God expects far more of us than we can ever imagine, but somehow thinks God knows more than we do. To pay his bills, he’s been a teacher for adults (including those in his local county jail) in a variety of setting including Tribal colleges, vocational schools, and at the university level in the People’s Republic of China. Within an academic context, he also writes an irreverent ESL blog and for the Burnside Writers Collective.