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Hogarth judge

November 2018



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Hogarth judge


Originally posted here.

I am a strongly Protestant Christian, of a somewhat Calvinist bent. It does not really conflict with my political liberalism, and actually rather complements it.

I believe that the church always needs reforming, always needs to be called back to first principles, and that church leaders who get too big for their breeches or start hankering after earthly thrones and political power need to be knocked down a peg. That isn't what the church is for.

It pleases me that we cannot be other than the people we were made to be: there is, as the I Ching says, "no blame". You cannot fail: whatever the world counts as failure was made for you to be your success. So we should always bear in mind that people whom the world counts as failures, the prisoner, the derelict, the drunkard and the wastrel remain rational beings bearing God's image. There but for grace go I, and no one can know that your future is not their present. Predestination shoulders for us the burden of our past, and frees us from the illusion that the bad choices we seemed to make were actually our choices to make.

So the urge to punish our neighbors for their misdeeds is inevitable, but only because it is a reflection of the sin that lives inside us. The jurors, spending the community's righteous outrage on the prisoner in the dock, demonstrate that they too deserve to be strapped into the gurney. That anger, that satisfaction in seeing their fellow creature suffer, shows them to be criminals, or rather sinners, just as deserving of punishment. For misery, death, and hell is exactly what we deserve, every one of us, from Mother Teresa to Adolf Hitler; and to the extent that God gives any of us anything else, it isn't because we earned it by our virtues; we have none. The absolute worst thing that anything could possibly be is a Homo sapiens; among all the species they alone bear the curse of the knowledge of good and evil.