A news story over the weekend—when oddball stories of religion are welcomed by the media—revealed that a judge in Muskogee County, Oklahoma sentenced a youth to a decade of church for a serious DUI crime. An underage drinker, the defendant committed the unforgivable sin of killing another youth while driving under the influence. It is a sad and tragic case. Law makers in Oklahoma are challenging the church decision, according to the video blurb on Newsy, but there is a much deeper flaw in the logic of Judge Mike Norman here. Had the lack of compassion and common sense so blatantly on display during the recent presidential campaign come from other than committed “Christians” it would have been considered downright shocking. We tend to excuse misanthropy when it comes wrapped in doctrinal packaging, a Twinkie in a Cliff Bar wrapper. The judge himself maybe needs a little churching.
There was a time when the moral values of a good, Protestant upbringing were unquestioned. The problem is, we live in a much more diverse world now. What is particularly telling has been the evangelical response to this growing siblinghood of humankind. It is seen as a great evil, perhaps the reverse of Babel itself. We are bringing people of different religions together in what is comprehended as an unholy mix. Thing is, many of these people participate in religions far older than Christianity that have no Babel story to put themselves in proper context. How can they know they’re inferior unless we can get them to read our Bible, attend our churches, learn our religion?
Timothy McVeigh went to church during his youth. Reverend Jim Jones started his own church. Would time in Westboro Baptist Church in nearby Kansas count? There is a reason that church and state should be kept separate. As an institution the church is nearly as diverse as the human race that invented it. Religion has seldom been the solution to crime. Law enforcement officials used to wear a pentagram for a badge, not a cross. But that was back in the days when Oklahoma was the wild west and white-steepled churches didn’t exist to inveigh against the evils of a satanic symbol worn by the representatives of the territory. And since Oklahoma doesn’t believe in evolution, we’ve got to wonder if some things will ever change.