I awake this morning to the all-too-familiar sound of loud rap music blaring from upstairs neighbor’s stereo. I stretch my legs out and yawn. At least this morning its not the sound of someone being punched in the gut over and over like I often hear as violent video games and movies are played in the room above mine. I can’t help but think how perfectly lovely this morning could be if it weren’t for the ruckus upstairs. My own apartment is still and the sun is streaming in my one in lone window, filling my tiny room with an amber glow.
My mind is already wandering away, even though I have yet to pull the covers off. I am thinking about all the conversations I had at work yesterday. Crowded around a booth, rolling silverware into napkins, my co-workers had started asking me questions about why I chose to live on the East Side of Kansas City for two years, why I actually wanted to live by the intersection of 39th & Troost of all places – a location notorious for shootings and violent crime. Those questions led to all kinds of story swapping. Soon the talk was full of crimes committed against us, unjust court proceedings, crooked lawyers, racial hatred. I saw again what I have seen a thousand times – people stuck in faulty systems, wrong relating perpetuating more Wrong Relating. I saw again how one act of injustice spirals into injustice fifty times over, and how as a result many will be imprisoned – whether by actual incarceration or by being physically restricted by legal proceedings and debt, or by emotional imprisonment by hatred and bitterness.
As I roll out of bed and began to get ready for my day, I am thinking about how different classes of society tend towards different kinds of crime. Violent crime is always associated with impoverished urban areas. And all the people I know who are in DUI trouble are middle-class individuals who have enough money to drink and money for cars to drive. We even have a special name for upper-class felons: “white-collar crime.” My mind floods with the statistics I’ve been reading in a Criminal Justice book* Myles gave me for Christmas:
-Nearly one-fourth of the inmates in the entire world are found in American jails and penitentiaries… but the U.S. accounts for less than 5% of the entire world population.
– U.S. incarceration rate septupled between 1973 and 2003, rising from under 100 inmates per 100,000 citizens to 715 inmates per 100,000 citizens. The crime rate, however, remained unchanged. It was exactly the same in 2003 as in 1973.
– While it is estimated that 89,000 to 141,000 women are raped in the U.S. each year, government reports show that anywhere between 250,000 to 600,000 men are raped in prison every year.
– When we consider only the African American population, there are an astonishing 4,834 inmates for every 100,000 citizens.
The numbers and many others like them disturb me deeply all the time. They scream to me, “This is NOT OKAY.” They provoke me as much as the hundred and one stories I could personally tell you of our justice system failing.
This morning I move about the kitchen, preparing a breakfast for myself. I am thinking about how because so few people on the earth choose to walk on Paths of Right-Relating, that governance is necessary. I am thinking about how such a vast, complicated governing structure has become developed solely because of how many people will not choose to Rightly Relate to each other, to themselves, and to the earth. I am thinking how faulty the structure is, because it is continuously developed by people and groups of people who have no clue how to Perfectly Rightly Relate. I am thinking that this whole epic disaster so ironically named the “Justice System” is in need of an absolute overhaul. I am thinking what I have thought all along these past many years, that there is actually nothing just about the justice system – for anyone. Not for victims, not for society, not for criminals, not for future generations. I am thinking about all the extensive time, resources, and research that has been invested in keeping the citizens of our nation safe from each other, and how our greatest united effort as one of the most “powerful” nations on the earth to simply keep our own people Rightly Relating has miserably failed. I am thinking, “Who could EVER bring true justice to the earth? We are in dire need of a Perfectly Right-Relating Ruler, a Man who knows the very end of all Justice, who is All-Knowing and All-Wise, who wields All Power.”
I am thinking of a Man named Jesus.
I am thinking He is the Perfect One for the job.
I am thinking He is not only the Perfect One, but He is the Only One.
Then I think that Jesus is the most brilliant thing the Trinity ever came up with. A Person who carries complete Divinity in His bones. An All-Sufficient God who is capable of walking on dirt in skin-clad muscles.
A God-Man who subjected Himself to the equally faulty, unjust governance of Rome two thousand years. A God-Man who was Himself a convict, who won His greatest victory over Wrong-Relating for all of eternity by submitting Himself to capital punishment for a crime He did not commit.
Yes, Jesus is the Perfect One to Rule the earth. And how I long for the day when He does!
Two weeks ago I finished applying to go to graduate school in the fall. I want to pursue a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice. Although I’ve been toying with the idea of more thoroughly studying Criminal Justice since I finished my undergraduate four years ago, a few months ago I found myself challenged to get serious about actually doing just that. I can no longer be content with my limited knowledge. I want to learn everything that has already been discovered about the interplay between poverty, racial discrimination, mental illness, crime, and justice. I want to learn how courts determine Justice, and everything that our prisons do in attempts to correct people who are Wrongly Relating. I want to know exactly what methods have been already tried, which one are working and which ones are failing. And while I sit in class, and while I read articles, and while I write research papers, I want to ask that Man Jesus about His Great Ideas of justice. I want to ask Him about His plans to Rule the nations of the earth with His Perfect Right Relating. I want to examine His ways of Right Relating that He has left for me to unfold in Scripture. I want to KNOW inside and out His Perfect Paths.
I want to because I can. Because Jesus is my Friend. Because the path He walked has made it possible for me to be Perfectly Right-Relating right alongside of Him. I want to because the more I study and observe the theories and methods of Criminal Justice and the more I take in the REALITY of the ways of Jesus, the more I fall absolutely in love with Jesus.
He is The Very Best.
A few months ago, I sat down in the park one day, and asked God very directly, “Should I go to graduate school to study Criminal Justice and why?” He immediately gave me a vision of Jesus on the cross, tried as a criminal, dying a death of punishment with two criminals next to Him, spending His last words conversing with thieves. He showed me the criminal who died with Jesus who was promised eternal life. In all my seeking out of these matters over the past six years, I had never once considered that scene. In the moments that followed that vision, I felt God inviting me to go on a journey to discover Him as the Perfect Right-Relating One, to discover the paths He has inscribed for men to follow Him, and to begin to Rule the earth with Mercy as He does now and as He will fully in a Coming Day.
So I say YES. Yes, the Perfect Jesus. How could I resist Him? And why would I ever want to? He is the Best in Every Way. There is No One like Him – not even one.
-Did you know that “righteous” means “right-relating”? When I learned that, it changed the entire way I view the world.
-The book I refer to is called, “The Convict Christ” written by Jens Soering, who is serving a life-long prison term.
– Isaiah 9:6-7, Revelation 19:11-16, Revelation 21: 1-8 are all Scripture that coincide with this post.