“Rethinking Life and Grace: Forgiveness and Repentance, Justice and Peace in the Amber Guyger-Botham Jean Case”
It is important that we also pay close attention to the aching heart and fragmented soul of this brave mother (Botham Jean’s) who is grieving and mourning the death of her precious son. She does not sing “cheap grace” and pronounce “quick forgiveness” without demanding true repentance and sincere change of the heart; rather, to those in the seat of power and position of influence in the city of Dallas, she is demanding justice and asking them to address the systemic corruption in the judicial process/system in the Amber Guyger-Botham Jean case. Forgiveness is a gift and should never be abused or taken for granted. To repent of a wrongdoing simply means that I will not do it again and will change my way of life no matter what the circumstance is, could, would, or will be. Some Christians in this country have a low view of forgiveness, grace, and repentance. Their passion for justice and righteousness is too weak and not revolutionary. It is a distraction to the biblical call to practice robust justice and reconciliation in society. In fact, their understanding of justice and grace is a nuisance to the biblical notion of forgiveness and repentance, and correspondingly a direct departure from the biblical vision of radical justice and reconciliation.
As a society, if we want to maintain a judicial system in this country that is reasonably fair and just to every American citizen regardless of his or her race, gender, class, or economic status, the members of the jury that reviewed the Amber Guyger-Botham Jean case should have never pronounced their final verdict based on what they thought the person (the victim who is now dead), as some of them have claimed publicly, would have liked to happen (this is carelessness judgment and it is not within the boundary of the rule of law!). The judicial system or the rule of law should be and always be the catalyst to assist the jury to decide responsibly and ethically the outcome of the trial and thus pronounce the verdict accordingly.
Let me repeat that again: The final judgement of this trial should never be based on the emotional sensibility or some preconceived notions or ideas of certain members of the jury of what they believed the victim would have wished. Yet it is always good for the jurors to also consider the spirit of the law and the claim of justice and the prospect of restorative justice to bring holistic (national) healing and communal reconciliation and peace.
Judge Tammy Kemp made a terrible mistake by not leading this trial justly and righteously. The city of Dallas took too long to process this urgent case and call Officer Guyger to trial. The 10 yr. verdict giving to Officer Guyger is not enough. She is eligible for parole after five years? This verdict minimizes the life of the victim who is now gone and undermines the importance of true justice as well as the legal implication of innocent people who could intentionally be murdered by reckless cops.
Further, the “ public officials” in the courthouse, including the Judge who hugged the murderer and handed her her personal Bible and the female Police officer who was fixing Officer Guyger’s hair, clearly sent a comforting message to Guyger that the system was against her and that she was wrongly put on trial. On the other hand, correspondingly, their calculated gesture also sent a negative message to Jean’s family that the life of their son does not have equal value and weight as compared to that of Officer Amber Guyger. When a person commits a crime such as removing someone’s life from the world, it is the role of the judge and juror to ascertain that the criminal or murder is cognizant that crimes have severe (and existential) consequences or that he or she has committed a crime against another individual, against the loved ones, the community, and God.
In Christian theology, the atonement of Christ for the sins of the world reminds us that grace is never cheap. The sacrificial death of Christ, which produces forgiveness upon true repentance, is a demonstration of God’s justice against sin. Justice & grace walk hand in hand. Forgiveness is the result, not the starting point.
Judge Kemp has failed the Jean family, the vulnerable people of Dallas, and to an extent all of us and the nation—including the vulnerable and marginalized population in this country. She had an opportunity to re-review the case more carefully and do a critical re-assessment of the jury’s conclusion and presupposition. She failed. She failed. She failed. She certainly failed to lead accordingly to truth and justice and to uphold the rule of law. Judge Kemp had the opportunity to recommend a higher sentence to Officer Guyger for her reckless and intentional crime toward Botham Jean. Judge Kemp’s decisive role in this trial will not bring greater peace and reconciliation to the existing hostility between Police Officers and the Brown and Black community in the city of Dallas and by extension in this country. Her act is consciously political and strategic, but not mediatory and reconciliatory. Based on her public and legal actions, she and her allies have taken a side, and it is certainly not the side of the victim and those who are grieving after the dance!
Finally, one thing that is obvious in the American society is that certain individuals (and a class of people, to say the least) who have the power to safeguard human life often fail to do so simply because they do not value the sanctity of life and do not consider the future possibilities and promises of life itself. Some of them believe that not all lives are equal and worth preserving equally; others hold that some lives have more dignity and value than others. This nation must come to this fundamental truth that human life (i.e. black life, the life of the poor, the life of the economically-disadvantaged) is a gift from God and is precious and should never be taken for granted nor should it ever be undermined in the judicial process or system.
ALL LIVES MATTER! YET SOME LIVES ARE MORE FRAGILE THAN OTHERS!