“The Problem of ‘Cheap Grace’ in American Christianity and America’s Legal System”
The action of Judge Kemp and the statement of Brother Botham Jean that he does not even want the killer cop Amber Guyger to go to prison falls under the category of “cheap grace.” Cheap grace is the most destructive force to biblical Christianity; yet it is a fundamental characteristic of American cultural Christianity, the “civil religion.”
Cheap grace is a false gospel that is silent on the structural injustice embedded in this country’s legal system and the hidden unethical motives of public policies. It is silent on pressing issues such as xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, (antiblack) racism, white supremacy, racial violence, systemic injustice and oppression against the weak and the disadvantaged population–in this society. It defers human flourishing and the common good in the world.
Cheap grace is not a liberative faith; it undermines the importance of God’s justice in society and the value of redemptive justice in interpersonal and legal matters. Cheap grace in the manner of Judge Kemp’s gesture toward the murderer and Jean’s brother’s powerful and careless statement (“I don’t even want you to go to prison”) word undermines the sanctity of (Black) life and the dignity of the (Black) victim.
This kind of grace prolongs human (black) suffering and delays (interpersonal) redemption and (racial) reconciliation. Cheap grace does not liberate; it condemns, shortens, and cheapens life. We must reject cheap grace to save Christianity in this culture and repair the legal system in this nation.
***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.