Saturday, September 21, 2013

Catching the Wrong-Doer

We say we believe in God, but our actions sometimes betray a lack of trust.  Sometimes I get nervous when flying.  I tell myself that there's absolutely nothing I can do to affect the outcome of the flight.  There's nothing I can do to make the flight stay up, and there would be nothing I could do to mess up the flight, even if I wanted to.

Anxiousness and fearfulness is perfectly human. It's not something you can just turn off, even if your head knows it's inappropriate.  It's a little like an addiction. You can tell someone to stop doing something they're addicted to, but their will is impaired.  It's probably going to take some outside help, including help from God.

But my head tells me that in such moments of fear, I should trust in God. He can effect the outcome of the flight.  If there is some mechanical issue waiting to surface, God can take care of it.  And if he doesn't, it must be for some greater purpose.  The proper posture is trust.

I think many Christians also have a similar below the surface lack of trust when it comes to catching out the "law-breaker."  Christian colleges used to expend considerable energy not only creating rules but making every effort to make sure those who broke them were caught. I know a professor who has an elaborate system to figure out whether students have cheated on an objective test.

I use a moderate number of common sense checks.  Give alternating versions of the test to students sitting next to each other with the questions in a different order.  Online tests can randomize the order, give the questions one by one and not let you go back once you've given your answer.

But I was struck when I taught a few courses at Notre Dame at the honor system they had back then. If you choose to cheat, you're only hurting yourself in the long run. And, after all, God knows.  I still think it makes sense to protect students from themselves a little, to help them do the right thing.  But, ultimately, I think the honor system reflects a more mature ethic.

It is our business to work so that people do not harm others. But it is not our responsibility to make sure wrong-doers get their just deserts and punishment. We should try to stop people from harming others--including themselves.  But it's not our job to make sure wrong-doers are caught and punished. That's God's job--and of course the job of the government when it is a common law (rather than a specifically Christian law, Rom. 13).

Do we trust God to do what is right with those who break the rules?  Or do we think if we don't catch them, they'll get by with stuff?  This attitude may not only reflect a lack of trust in God, who sees and does the right thing.  It may also betray Jonah or elder brother syndrome in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, where we're afraid God will show the wrong-doer mercy.


Susan Moore said...

Ptooey. That sounds like an elaborate rationalization for not wanting to 'get involved'. For example, in my neighborhood a car accident occurred and was witnessed by about 20 people. I was the only one who spoke to the police and ID'd the driver who ran the red light at high speed and hit another car and drove away. The driver of the car hit had insurance and was shaken but ok. What was everyone else's response, "I don't want to get involved..."
If God is sovereign and only good, then His decisions about what is morally just is absolute and good, and staying in His prescribed morality brings health to people. Not following it brings sickness and death because, 'everyone who knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, is sinning' (James 4:17 paraphrased). And sinning, as we know, separates us from God.
You know what? 2.5 years ago I was a hospital nurse with a 25 year career. I was working at a new hospital and the CEO of nursing broke the law. Her underlings supported her, and bullied me and the other nurses to stay quiet. There was no reasoning with these people. The effect of breaking the law was that nurses and patients were harmed. But the nurses didn't want to get involved and risk losing their income. So, by myself (and God, of course), I looked at the other hospitals in that area and ended up reporting 6 CEOs to the Ohio Board of Nursing for malpractice. It appeared the President of the Board worked at one of the hospitals, which could possible be a conflict of interest. So, I sent all my documentation and concerns to the Ohio Attorney General's office and suggested that they sobpoena the nurses, and to the Senator that founded the bill that became that law. And then I walked away from my career. It was a horrific experience to live through. But you know what? Given the opportunity I would do it all over again. Our works support our words, our belief system, Dr. Schenck. What good are the words if they have no integrity with our works? I believe God opposes evil, so, I will too.

Ken Schenck said...

You're mentioning situations where harm was done. I'm talking about situations like Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13: "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? ... God will judge those outside."

Susan Moore said...

I was wondering if that is what you were getting at. But I don't think it's that black and white anymore; inside and outside the church. The kind of harm done in the hospital settings is indirectly attributed. It's not as obvious as, say, a medication error. It's hard to prove but, yet, obvious. And some of the CEOs (and nurses) profess to be Christians. My heart was tormented by this, as well. There seems to be little understanding in mainstream Christianity of what 'idolatry' looks like nowadays -that we can't serve two masters, money and God.
Hospitals are meant to be places of rest and healing, but administrators have made some of them into a den of thieves.
If we don't turn over the money-changers' tables, the people in the churches will continue to suffer, too. And sometimes they are the money changers. We must hold each other accountable in whatever way we can. It's time to clean house.