Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thoughts on Chemical Castration (Yikes!)

Big news out of Poland last week: The "center-right" government (and Christian, as described by NPR's All Things Considered) is about to approve chemical castration for offenders convicted of either the rape of a minor or incest. A simple outline of the story can be found here, along with a photo that makes the Polish prime minister look especially evil. The money quote in the story, for our purposes, is this:

"European civil liberties groups have condemned the plans, saying that they violate human rights. However the prime minister has received overwhelming public support for his decision and his popularity has rocketed in opinion polls. Defending his decision, [Polish Prime Minister Donald] Tusk said: "I don't think you can call such individuals – such creatures – human beings. I don't think you can talk about human rights in such a case."

Well, there you have it: A publicly accepted argument for sub-humanity. The "European civil liberties groups" are condemned by Justice Minister Zbigniew Cwiakalski, who says that "Everyone talks about the safety of criminals, but what about the rights of the victims? "Where is the safety and health of our children? We have the right to use measures that will protect the public." Surely Cwiakalski is referring to the reaction to this issue when he says that "everyone talks about the safety of criminals." However, the quote is enlightening. Who gets more consideration? The victim of rape, or the potential victim of chemical castration?

It seems like there are at least two things going on here:

First, what is the point of laws? This has been a long-debated topic. Are laws in place to set up a system for the punishment of violators, or are they there to protect the obedient? Usually, this seems to be more of an issue than it is in this case. How can the electrocution of a murder protect the already-murdered? In this case, the "solution" seems to be an attempt to protect future victims in a way that has only been obliquely attempted in the past. Christianity argues that there are two uses of the Law, the first to "keep the peace" so to speak. The removal of rapists from the general population seems to be in line with this use. Traditionally, society has removed these people by imprisonment and ostracization. Now, Poland would like to remove the rapist from the rapist! It seems, though, that the main problem (of the many) comes when Poland appeals to a twisted view of the other "use of the law" in Christianity.

The "Second Use of the Law" in Christianity is to bring a sinner to his or her knees. It is a mirror held up to the unrighteous, showing them just how unrighteous and "in need" they are. For this use of the law to work, however, it must assume that ALL people are unrighteous, or "law breakers." If some can look in that mirror with head held high, the process falls apart.

The Polish government's argument that these kinds of criminals aren't really human seems flawed on many fronts. Were they human until they committed this heinous act? Or were they merely doing a good job impersonating one? This bring us to our second issue: the quality of human nature.

Are there things that are beneath humans? Are people who engage in rape, genocide, holocaust, and serial murder really human beings at all? We'd love to claim that they aren't. It preserves the dignity of the human race and allows us to point to a group of people, and say with relief, "Well, at least I'm better than them!" I'll suggest that the sum of human history either points to the fact that there's no crime beneath a human being, or that there has never, in fact, been a human race at all.

Did Jesus actually identify with the victim? Of course. He also had mercy on the sinner. His pronouncement of the Law was absolute: "You therefore must be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect" (Matt 5:48), but he, the perfect man, was made to be sin so that we (the alleged sub-humans) could become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). Thus, the people Jesus came, on the one hand, to exclude become the ones he came to die to include. Jesus is the personification of the two words of God: He is the condemnation of the Law (you must be perfect...) and the salvation from it (Rom. 7:24-25). The questions, then, become these: Does profound and disgusting sin put you out of Jesus' reach? Is there a fundamental difference between "the kind of person who would do that" and the rest of us?


  1. I think you hit the nail on the head in the last paragraph, and I'll reword it just because I like drawing out the supposed dissonance. Jesus identifies with the victims. Jesus identifies with the attackers.

    That last sentence ('Jesus identifies with the attackers') is the one we somehow don't want to accept. We want to shelve the attackers in a place where we don't have to interact with them. But Jesus doesn't give His followers that option: He says you must: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."

    Now I don't know why the last sentence is so hard. Are we desperate to distinguish us from those who have horrendously harmed others? Do we want to make ourselves feel better? Is it a perversion of the intrinsic knowledge of good and evil that God says He has put in us all? I am not sure.

    But I think it is incredibly difficult to look at Jaycee Lee Dugard's kidnapper (who raped her and imprisoned her for nearly two decades) or this incestuous father in Poland (whose crime is sparking the chemical castration program) and say, "Yes -- Jesus loved him so much that Jesus took his punishment. And all that man needs to do is accept Jesus' forgiveness and he will inherit everlasting life." Our hearts and minds may scream out against such an idea.

    But I believe this very idea is the good news. And furthermore, I'd conjecture that our hearts and minds might scream because we hate to recognize how depraved each of them truly is compared to God's perfection.

  2. i would go further and say that "jesus identifies with the victim" covers everyone in this scenario. most sex offenders get there by being victims of sexual abuse themselves. stopping that cycle is the important thing, and i have not seen studies to suggest that chemical castration does that, because the desire to do that is in your broken psyche, not your "junk" as guy likes to refer to it.
    Also, I do think when discussing rape & pedophilia and christianity, it is important to point out that you can't simply stop using the brain God gave you when you accept his transforming love. There are periodically stories on the news where christian's who under the blanket of loving your neighbor as yourself invite pedophiles to live with them & THEIR CHILDREN and let them babysit etc. Then seem surprised when their children are molested. I don't think believing that we are all in desperate need of salvation gives you the right to endanger the welfare of your child.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...