Christians can be quite good at feeling guilty. We feel guilty if we commute to work by car, but we also feel guilty if we don’t earn enough money to buy a house in the suburbs with a yard for our kids to play in. We feel guilty if we buy jeans manufactured cheaply in sweatshops, but we feel guilty if we spend money on expensive clothes that could otherwise be spent on charity toward others.
Not surprisingly, this kind of guilt tends to be the privilege of the few—those educated, well-intentioned people of some means who live in the industrialized world, where we have the luxury of almost unlimited economic choices. Ironically, awareness of our position near the top of the globalized consumer chain can lead many Christians to a paralyzing—one might even say convenient—sense of hopelessness in the face of the apparently impervious machine that we think of as the global economy.
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).