Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist, recently warned that the rise of Ebola signaled that we are living in the last days. Few people noticed. Christian filmmaker Paul Lalonde released an awful movie in October about the end of the world. Despite snagging Nicolas Cage for the lead role, Lalonde’s retooling of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’s bestselling Left Behind books fell flat with audiences.
Some people see violence as an absolute wrong. Others see it as a sometimes necessary evil, with considerable variation as to just how often these times come up. I’m at the dovish end of the latter group: I believe that there are times—not many, not remotely as many as American foreign policy consensus or law enforcement norms would have it, but some times—when a violent action might be the least-bad available option.
But a necessary evil isn’t a virtue; “least bad” doesn’t mean “good.”
The other day, a small group from my church joined others from our neighborhood in a march on Chicago's north side. As we swarmed the streets, temporarily shutting down traffic, I noticed a woman in a car. Some motorists were exasperated, trying to turn around or just glowering at us. Others were supportive, honking their horns to the rhythm of "Siyahamba" as we sang. But this woman did nothing but sit there, parked in the middle of the procession, and wipe tears from her eyes. With visible emotion, she registered shock at this small but mighty band of the faithful marching with a processional cross at our head, proclaiming that black lives matter.
While the crowd's emotion was jubilant and righteous, I couldn't help but feel sad.
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).