The Lord replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do (Psalm 12:5 New Living Translation).”
“If this were another time, they would’ve had pitchforks and lanterns in their hands. They were out for vengeance.”
The reporter on a recent news feature is talking about a crowd in a small town in Ohio gathered around the courthouse. They are after one Chris Coleman.
“Chris Coleman: Loving Family Man or Killer” reads a headline flashed on the screen. Coleman, the security head for a major televangelist, is accused of strangling his wife and two beautiful young boys in their sleep.
Various parties with an interest in the case are interviewed: the police, attorneys, Coleman’s parents, his wife Sherri’s family, and neighbors. They all contribute their thinking as to what happened and how they feel.
The crime Coleman is accused of is particularly heinous. One person interviewed commented,”This crime was about greed, sex, selfishness and narcsissism.”.
Coleman is accused in the program of creating a scenario in which he has been threatened with hate mail because the author wants to get at his popular televangelist, boss. The writer of the Emails says they will destroy Coleman’s family if his boss doesn’t keep quiet.
As the show progesses, evidence is shown that reveals Coleman is having an affair with one of his wife’s high school friends. A reporter says, “Investigators believe all this pain was caused by Chris Coleman’s obsession.”
It also presents other evidence which points at Coleman doing the crime. For example, hate messages created on the walls of his house during the muder, purportedly created by the person sending the threatening Emails, were apparently in fact written in his handwriting. Indeed, after further investigation, viewers learn that the Emails themselves have come from Coleman’s laptop.
Once it is clear Coleman is the main suspect, the already grieving community is torn asunder. For example, one woman tells the interviewer,”I’ve talked to some of the other Moms in the community and their children are wondering if their Dad could do the same thing.”
Coleman’s parents remain adamant that their son could not have possibly done such a thing. The father is a Christian minister. It seems from the facts presented that they are in denial.
The “Christian” aspect of the case gets large play. Highlighted are the fact that Coleman’s employer would definitely not have tolerated his adultery had they known about it.
One close friend of Sherri says,”As a Christian I feel like it is imperative that I forgive because Jesus forgave me. And I want to forgive with my whole heart.”
The interviewer asks,”What makes it so hard to do that?”
The woman replies,”“Because they were so innocent.”
Coleman is found guilty. When the verdict is reach, the large throng outside the courtroom erupts in cheers as if they were at a major sporting event. He still denys his role two years later.
The fallout Sherri’s family is suing Coleman’s televangelism ministry employer. They claim that the ministry should have investigated him because they had clues to his conduct.
One hundrend and fourteen comments currently are posted on the news shows website. In them viewers express their opinions and attack each other and the people portayed on the show.
Our society abounds with such cases. As one friend of mine has lamented,”Why do I watch the news! There are some sick hombres out there.”
Cases like Colemans not only attract sensational media attention. They also garner sociologists who try to come to some understanding of what is happening.
“Church Ethics and Its Organizational Context” is a series of essays aimed at learning from the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church which has come to light of late. One of these reports is called “The Sexual Abuse Scandal as Social Drama”, written by Jean M. Bartunek.
In this piece Bartunek lays forth the idea that extraordinary events cause the stakeholders to try to make sense out of them. She says their perceptions of what they thought was reality have been thrown out of balance.
Bartunek notes that all the “players” in this scandal have different needs and motivations, They also come to different conclusions in an attempt to make sense of the issue and take a variety of actions.
These stakeholders include the victims’ families, the clergy, parents in the community, lay Catholics, attorneys, the Church hierarchy and even perpetrators. She indicates that these different viewpoints create what she calls a “social drama”, which Bartunek credits Victor Turner with defining as “an event that revolves around a breach of group or societal norms or rules in some important public matter.”
Further, Bartunek notes that this kind of event is “a volatile episode that interrupts the otherwise smooth surface of routine life in a social setting and reveals underlying tensions there.” She indicates that these tensions among the stakeholders need to be resolved in order for the crisis to really completely go away.
Just as it is difficult to come to grips with the idea that Coleman could murder his beautiful family, it is also a tall order to get all the parties involved in something like the sexual abuse of children to come to a meeting of the minds and get at the truth. Frankly, I believe it is well nigh impossible.
Injustice is a given in this life. It will never ever go away until Jesus returns and justice may not really be served until then, even though it apparently has been done in Coleman’s case.
I think God was thinking of this lack of closure when he included the imprecatory Psalms in the Bible. These are prayers in which the Psalmist asks God to curse his enemies.
In fact, these “enemies” were in some cases trustworthy companions at one time. Here is an example of this kind of prayer:
My God, whom I praise,
do not remain silent,
for people who are wicked and deceitful
have opened their mouths against me;
they have spoken against me with lying tongues.
With words of hatred they surround me;
they attack me without cause.
In return for my friendship they accuse me,
but I am a man of prayer.
They repay me evil for good,
and hatred for my friendship (Psalm 109:1-5).
The Psalmist goes on to wish all kinds of woe on their opponents. Their desires include that God would cause the antagonist to die, to make their kids into beggars, and for Him to make that their families suffer financial ruin. The Psalmist goes so far as to ask God to NOT forgive their sins.
As the close friend of Sherri Coleman learned, it is a difficult thing to forgive others, especially those who have betrayed our love. The imprecatory Psalms show that God understands that and I believe they are in the Bible so that we can give full vent to our feelings.
These Psalms reveal that it is God who ultimately will judge and get vengeance on wrongdoers. In fact, this principle keeps me from taking my own revenge because I have determined that whatever God dishes out has to be far worse than anything I can do.
My thinking is that if I DO get my own vengeance, then God will say,”Well, you got justice your own way so I am doing no more with this case.” So I stay out of it as best I can and let God take care of things in His time and in His way!