I watched Law and Order SVU (“True Believers”; original air date, 11/2/2011; NBC) with a high degree of intensity last evening. I was unsettled and anxious – something rarely done to my emotions from watching television. Would the rapist go free? Would justice be served? What swift punishment ensues?
The episode depicted a young music student who walked through life as if she were a square peg in a round hole. She wanted acceptance and to live life like other 19-years olds instead of the musical prodigy she became. Through a series of mistakes and carelessness, she found herself the victim of rape. Not the violent blood shedding rape we are often accustomed to viewing on television, but a devious, plodding act of viciousness that shakes the various levels of our consciousness. It was in the calmness of the atrocity that built the tension of her circumstances to an almost macabre level.
Through the extensive character assassination of the naïve nineteen-year old, the story concluded as the jury could not condemn the attacker despite the pleas of the prosecution.
Not guilty – justice was not served.
As the victim lamented that the effort to prosecute was hardly worth the embarrassment she endured, there was a voice of reason – Detective Olivia Benson (played brilliantly by Mariska Hargitay). Detective Benson reminded us all that jail time or revenge doesn’t heal us in the face of violence or tragedy – but bearing witness does.
It’s a tough lesson for a world that craves violence and retribution.
I must admit, I RARELY find Jesus in television programming. However, the proclamation of ‘witness’ spoken by Detective Benson, reminded me of scripture:
John 18:37 ‘Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify the truth. Everyone of faith, hears my voice.”
To testify and bear witness – as a society we are called to justice in the name of our heavenly father. In faith (and, yes – sometimes it is in blind faith) we must ‘testify to the truth’ no matter how difficult it seems.
Often we feel helpless to change the world. Whether it is poverty stricken Payatas in the Philippines or ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, we stand on the sidelines, often believing we are too distant, too powerless to make a difference.
But Christians have a calling – through prayer and the Holy Spirit we attain knowledge and a passion for justice. To bear witness for those who do not have a voice in the world. In witnessing we gain understanding and become more like Jesus who felt compassion for the poor and oppressed.
Like Detective Benson in last night’s story, we need to open our eyes to injustices in the world – not for revenge or self-satisfaction but to embrace and heal our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Our neighbors are the poor and despised. They are both the rape victims and the prisoners. They are the ones who may just need a message of hope. In being their witnesses, we can walk in their shoes and becoming the ‘salt’ and ‘light’ of the world as Matthew teaches in the New Testament. Only then can our eyes be opened.
Many will interpret the conclusion of last evening’s Law and Order episode an injustice. They’ll find the tale and lessons of the young girl’s plight unfulfilling. But could it have really ended in any other way?
references: allthingslawand order.blogspot