It's certainly an indication of my hypocrisy that my first reaction upon seeing the recently released video of a Texas state judge cursing and beating his daughter with a belt is that I'd like to punch his lights out. (Warning: Use caution if you view this video; the foul language is extreme.) It's certainly evidence of my fallen nature that my more thoughtful reaction after considering some of the variables that have been made available in press accounts and taking into account his lengthy and grammatically flawed public statement responding to the video is that now I'd first like to make the judge read a copy of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style and then punch his lights out.
I have four sons, and at times I've spanked them all. I've spanked them properly and improperly, and like anyone who has ever spanked his children, I know full well the difference. Any time I've let anger creep into my voice, or worse still, into the little wooden cooking spoon I've used for spanking, I have regretted it terribly and asked my children to forgive me.
And they do, because children-unlike most adults-are more filled up with love than anything, until we beat or scold or bore or ignore it out of them.
I know how guilty I've felt when I've spanked too hard, and so it amazes me to see a man prowling about over his daughter's cowering frame, randomly lashing out wherever he sees exposed flesh, cursing her, pausing to regain strength, and then resuming the beating. The video was made in 2004, and the man in the video is a bully, plain and simple. I don't know what Judge William Adams is today, but "repentant" doesn't seem to be among the possible descriptors, if his public statement is any guide.
And what of the approving folk quoted in the various stories about it, or who comment on blogs and news sites covering it? There seem to be two camps: those who are rightly worried that opponents will use this video to push for laws that forbid all forms of corporal punishment (and will have the same potential for abuse by authorities that vagrancy laws of old had), and those who seem to think that because the Bible admonishes parents not to spare the rod, a grown man can whip the daylights out of his child in a furious rage, and Jesus will approve it.
So imagine that the blessed moment of Christ's return is when Judge Adams is in mid-swing. His arm cranked back, belt sizzling through the air like an angry snake, his face mottled with rage, and then there is Christ, He of the bloodied brow, He who stood between the adulteress and her judges, He who warns all mankind not to seek His forgiveness while we are yet unforgiving.
How do you think it would have gone for Adams in that moment?
And perhaps there's the challenge for any of us, in our darkest moments, our most secretive moments, to imagine Christ standing there, silently watching, mourning how even now, with sin and death conquered at our feet, we choose to wrap ourselves up in destruction.