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Justice vs. Compassion
May 1st, 2012

All of us are born with a sense of fairness.  We know when we’re being treated fairly and when we’re not.  We naturally understand the need for rules and know when someone is not playing by them.  Rules (laws) are important because they are our refuge when we are not being treated fairly. 

The more we sense that a rule is fair and reasonable, the more we trust it.  And, the more we trust it, the more we follow it because we know that it will insure fairness.  For example, our Creator has given us a commandment (rule) that we are not to kill innocent people.  We see the fairness in His Command and follow it because it’s how we want to be treated. 

Our government has a similar law that says that we are not to kill innocent people and, if we do, we may be severely punished.  The law seems fair because it takes into consideration the circumstances around the killing of an innocent person.  Specifically, the law provides for a much less severe penalty if an innocent person is accidently killed than if he is killed after careful planning.  This appeals to our sense of fairness so much so that it’s easy to imagine that God’s justice must have a similar vein. 

On the surface, our laws seem to be a good reflection of God’s law because they appeal to our sense of fairness.  However, when we scratch below the surface, we find that some of our laws don’t conform very well to God’s law and that, in fact, they don’t even appeal to our sense of fairness.  This is even true for how we deal with murder.  While it’s true that we both condemn the killing of innocent people and punish those who do it, it’s also true that we hedge on who an “innocent person” is and we, many times, excuse those who have killed innocent people.

We hedge on our underlying definitions because, in part, we want to show compassion for those who are suffering.  Yet, while compassion is a good thing, it can unfairly tip the scales of justice lead to injustice rather than to justice.

For example, we use the full extent of the law to protect our children against homosexual and heterosexual attacks.  We have laws against child labor and other child abuse, even bullying.  We won’t assess the death penalty for a child who has committed premeditative murder because we believe that they couldn’t have understood the seriousness of their act.  We care for children who can’t care for themselves.

That’s justice.

As an aside, it’s interesting to note that in the eyes of our Creator, a child, above the age of reason, could be guilty of the crime of murder and be subject to His full punishment yet, while our legal system might also declare them guilty, we protect them from the death penalty until they reach the age of 18.  On the surface, it would seem that our laws are even more compassionate and understanding of children than are God’s.  But is that really true?

Here’s where we let compassion tip the scales of justice.  We let compassion for the parent outweigh compassion for the child.  We let compassion tip the scales in favor of the parent who says that they aren’t “ready” to be a parent, or who says that their unborn child has a disability that will lower its quality of life, or who says that the child would impose an undue burden on them if they had to care for it.  And because of our misplaced compassion, we allow the parent to end the life of their child so that they can continue in their current lifestyle.

We withhold the designation of “personhood” for the child until after it has been born so that its parent has enough time to decide whether or not they want to raise it.  We withhold the designation of “personhood” for the child so that it can be legally killed without anyone having to worry about being prosecuted and punished for the killing of an innocent person. 

That’s injustice.

This injustice upsets our sense of fairness because it allows a parent to end the life of one of our most innocent people simply because they “feel” that they have to.  Today, we are legally able to end the life of a child simply because that life might cause discomfort to one of its parents.  But how about tomorrow?  Will we continue to allow compassion for a suffering parent to tip the scales of justice?  Or will we give all of our children equal protection under the law?  The answer to these questions may be found in what some in our society are saying.

Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, is quoted to have said “The most merciful thing that a family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”  Peter Singer (tenured professor of Bioethics at Princeton University) has taken that idea another step further.  He advocates that it is morally acceptable to kill a human as long as it’s not self-aware.  Specifically, he advocates that we should be allowed to kill a newborn child during its first month of life, without criminal penalty. 

Even more recently, (early 2012), an article was published in the Journal of Medical Ethics entitled “After-birth abortion” where the authors claim that we should be able to kill a newborn child for any circumstance where abortion would have been permitted.  It’s interesting to note that the authors didn’t refer to the killing of the newborn as infanticide, rather they referred to it as an “after-birth abortion.”

Are the words of the debate are changing?  If so, does that mean that we are preparing to follow the ideas of these leaders?  Are there other leaders who will insure the safety of all of our children?  When will we pass laws that will put our sense of fairness at ease?

Roger Cruze