“Some enlightened people would like to banish all conceptions of retribution or desert from their theory of punishment and place its value wholly in the deterrence of others or the reform of the criminal himself. They do not see that by so doing they render all punishment unjust. What can be more immoral than to inflict suffering on me for the sake of deterring others if I do not deserve it? And if I do deserve it, you are admitting the claims of ‘retribution’. And what can be more outrageous than to catch me and submit me to a disagreeable process of moral improvement without my consent, unless (once more) I deserve it?
…Until the evil man finds evil unmistakably present in his existence, in the form of pain, he is enclosed in illusion. Once pain has roused him, he knows that he is in some way or other ‘up against’ the real universe…No doubt Pain as God’s megaphone is a terrible instrument; it may lead to final and unrepented rebellion. But it gives the only opportunity the bad man can have for amendment. It removes the veil. It plants the flag of truth within the fortress of the rebel soul.”
– Problem of Pain, 93-94
Love Lewis. Watching the Twitterverse and FB go berserk with Christian pseudo-commentary on the Osama bin Laden news last night was… well, interesting to say the least. It reminded me that “justice” is by no means an unambiguous concept for us, and that accordingly there’s a lot of fuzzy thinking out there about these matters. But I loved this quote from Lewis, for Lewis, as only he can do, reminds us that dichotomizing thinking about complex issues is likely to lead us astray… and especially w/ regard to the matter at hand – the categories, so he seems to tell us, of “punitive” and the “restorative” are not (no pun intended) enemies, but friends, and in fact depend on each other morally.
What was your reaction to the bin Laden news last night?