Saturday, March 25, 2006

Church Hog-Ties Intruder

Hat tip to Wesley Blog for this tidbit:

Parishioners fed up with a string of burglaries at their West Palm Beach church took matters into their own hands by capturing and hog-tying a man who climbed in through a window early this morning.

Armed with baseball bats, members of the Church of Nazarene at 5312 Broadway spent the night in the building to guard it.

At about 1 this morning, a man broke in. Church members were waiting for him inside. They beat him with their bats and tied him up with tape.

Police identified the burglary suspect as Ralph Thomas.

Thomas was treated at a local hospital and charged with burglary and possession of burglary tools.

An accomplice got away, police said

Wow. My first reaction is from the depths of my id, where I cheer the church members for doing this and laugh at the man for thinking he could get away with repeated break-ins. But my more reasonable side takes a second look and, while I'm glad he's been arrested, wonder about the use of bats beyond subduing him. I guess you need a way to take him down, and asking nicely probably wasn't going to work.

So which is worse...stealing or using violence to help capture a thief?

What would Luke's Jesus say? Love your enemies and do good to those who do you wrong. But he'd also condemn stealing, perhaps even suggest that thinking about stealing is the same as the act. He cleared the Temple of thieves, drove them out in anger.

I can love my enemy while turning him in for stealing from me. It's the difference between retributive justice (the focus of which is revenge and the enjoyment of 'watching him rot in prison') and restorative justice (the focus of which is rehabilitating criminals so that they refrain from acting in such a way again). Justice without force is impotent; force without justice is tyranny. I read that in an ethics book a while back (Eden alums take note...I retained something).

So what's the answer in the case of the above? I give the church members the benefit of the doubt in showing restraint, yet doing what they had to do to catch their perp. Such a brief account doesn't parse out the severity of 'beat with bats.' If they took it too far, that's on them. If they took cheap shots or intended to cause injury, that's on them. But past instances of stealing and intent to steal again is on Mr. Thomas.

Following Jesus three-dimensionally is a little more complicated.