Sunday Thoughts: Eye for Eye, Tooth for Tooth

Recently America has been enthralled in two high-profile cases that have divided the nation. The cases pitted supporters of BLM against those who believe that the incidents were show trials for self-defense and second amendment rights.

The first case involved Kyle Rittenhouse. While guarding a used car dealership, Rittenhouse was chased by protesters and ended up fatally shooting two people, Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and injuring a third, Gaige Grosskreutz.

Rittenhouse was arrested and charged with five felony charges and one misdemeanor charge. The most serious charge was intentional homicide, Wisconsin’s top murder charge, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. The others were reckless homicide, attempted homicide, two counts of reckless endangerment, and being a minor illegally in possession of a firearm.

The jury found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty of murder for fatally shooting two men and injuring a third last year during riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin, marking the end of a contentious trial. There was compelling video evidence in that trial available to the jurors.

The second case involved Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery was killed in February 2020. The case drew national attention months later after a video of the fatal encounter was leaked to a local media station by an attorney with an informal connection to Bryan — an attempt to set the record straight.

The video showed Arbery running down the street in the direction of a white pickup truck, where Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael can be seen armed and waiting for Arbery. The duo argued that they believed he was a suspect in a recent string of burglaries in the neighborhood. When Arbery approaches the truck, he goes around to the passenger’s side, and a struggle breaks out between him and Travis McMichael, who is holding a shotgun. The McMichael family had been previously chasing Arbery through the neighborhood trying to apprehend him for allegedly entering a home being built that was unoccupied. Arbery was fatally shot in the encounter.

In the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial, the jury reached a verdict, finding Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael guilty of felony murder. A third defendant, William “Roddie” Bryan, was found not guilty on one count of felony murder but guilty on other counts of felony murder.

The blame game and accusations of injustice ensued.

Though both of the cases were very different, and many felt the cases were properly adjudicated, still many felt that the cases represented injustice. Some cheered the Rittenhouse case and were troubled by the Arbery case. BLM cheered the Arbery case but was angry with the believed injustice in the Rittenhouse case.

Hence, a division ensued. Riots and threats of further vengeful violence came from BLM. Many others vowed to defend themselves vengfully. With revenge brewing, inevitable tragedy struck.

Darrell E. Brooks, November 21, 2021, allegedly plowed through a crowd at the Waukesha Christmas Parade in a red SUV that left six people dead and more than 40 injured. The ex-con Brooks was charged over the deaths of six people at a Wisconsin Christmas parade shared social media posts calling for violence against white people – and suggesting “Hitler was right” for killing Jews.

Black Lives Matter activist Vaun L. Mayes suggested that the Waukesha, Wisconsin incident, which killed six people, may have reacted to the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict. In other words, a vengeful act as in an eye-to-eye event as payback for the Rittenhouse verdict. See his video rant below.

Vaun L. Mayes seems to try to justify future BLM violence to remedy the perceived injustice. Though not many from the other side, a few believe that vengeful violence may be needed to confront the challenge.  Within these groups, they both may feel that they are practicing justifiable eye-to-eye violent actions for their positions.

As so often in situations like this, many try to invoke Biblical text, insinuating God is on their side, though many in these groups could really care less about God. It is an effort to strengthen their positions – they may say, the Bible says “eye-to-eye,” so my violence is righteous violence.

So, regardless of your religious beliefs, it may be useful to see what the Biblical text actually says about the principle of eye-to-eye.

Laying aside whether the believed injustices are true, consider the following Biblical text that introduces this idea of the eye-to-eye principle. At first glance, it seems to justify one to take proportional action against perceived injustices of a perpetrator – in these two cases described earlier, elevating their actions even to the level of killing another.

Exodus 21:23-25: “23 But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

But in this chapter, it is referring to a fledgling nation, as to how to set up its local governing laws. The penalty for an infraction is to be proportionate to the injustice – in other words, eye-to-eye. We can see this in Exodus 21:1, where it states, “Now these are the rules that you shall set before them.” So it refers to the proper adjudication of an infraction by the governing authorities, not you as an individual to carry out vigilante justice as the judge and jury.

However, over time, the idea was distorted to mean what many believe today – that vengeful violence is somehow righteous. Hence, this was further clarified in the New Testament Biblical text but not changed from the original intent. Consider the following.

Matthew 5:38-39: “38 You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

In other words, if someone does you wrong or an injustice, it suggests that you do not have a righteous right to exact vengeful eye-to-eye violence. This does not mean that injustices are to be ignored. It merely means you as an individual are not the one to exact eye-to-eye punishment.

Putting this principle into our modern-day, neither BLM nor anyone else is to exact vengeful eye-to-eye violence to correct perceived injustices. Let the governing authority adjudicate the situation. American justice is not always perfect, but in these two cases, most likely justice was served.

It should be noted that true self-defense is another matter – see here.

This is one take on the concept of the eye-to-eye principle. If you have further considerations, please feel free to comment below.

See more in this series of Sunday Thoughts – click here.

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 RWR original article syndication source.

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Written by Tom Williams

Born down on the farm in America's Midwest, my early life was spent climbing the ladder via a long career in information technology. Starting as a technician, and after earning a degree going to night school, I eventually found a place working at ATT Bell Laboratories as a software engineer.

Later moving into management and then a long stint in a major management consulting firm working with major banking, telecommunications, and retail companies. Working in various states in America, I also spent considerable time living and working in several European countries - currently expat in France. As a side career, I was heavily involved in real estate development and an avid futures trader. This experience can give one a unique view of the world.

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