The Quality of Mercy

The compassionate release of the Lockerbie bomber is the story that everyone is talking about right now.

I’ve been interested to listen to members of my own congregation discussing it. I’ve been aware of at least four responses within the congregation which have all been held with conviction. They are mutually contradictory

  • That the “bomber” should be released because he did not do it in the first place. (This is accompanied by detailed theories of who did, which make clear that Libya had nothing to do with it
  • That the bomber should have been repatriated to Libya to serve out his sentence there. (After all, we expect British nationals to be brought home from gaols in foreign climes).
  • That the Justice Minister was correct in releasing him on compassionate grounds.
  • That the bomber should have been left to serve out his sentence and that the nature of his crime meant that compassionate release was inappropriate

This last opinion is being taken to extremes in the press today. It seems to me that society is best served by having a criminal justice system which does not depend on a eye for an eye and that consequently, the human rights of prisoners are not contingent on their crimes. Once that is accepted, the logic of the Justice Minister’s position is clear. He has made a decision on a clear ethical principle. I’m surprised that he did not go for the politically more expedient option of letting the man serve his sentence out in Libya, and I suppose I must have a grudging respect for someone taking an unpopular decision on seemingly pure ethical grounds.

Pure ethics are one thing. The theology of Kenny MacAskill’s statement was grim:

“However, Mr Al Megrahi now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power. It is one that no court, in any jurisdiction, in any land, could revoke or overrule. It is terminal, final and irrevocable. He is going to die.”

The notion of a God who skips about the world deciding who does and who does not get cancer is horrible. That kind of thing gives religion a bad name.

There is no God worth believing in who is so capricious.

Eric is blogging

Seems like Eric is blogging. Practical theology, citizenship and democracy by the look of it.

Likely to be good.

I’ve a degree in Practical Theology and Christian Ethics from the institution that Eric teaches in. (Scotland’s First University). I’m unsure about the former (practical theology) and deeply suspicious of the latter (Christian ethics).