As part of my governmental (public) education, I was taught
that in earlier times the church held great power which it misused in a
systematic way to appropriate vast riches.
By accepting indulgences in lieu of good works and in payment
for sins committed, believers were allowed to accumulate credits redeemable for
Of course, the church kept the monies paid for obtaining
spiritual blessings, appropriating the property of sinners & law-breakers
History class used this as an example of how “Power tends to
corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Today, of course, the church is so emasculated that it
barely has the moral authority to appropriate enough voluntary tithes from its
members to keep itself afloat. It is no longer the hegemon it once was, mostly
ignored in the public square, a shadow of its former self even when it comes to
the great moral debates of the day.
Instead, it is now the government that is all-powerful and,
is using its power in a way that would have made the medieval church blush.
For example, in its last week of rule the Obama
administration “rushed to complete a raft of investigations of big
business…reaching settlements worth around $20 billion,” according to the Wall
Now, just as the church in olden times kept the indulgences
to enrich itself, so does the government today. Many of the sundry accords
reached with businesses for their misdeeds, crimes and sins include cash
settlements paid to the U.S. Treasury.
To wit, deals totaling some $7.2 billion with Credit Suisse
and Deutsche Bank AG for marketing mortgage loans almost a decade ago include
monies paid to the government and punitive payments to current mortgage holders
and forced contributions to low-income housing developments.
As with most of these settlements, the dollars flow to
enrich the government or to its favored clientele, who return the favor with
their votes. And while many feel good about nicking those big, nasty companies,
the reality is that consumers pay for every penny the companies pay out.
It is the same old story. Whether it is the church or,
state, there is usually no compensation for the victims - only confiscation for
the powers that be.
Yet true justice requires restitution for the victim. The
Bible is clear and concise regarding the rights of the victimized.
Exodus 21 & 22 are replete with case law mandating
restitution: “When a man opens a pit, or when a man digs a pit and does not
cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit shall make
restoration,” “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he
shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep” and “If fire
breaks out and catches in thorns so that the stacked grain or the standing
grain or the field is consumed, he who started the fire shall make full
And in Luke 19 Jesus reaffirms the Old Testament definition
of justice when Zacchaeus declares, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my
possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will
pay back four times the amount.”
Jesus subsequently confirms that salvation has come to
Real justice is concerned with making things right for the
person who is wronged. Abductive justice is concerned with the enriching of the
powerful while appearing to be doing good.
Without restitution, justice is not accomplished and the
government only grows stronger while the innocent are degraded, ignored and
victimized a second time by the party who is supposed to see that justice is
We have made no historical advance. The civil government has
merely replaced the ecclesiastical government as the bad actor.
It took a Luther to curtail the church when it was usurping
the rights of victims. Who will be our Luther today to rein in the acoria of
our modern day behemoth?
By Terry Applegate