Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Whipping Boy

Let’s say that you get a DUI. You go to court and either plead guilty because you are guilty, or you are found guilty because you are guilty. Let’s imagine you are fined $300.00 and one month probation. I’m making this punishment up. I’ve never had a DUI.

Suppose you didn’t have $300.00 lying around. Suppose you’d spent all you money on alcohol, and that’s why you got the DUI. Now you have to pay this fine, so a friend/buddy/relative pays the fine for you.

Would you have to pay your buddy back? What if you never agreed to pay your buddy back? What if there was no contract between you and your buddy that said you needed to repay your friend? Could your friend sue you and get a judgment?

Oh yeah. Don’t you watch Judge Judy? This happens all the time. But how can this be? There was no contract. You could have thought the money was a gift and you had no obligation to pay it back. Without a “meeting of the minds”, there can be no contract.

The answer is simple. The fines were part of your punishment for the DUI. You cannot impose or visit that punishment on someone else. The law does not allow you to do that. You have to have your punishment. If jail time was involved, you could not pay someone to do your time for you. Our laws recognize that is unethical.

Back in the day, there was such a person as a “whipping boy”. This would be a person upon whom someone else’s punishment would be imposed. You committed a crime; the whipping boy paid for it. Today we all recognize this is an unethical practice, and it is outlawed.

Why does god demand a whipping boy? God’s justice is so great, and yet he uses a barbaric, unethical and ugly justice system. Not only is there one punishment for all crime, but you cannot pay for the crime yourself. You must use Jesus as your whipping boy.

It seems obvious that this is a story, told by people with a primitive view of justice and ethics. If we can evolve past these barbaric rituals in our civic lives, why do we still cling to them in religion? Our justice system may be flawed, but God’s is no better. We have to improve upon our secular system, not inundate it with archaic biblical barbarism. Human morality may be flawed, but it is what we have. We have a responsibility to improve upon it. God isn’t here; we are.