The Case for Redemption

In light of the recall into custody of Jon Venables–one of the ten-year-old boys who horrifically murdered the two-year-old James Bulger in Manchester, 1993–Brian Masters¬†deliberates on the possibility of absolution for a heinous crime committed in one’s childhood.

But I do know that [Jon Venables] cannot be the warped and skewed child who shared in that dreadful crime all those years ago. It is just not possible. He is somebody else now. We all of us change and develop as we pass into adulthood and beyond, and there is no reason to suppose that a child who murders should be exempt from this inevitability. […]

Besides which, most of the religions that are professed in this country, and to which angry avengers pretend to adhere, give space to that precious possibility of redemption. Surely our society is mature enough to permit religious wisdom to prevail rather than let intelligent thought be swamped by quivering fascination with wickedness. […]

Nobody would wish to belittle the ghastly fate that befell James Bulger. Letting his killers attempt to redeem themselves in peace does not do that. But we should be mindful of the fact that indignation is relatively easy to satisfy, and demands no sacrifice, no exposure to horrid experience, no damage to the soul. To continue feeding indignation against a 10-year-old boy who glimpsed Hell, and who knew it, is at best unworthy, and at worst is itself a manifestation of wickedness.

I stand by a previous comment of mine stating that it’s the “Best & worst thing I’ve read in a very long time”.¬†And as David said, it isn’t for the faint hearted, but is worthy nonetheless (I stole David’s headline, too–thanks!).



2 responses to “The Case for Redemption”

  1. Can you go into more detail about the ‘best and worst thing’ business?

    I left a comment on the piece and, probably for the first time, was worried about identifying myself.

    It reminded me of Julian Barnes’ ‘The Porcupine’ in which a people recently released from dictatorship are coming to terms with their dictators and face a difficult choice: either their Cauecescu-like oppressor was a monster (in which case “he” will always be present, outside of our control) or just a man (in which case a lot more like us than we’d every care to admit).

    I wonder if evil like this happens as a result of exponential escalation in negative behaviour? We’re rubbish as seeing exponential change in anything and this might explain why both lynch mobs and this murder are so baffling and repulsive to us. The last few minutes before the beginning of any atrocity are beyond comprehension.

    Tp be honest, though. Fruck knows. It’s moments like this that we invented God for.

  2. To elaborate on this ‘best/worst’ business:

    Best: An article that manages to remain calm, calculated and reasonable while the majority of other media outlets are calling for blood in a mindless, reactionary way.

    Best: The author manages to touch on many of the issues more just, liberal people (me included) have with the entire case without delving into specifics or giving his opinion: something that would no doubt alienate a majority of readers (e.g. that they were tried in an adult court and couldn’t understand what was happening — just as we couldn’t understand what they did).

    Worst: From beginning to end the Bulger case (and now the Venables case) is a horror. I agree with you that it is beyond comprehension and it is this that I hate. We need to understand how this happened, but the article asks more questions than it answers. That’s the sign of a fine article. It’s the sign of something that I will hate if I can’t answer those questions. If we, as a society, can’t answer.

    I was nine when this happened and I remember it like yesterday, barely able to understand what had happened. I want to forget, just as Venables does, it seems.

    The possibility of redemption must be there otherwise what do we have left?

    Your comparison to The Porcupine is great and very apt. I like it. My opinion: he’s just a boy. He isn’t evil now just as he wasn’t evil all those years ago. It can happen again.

    God help us, huh?