It always seems that whenever I set out to write about something specific it changes and I feel inspired to go in another direction. This post will be no different. For those not familiar with the concept of Deus ex machina, it is a plot device wherein everything works out in the end. This can either be by divine intervention (god out of the machine), or some heretofore unknown skill on the part of the protagonist, or in many other ways—as long as the happy ending is achieved.
I don’t think I ever fully admitted it to myself until the other day, but the Harry Potter series is absolutely rife with it. It makes me a little sad to admit that because I am such a huge fan of the books (don’t ask me how many times I have read the series) and I have always considered it to be a lazy plot device. I could go on and on about Harry Potter here, but I won’t, I only mentioned it to illustrate what I am talking about.
The avenue I want to discuss regarding this plot device is the ever-present criminal who has found God. I applaud anyone who has taken the internal journey it takes to truly change themselves, to grow, and to improve their spiritual life (whatever that may look like). I have to admit though, that I am suspicious. I have been the victim of crime, and a few years ago I learned that the perpetrator of said crime has found God. My first instinct was “good for them”, but as I thought more about it I couldn’t tame the beast that rose up inside of me. I couldn’t quench the white-hot flames that beat against my insides at the injustice of two little words (I’m saved) being all it took for said criminal to go through the rest of this mortal existence unmarred. The thought that they are free still pounds the drums of blood in my ears; I am never free.
To be able to commit sometimes unspeakable crimes against another human being and then claim that you have not only found God, but that God has forgiven you leaves me a little hollow. I have Mormon guilt on top of Catholic guilt if I even think about half the things I have done (and I haven’t really done anything all that bad). I sometimes wonder if I am just completely incapable of forgiving myself and that is why I cannot find the forgiveness I seek. Sometimes the answer isn’t always that easy though.
I think sometimes the deus ex machina of criminals who find this peace comes from a place of no remorse, no guilt, no conscience, and a willingness to absolve oneself of sin. In essence, as often happens, it is man creating God in the image of himself. “I forgive myself, so God must also.” True repentance doesn’t come that easy. It is not enough to say “Well, I have found God, and I won’t commit any more crimes, so all is well!” Restitution is a part of the repentance process wherever possible.
I don’t want to discourage people from walking the road of repentance, and I don’t want to discourage spiritual journeys, but I do want to discourage the idea that somehow all it takes are the words and we are free. You may have your happy endings, but the carnage you have left in your wake testifies against you. In Matthew 5:45 Jesus says “…for He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good…” just don’t forget about the rain.