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NY City Judge Upholds Doctrine of Divine Retribution

On September 2, 1990, a murder occurred in New York City that horrified the nation. The Watkins family from Provo, Utah, a father and mother with their two barely grown sons, had come joyfully to the city for a long-anticipated trip to attend the US Open tennis matches. While waiting on the subway platform for the train to Flushing Meadows, the family was assaulted by a band of four youths. The older of the two sons went to his mother's rescue as she was being kicked in the face, and he was killed in the attempt. The judge, Edwin Torres, sentenced all four attackers to life without parole, the toughest sentence possible in New York at that time, and in doing so issued a striking statement expressing grave alarm for a society in which "a band of marauders can surround, pounce upon, and kill a boy in front of his parents [and then] stride up the block to Roseland and dance until 4 a.m. as if they had stepped on an insect. [These acts were] a visitation that the devil himself would hesitate to conjure up. That cannot go unpunished."

It makes many people queasy nowadays to talk about the wrath of God, but there can be no turning away from this prominent biblical theme … If we are resistant to the idea of the wrath of God, we might pause to reflect the next time we are outraged about something [much smaller than a murder but still worthy of our anger]—about our property values being threatened, or our children's educational opportunities being limited, or our tax breaks being eliminated. All of us are capable of anger about something. God's anger, however, is pure … The wrath of God is not an emotion that flares up from time to time, as though God has temper tantrums. It is a way of describing his absolute enmity against all wrong and his coming to set matters right.

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