God judges righteously the evil of the world.
I have a confession to make. It's going to date me, and for some of you, it's going to lower me in your esteem, but I'm going to say it anyway. I not only grew up with but I loved the Dirty Harry movies. Clint Eastwood, he's an actor for those of you who are younger. You all know him as a director now, but he used to act, and he made his name in this series of four films—the Dirty Harry films. They were incredible. I mean, when they first came out I was just a little kid, so I had to watch the edited versions on TV. But when I got old enough, I made sure to go out and see them all. There he was, Clint Eastwood as Harry—a cop—and his .44 magnum. It was a huge gun, and he would pull it out and dispense a kind of rough-and-ready justice when the justice system had failed.
It's really out of those Dirty Harry films that a whole genre of vigilante films has made its way through American culture. The latest version of this would be the Batman films. They're really popular, which is really ironic, given that we are a nation built precisely on the rejection of everything that Dirty Harry and Batman stand for, a rejection of vigilante justice. We are the nation—and there are not many like us in the world—that believes even criminals should receive due process. We take that for granted, and yet it's a shocking idea in most of the world. That's our nation, that's the culture that we live in, and yet can you imagine a box office hit in which the serial killer is ably defended and then walks free because somebody forgot to read him his Miranda rights? No, that's not the way you do a box office hit. There exists a distinction between some of our highest principles and the deep longings that we ...
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Michael Lawrence is pastor of Hinson Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon, and author of "Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church" (Crossway).