On Anger, Stanford Justice, and Calling a Spade a Spade

I have things to do this week, and other things I wanted to write, but I’m slamming dishes and cutlery so hard in my kitchen right now that the children are looking nervous. Yes, Mommy is angry. Mommy is more than angry. Mommy is FURIOUS.

195629063_2226295908_zI’m angry because in the last two days I have read a handful of articles on what happened when star Stanford swimmer, Brock Allen Turner, was on trial for sexual assault. A woman was at a party with her sister. Like everyone else at the party, they drank too much. But for this one woman, she landed up unconscious behind a dumpster while young Mister Turner shoved his fingers and various other objects (like pine needles. PINE NEEDLES, people!) into her vaginal cavity. The woman’s statement is here (Read it. And make your teens and college age kids read it, too.)

This is why I went to law school, friends. Because when I was sixteen I was already furious about harm done to women and children, and how justice was so inaccessible in so many situations. Women are disbelieved, and abused, and it should not be so. That the law had the ability and the mandate to protect the weakest called to my inner core. I wanted to be on the side of justice. I wanted young women who were pulled behind dumpsters in the dark of night to be able to see their perpetrators punished.

The judge handed down his verdict in the Turner trial: six months for sexual assault, including probation. Sexual assault, even though his offense meets the FBI’s updated definition of rape, and no one has EVER contested that he did in fact do it. The judge didn’t want the perpetrator to have to suffer “too severe” consequences for his actions….

… and this, friends, is where I start to slam dishes in the kitchen. And this is why I quit law: because for all the good that the law can do, in the hands of persuasive lawyers and evidential sleights of hand and spin-in-arguments, justice is so often not done. The victim’s character landed up being on trial. And the perpetrator, after all was said and done, “regretted his night of drinking.”

Not, “regretted his actions in sexually assaulting a woman”.

No, “regretted his night of drinking”.

Just to be clear: drinking is not a crime. Sexual Assault is. Let’s call a spade a spade, folks. But why are we surprised? The perpetrator’s father issued his own statement in which he expresses regret that his son got the harsh sentence he did: “this is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action.”

Not, “this is a steep price to pay for sexually assaulting a woman.”

No, “for 20 minutes of action.”

(you need to picture the sound track in my kitchen. slam. crash. slam.)

As if rape were a quick game of tennis. Or a couple minutes of pick-up basketball with a mate. Not STRIPPING AN UNCONSCIOUS WOMAN and dry humping her in the dark while you shove things up her. By that definition, “twenty minutes of action” could be a shooting spree at a high school, or dicing your friend on the highway at 130 miles per hour while you wind down from your evening of draining a keg. No effing way. Nope.

I wonder what that Father would have called it if it had been his daughter who had gone to a party at college, had too much to drink, and been pulled behind a dumpster? Do you think he would have dismissed it as “twenty minutes of action” and told his daughter to just get over it? I’m willing to bet he would have been crying for blood. Because what you CALL a thing says a great deal about what you believe about a thing. And “sexual action” isn’t the same as “sexual assault.” Being drunk is not the same as being a rapist.

Sin is sin. Rape is rape. Assault is assault. Trauma is trauma.

And Justice should be justice.

Maybe there’s a time for euphemisms: like when we tell our little kids that someone is “sick” instead of “terminally ill”, or “people hurting each other” instead of “genocide”. But there comes a time when we need to grow up and call a spade a spade. We need to name assault (or racism! or misogyny!) for what it is, because failure to do so perpetuates rape culture and myriad other injustices.

I’m not usually a fan of people filing civil claims for punitive damages, but as in the case of OJ Simpson, I hope this woman sues the pants off Brock Turner. Or at least, sues the smarmy smile off his face.

Let’s Play No-Trumps (some thoughts on how the cards are stacked this election)

Donald-Trump-Card

Perhaps it was because my given name means white breasted that, from a young age, I have been sensitive to name meanings. Perhaps it was my early exposure to the Bible, where names mean something significant about the character of a person that consolidated it (Jabez, or Jesus, or Peter, for example). Whatever the reason, I always thought it a little fishy that Donald Trump’s last name was, in fact, Trump.

I learned how to play bridge in college: a card game with trumps and no trumps, suits and hands, scoring above and below the line, with finessing and tricks, and players rendered vulnerable. According to Wikipedia,

trump is a playing card which is elevated above its normal rank in trick-taking games. Typically an entire suit is nominated as a trump suit – these cards then outrank all cards of plain (non-trump) suits. In other contexts, the term trump card can refer to any sort of action, authority, or policy which automatically prevails over all others.

When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the 2016 presidential race, I was entertained. Seriously: the “you’re fired!” guy? Him? With his ridiculous tweets, worthy of Josh Groban spoofing? Yes, he had money, and at first it seemed to me like a game: “let’s see if I can win the Oval Office square on the Monopoly Board, too!”

I thought the obvious ridiculousness of him as a viable candidate would soon become clear, but months are passing, and that’s not happening. I thought we should pay him no mind, and the fuss would go away; just like savvy parents sometimes need to ignore a tantrumming toddler and not reward bad behavior with attention.

Instead, crowds are cheering him on as he makes xenophobic, racist remarks which belie little to no respect for human rights or indeed, any of the values which I think ever made America great in the first place. As one woman shrewdly observed, Trump is what would happen if all the trollish comments on the internet were rolled up into a person. Rather than a measured and wise diplomat one would hope to have wield a position of such great power, he seems to be a bully. a mud-slinger. a flame-thrower.

And, devastatingly, a wildly popular one. The thought of him being the elected leader of the free world  fills me with horror: do people not know that America would be throwing its name under the bus if they elected him? (Not that my own country of birth has done better in recent years: more horrifying than the fact that a man with fraud and rape scandals by the dozen was elected president is the fact the millions of my countrymen voted for him to be there.)

Which brings me back to Trump, and Bridge, the card game. In the bidding rounds before any cards are played, the players signal to their partners with hints about their hands to establish what the “trump suit” will be. If you have a high number of diamonds (inference intended), the game would go so much more favorably if you can signal to your partner and secure diamonds as trumps for that round. You could then have your so-called partner lay down their cards and be the “dummy” for the round while you work the table. The rules are such that a privileged hand can land up taking every single trick, no matter what aces are literally up the others’ sleeves.

But shrewd opponents would work hard to keep the diamond-strong team from declaring diamonds as trumps. Perhaps they could bid for Clubs to be the trumps. Or, better yet, if they rallied their strongest cards, they could settle for a game of No-Trumps: where all the suits are equal, and no one card gets to call the shots over other would-be winners.

Such a game would take finesse, and tactful bidding. If you were playing against a team where one player really did have a stacked hand, you would need team work. Even to lose the round by one or two in a game of no-trumps is better than letting the diamond-heavy Trump take all the tricks.

Friends, don’t let Trump keep playing. Speak up. Please.

 

Ask Me: How Should I Respond to the SCOTUS Decision if I Disagreed?

Dear Bronwyn,

How would you suggest Christians who don’t believe in the morality of gay marriage react to a culture at large who will attack and invalidate a dissenting opinion as hateful and bigoted? Almost everyone I know who disagrees is too afraid to say anything to the contrary lest they be verbally assaulted – by Christians and non-Christians. Is it just best to hold to the unpopular truth with as much love and gentleness as we can, and take the inevitable hate that is going to spew our way? Or be silent on the matter and show love and acceptance (without approval)? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
– Conscience-Bound
Dear CB,
Within my own Christian community, there are those that were celebrating Friday’s decision, and a number who bore the day with heaviness. The SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage was SIGNIFICANT, for a host of reasons.
The question is: what do you say or do now, if you were hoping the decision would go the other way? Here are a few of my thoughts:
1. Take the long view:
I loved Andy Crouch’s advice in this interview. He urges us to take the long view: our culture is in the middle of a long conversation about what it means to be male and female. This decision reflects part of a much longer arc – so we have some thinking to do on that. Here’s Andy’s quote (at length), but I found it so helpful:

Whatever the Supreme Court’s decision, we have to see this as a multi-generational story of our culture trying to negotiate whether there is any significance to our creation as male and female in the image of God. That is not going to turn on a dime, and healthy cultural change actually never happens quickly. It’s worth remembering that Christians — both liberal/progressive and conservative, but especially the modernist Protestants who were then in positions of cultural power — created and sustained the ideology of racism that gained power in the 19th century, advancing the supposedly “scientific” belief, concurrent with the rise of Darwinism, that some races were intrinsically superior to others. And there were plenty of Supreme Court decisions along the way — Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson — that seemed to reinforce that arc of history. It took the better part of a century to reverse that profound insult to the biblical doctrine of the image of God, which was always meant to be expressed in human cultural and ethnic diversity.

If, as I believe, we’re in the midst of an equally mistaken denial of the image of God in human beings as male and female, that is not going to be undone quickly. So any contribution to the discussion about this month’s decision should take the long view. What is our hope for human beings, male and female, several generations from now? What kind of society do we want to leave for our children and our children’s children? The more that our contributions to the conversation can be hopeful — not necessarily optimistic in the short run, but hopeful in the long run — the more chance we have of helping our society turn the corner on these issues.

2. Take it as an opportunity to refocus.

One of my professors at Bible College warned us often that those who taught wrong doctrine were in just as much trouble as those who taught right doctrine, but gave it the wrong emphasis. Christian cults are often guilty of exactly this: teaching true things, but in such disproportion that the net effect is not a faithful witness to the gospel.

I found Ed Cyzewski’s perspective helpful here: he views the SCOTUS decision as a gift to the church: an opportunity for us to recalibrate and, rather than using all our energy on fighting same-sex marriage, to major on the majors according to Jesus in Matthew 25. We have a hurting, bleeding, poor, starving world all around us, with nearly a third of people not yet even having the beginning of a Bible being translated in their language. We have work to do. Prayers to pray. Money to give strategically to Kingdom work. Let’s get busy.

3. Find a way to put it into perspective.

As I’ve said before (here and here, for example), I think that we fail in the realm of sexual ethics on a whole host of fronts. Our world is full of people struggling with pornography, our churches have adulterers and divorcees and who knows how many couples who are sexually active before they are married. Every one of these falls short of what God has said (even though, for example, a couple living together may not think there is anything morally objectionable about their arrangement at all!) And yes, I believe same-sex relationships are a violation of God’s sexual ethic, too.

So, for me it is helpful to see this current crisis in the bigger context: another way in which we need to think deeply about how we talk about sexuality and sex and our bodies, and what Scripture says to these bigger issues. God’s word is good and his truth is freedom – somehow, we need to be better at figure out how to give a vision for God’s good for us in his words on sexuality, and prayerfully seek gracious truth in how we encourage one another towards righteousness in all areas of life, and all areas of sexuality. This article from Karen Swallow Prior on Gay Marriage, Abortion, and the Bigger Picture is a truly excellent example of this.

4. And if you take abuse, turn the other cheek.

It’s okay to be disappointed—heartbroken, even—but don’t be angry. If we are being labeled as  bigot or haters, I think that is a real invitation for us to search our hearts and figure out if there is any truth to those accusations. Have we majored on a minor, or caused “a little one to stumble” in our dealings? If so, we need to apologize for being offensive.

But if you know in your heart that you were not being hateful, that your position is one of sadness and wishing it were different for the sake of others’ well-being, then dear friend: try to turn the other cheek. As one wise counselor once said to me in marriage counseling, “What’s more important here: being right? Or being in relationship?”

Take courage. Jesus is still King and he has given us work to do. Let’s get on with it.

 

That Time I Interviewed a Celebrity

That Time I Interviewed Natalie Grant

It’s kind of a funny story, really.

I have an article up at RELEVANT magazine today, and so many things went WRONG in the writing of this piece that the backstory became a story of its own.

So, let me back up. In November I did a blog series to raise awareness, money and hope about sex trafficking: the #ACourageousOne project. One of the things I highlighted was a film that I had just seen the premiere to, In Plain Sight: a hopeful and illuminating documentary on the issue. Many, many people read and shared the posts that week, but I was still wondering how else I could spread the word about trafficking more widely.

So, I pitched an article idea to the biggest magazine I could think of – RELEVANT. The editor wrote back and said that while the angle I had suggested wouldn’t quite work for them, if I could arrange an interview with super-famous and multiple-award-winner Natalie Grant, who co-produced the film, they’d run it. I got in touch with the executive producer, David Trotter, who put me in touch with NG’s “people”…

Christmas was upon us, and it took a while to get an interview set up. We finally found an amenable day, and I excitedly emailed the RELEVANT editor to say I’d have the article to her within 3 days of the interview. But then, things got complicated.

First, the day of the interview came and went and the phone didn’t ring. We had to reschedule.

Then, the next day, I got pneumonia and my sewer line at home backed up. Also, my husband was about to leave for a 6 day out-of-state business trip. Meanwhile, I called in emergency plumbing services. The news was bad: we would need a new main sewer line. Think dollars. Lots and lots and lots of dollars.

Picture this, then: the following morning, I had settled my boys in front of the TV while I put on my rainboots and stood in my front yard, literally ankle-deep in crap, while I watched the plumber snake a fancy poop-cam down the line to show me the rotten innards of our pipes. And of course, at that exact moment, my phone rang. 

It was Natalie’s manager. And she had Natalie in her office, available for just 15 minutes for an interview. Wheezing (pneumonia, remember?), I gave the plumber an apologetic nod and said words I never thought I’d say to a super-famous person on first-meeting: “I’m sorry. I’m going to have to call you back…”

Seriously.

Five minutes later I called back and tried not to cough too much while I chatted to the talented, smart, kind and passionate Natalie Grant. She has kids and poop pipes at home too, and could not have been more understanding. And moreover, she too is devoting her time and energy to fighting trafficking. Far from being an “unreachable celebrity”, we were instantly on the same page.

The weekend flew by. I was solo parenting for the weekend and had a ton of work to do for the Pastor Search Team. Still sick, I had  love ninja after love ninja rally around with support and care. Sunday night came, and I emailed the editor: “Sorry,” I wrote, “my interview was delayed by 2 days and I have pneumonia. But I’ll have it to you by Wednesday. Promise.”

She wrote back: “Perfect. I was planning to run it Friday.”

On Tuesday night, I tucked the kids into bed and settled down at my computer. I transcribed the interviews, reviewed my notes and wrote the best interview I could. I finished just before midnight, saved the file and closed the application, before clicking over to my email to send it to the editor. I composed my message and then tried to attach the file: VANISHED.

Not in the trash. Not in the “spotlight” section. Not under recent documents. Not in keyword searches. Not in autosave or auto recover.

I started to cry. My computer had mysteriously lost files before, but my super-husband had managed to scout them out of the recesses of its inner matrix. Now, he was cross-country, and I had promised the article in a few hours. I got to bed at 2am, defeated.

Wednesday was spent moping and trying to find help. In between final sessions at his conference and layovers in airports, my sweet hubby tried to text his tech support. But to no avail. I posted a pitiful message on Facebook: “I think I am going to have to give up writing altogether on account of being too stupid to deal with computers.”

Wednesday came and went. My husband’s plane was delayed, but he finally walked in the door at 1:34am. Punching his magic abracadabra into my computer, he forced it to yield its treasure: there, under the file name I had chosen, he retrieved my folder. “I could kiss you!” I cried, and then I did (Don’t let anyone tell you super geeky can’t be super sexy.)

At 1:36am I wrote an email to the editor and attached the file. Exhausted and relieved, I collapsed into bed.

Thursday came and went, but by late afternoon I was surprised I hadn’t heard from the editor. I checked my email again… only to realize that the email I had written was still sitting in the drafts folder! It had never sent!

Let me just say that I’m not one who is quick to cry spiritual warfare.. but honestly – you would think that someone out there really didn’t want this piece published, wouldn’t you?

It was already after close of business day when I FINALLY sent the piece successfully to the patient and kind editor on Thursday afternoon. And, whiz that she is, she still got it up on the Friday as she had planned. Here it is, in case you were wondering: How to Turn the Tide in the War on Human Trafficking.

Perseverance, friends. We can make a difference.

A Letter to Men

LetterToMen

Dear Men,

A few months ago, a conversation on Twitter got my attention. Using the hashtag #YesAllWomen, women shared incredible and awful stories of ways in which they had been harassed, marginalized, ridiculed, leered at and exploited by men.

Yes, all women.

Soon the conversation changed, and people began to respond with #NotAllMen hashtags. Not all men are rapists. Not all men are addicted to pornography. Not all men pay for sex. Not all men disrespect and degrade women.

No, not all men.

This letter is for you: the not all men. And I’m writing to say We Need You. And, Please Help.

I am just beginning to uncover how close to home some very dark things are. Vulnerable women and children are being trafficked in our neighborhoods: they are preyed on and prostituted, and I didn’t know that so many of those who seem to be prostitutes are, in fact, victims who are drugged, manipulated and abused to be there.

Economics 101 teaches us that supply meets demand. This is true in the sex industry too. I didn’t know (and maybe you didn’t either) that the primary demographic of those buying sex are white, middle-class, well-educated, white-collar workers. Women and children are being trafficked to supply the demands of the very people society deems to be the most respectable.

But not all men are like that, which is why we need your help.

If you are a man who is white, or middle-class, or well-educated, or white-collar (or any combination of those descriptions), then you have a voice with these men that we don’t. You may not know who they are, exactly, but they’re among the every day guys at work, in class, at the gym, at the game. They’re the guys on the golf green, and at your business conference.

Women talk differently around women than when men are around, and men talk differently around men than when women are around. When women are around, men are less likely to suggest a couple of hours of entertainment at a strip club, or to make lewd remarks about how they’d like to “see her naked”.

Perhaps you hear men around you talk like that, and you find it uncomfortable. It might be funny, but it’s not who you are – so you say nothing. You let it go, finish your drink, and make your way home. I want you to know first of all that I really respect you not taking them up on the invitation.

But I am writing to ask you to do more. I’m asking you to please speak up and take a stand that it’s not okay to speak to women or about women like that. To point out that the massage parlor or gentlemen’s club they’re suggesting probably has trafficked women or children working there – did they know that? To say that prostitution may not mean what they think it means. To say you’ve heard some stories from women who worked the streets and it has changed your opinion on what was really going on there.

But maybe you don’t even need to say that much. A man saying something like “hey, that’s not cool,” in response to a “guy’s joke” might not seem like much, but it means so much.

If you stay silent, you may have protected your own character in that situation, but your silence is interpreted as indifference. “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” wrote Bonhoeffer. The sex trafficking industry relies on secrecy to thrive, and when we fail to say something, we allow it to keep its secrets. Our silence become complicity.

Art by Corrie Haffly.

Art by Corrie Haffly

Please, don’t let the sexist joke go unchallenged.

Please, don’t let the guy next to you jest about “showing her who’s boss” without speaking up.

Please, don’t stay silent when someone makes a “movie suggestion”. The line between pornography and trafficking is a very thin on.

Please, if you are on a business trip and are invited out for an evening of entertainment, don’t just say “no thanks” and walk away. Say, “You shouldn’t go either.” Perhaps even invite them to do something else.

There are men in our communities who are predators and pedophiles. But not all men are like that. You are not like that. So I’m asking you: will you please be our protectors? Would you be a voice of conscience to the men around you?

For my sake. For my daughters sake. For all the #YesAllWomen,

Please, speak up.

We need you.


End-New-3DChris and Beth Bruno have written a FREE E-BOOK entitled End: Engaging Men to End Sex Trafficking. Download your copy today.

I am grateful to the Brunos for offering this resource as part of the #ACourageousOne project.


This #ACourageousOne project is a 5-day series of blog posts to raise awareness, money and hope about the reality of sex trafficking right around us. There are tens of thousands of invisible women and children – courageous ones – in need of rescue and restoration.

We can help. This week, support a courageous one by giving #ACourageousOne of your own:

  • Donate ONE DOLLAR to fight sex trafficking (here, here, or here, if you need a suggestion.)
  • Pray for ONE MINUTE for God to rescue victims, and give courage to women and men to speak and act as we ought. (Here is a Psalm to meditate on, as a suggestion)
  • Share ONE POST on social media to raise awareness about this issue. This is happening in our communities, so if we speak up within our communities, someone directly involved is going to hear.

Thank you for supporting the thousands of courageous ones with your Courageous One. We can make a difference!

Remembering the Forgotten Children – {guest post by Ingrid Lochamire}

I’m so grateful to have Ingrid Lochamire as a guest today. I’ll let Ingrid introduce herself, and tell you all how we met 🙂

Add text

At a writing conference in Michigan last spring, I met a tall young woman with a captivating smile and a beautiful accent. We ran into each other over and over again during the conference (including in various restrooms) and decided we could be “cyber friends”. Though we live half a continent apart, I’ve enjoyed getting acquainted with Bronwyn Lea over the past several months via her blog and other writings. At her request, I’m honored to share with you, her readers, these words that have had an impact on my life.

Many conversations over the years have given me pause, turned me on my heels, changed my view of things, but few have had the impact of two words spoken from the altar by a woman in the church we began attending six years ago:

“Forgotten children.”

Could there be such a thing? As a mother of four sons that I have guided into adulthood (with more than a little help from their dad), this was a concept I couldn’t accept.

I learned on that Sunday morning that thousands of children live on the streets of Honduras, one of the poorest nations in Central America. Most have been abandoned by family, sent to the streets to beg and fend for themselves. Many are sexually and physically abused. Others become addicted to huffing glue.

Our church worked alongside a missionary in Honduras in 2002 to rescue 10 boys from the streets of Tegucigalpa, and a new ministry was born. By the time I learned of Forgotten Children Ministries, over 70 boys and girls had been rescued and lived in an orphanage in Tegucigalpa and on a farm in Monte Redondo.

Hearing the woman tell of her recent trip to Honduras, and viewing photographs of those beautiful brown-eyed children, I felt God tugging at my heart. I had been on a mission trip to Nicaragua a few years earlier, but our ministry was to families in the hillside city where we stayed in a gated compound. This Honduras mission put volunteers in the orphanages and the countryside so that they could meet face-to-face with the children and with families who are desperate for help.

For the next couple of years, I listened to reports from the mission teams who traveled from Indiana to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, several times a year. Health issues and responsibilities at home had been my excuse for not joining them, but in the spring of 2012, I knew God was telling me to trust Him. My youngest son and I signed on to spend six days in Honduras that summer. It was a decision that changed everything.

Chase, who was 17 at the time, was a little ambivalent about the idea (did I mention he was 17?), but once he found himself surrounded by smiling little boys who loved nothing more than to kick around a soccer ball with an American teenager, he was hooked.

For myself, I ended every day in tears. So much poverty, contrasted with so much joy. I was humbled to see the faith, strength and resilience of the children, and of these broken people who called a 4×4 metal shack “home”.

The week flew by, and in the midst of it, I was smitten. 10-year-old Nayeli, a gap-toothed sprite who giggled at my faltering attempts to speak Spanish, stole my heart. By week’s end, I had signed on as her sponsor and, through tears, I promised I would see her again.

I left Honduras a changed woman, and I think my son grew a foot during his time in Honduras — in body and in spirit. A year later, we both returned to Honduras to love on those “forgotten children”. It was even better the second time around.

I know I’ll find my way back to the orphanage in Honduras where a sassy little brown-eyed girl from the streets is growing into a beautiful young woman with a future. She, and all the others, won’t be “forgotten”.

Ingrid Lochamire is a former newspaper reporter who “retired” to home school her four sons, now ages 19-30. A freelance writer and blogger, she shares “Reflections on the Journey” at ingridlochamire.com. A week’s worth of essays and photographs from Ingrid’s 2013 mission trip to Honduras can be found on her blog under “missions”.

Some thoughts on the Oscar Pistorius verdict

images-2Here are some important things to know about the verdict given about Oscar Pistorius:

* He was found guilty

* He was found guilty of killing (homicide)

* He was found culpably (blamably) guilty of killing.

Perhaps it is because the South African legal language of culpable homicide is unfamiliar that confounds people abroad’s frustration that he was not found guilty of murder – but in truth, he was found guilt of the equivalent of manslaughter, or murder in the 3rd degree (at least).

I understand people’s frustration that he was found guilty for something less than murder. Believe me, I do.

And yet, I support the judge’s decision and wanted to explain why. Firstly, to be found guilty of murder, there must be evidence not only that the accused actually did the crime, but that they planned to do so. Proving mens rea (or, state of mind) is a necessary component. The rules of evidence require the prosecution to make a case which is beyond reasonable doubt that the accused intended to kill.

Anything less than that: like knowing your actions could possibly kill someone, is something less than full murderous intent. The categories of “lesser murder”, like manslaughter, or culpable homicide (depending on your jurisdiction), still hold people responsible for wrongfully taking life, but don’t have the intention-to-kill aspect.

Pistorius’ defense, flimsy and guilt-ridden as it may have been, pleaded that he did not intend to kill. He thought there might be an intruder in the house, they said. He thought his girlfriend was asleep next to him, they said.

In the handful of articles I have read on this, commentators are aghast that this excuse was considered “reasonable doubt”. Here again, I have a little more compassion. Was the threat of an intruder reasonable? Many say not. In an article from The Guardian, the writer commented that the “imaginary body of the paranoid imaginings of suburban South Africa has lurked like a bogeyman at the periphery of this story.”

To that, I would just want to say that I don’t think it’s fair to categorize the fear of a violent intruder as a fear of the “bogeyman”, or worse yet, a fear of the “black bogeyman”. For in the South Africa I know, the fear of being attacked in one’s home is real, it extends beyond class and colour lines, and it is a fear based on knowing first-hand stories of people to whom such things have happened.

My own personal collection of stories is sadly not uncommon in South Africa: I’ve been mugged twice, my home has been burgled, I have had to call the cops when my sister’s roommate called me from her closet to say that people had broken in to her house and she was hiding lest she be found. I have prayed for another friend’s elderly aunt and uncle who were beaten and raped in their home at night. I have a colleague whose daughter was murdered. I have a friend who lives in a home with the best security money can by in my mother’s neighborhood, and she has told me of the armed robbery in their home one evening just before dinner.  I have heard more whispered stories of rape than I can bear. I have felt the desire to murder in response.

A friend of mine posted this status update on social media this past week: “So in the news this evening: woman employee raped while at work at Helen Joseph, woman raped by burglars at Stellenbosch res, woman raped by man wanted by police for 10 years, durban high school employs a known paedophile who continues his abuse at the school and four teenagers convicted of raping a 10 year old boy as part of a game. And that’s just tonight’s news.”

World out there: it’s not an unreasonable fear.

Is it plausible to argue that a South African in the middle of the night might fear there was someone in their house wishing them harm? It might be. It might be considered reasonable. In South Africa, perhaps more so than many, many places in the world, it may be enough to raise reasonable doubt as to why someone might respond to a nighttime threat with a gun.

And so, in the tragic case of Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius, as much as I also long for justice to be fully realized, I also want to show support for the limits of what the judge could do. For to convict of murder, there needed to be proof of murderous intention, and the proof needed to be beyond reasonable doubt. Not just “he probably meant to kill her”. But “I am absolutely persuaded he intended to kill her, in particular.”

And given the context, and the fear that every single South African deals with – including the black, female judge who was called to weigh this matter, I am not surprised that the ruling was that there was a smidgen of reasonable doubt. Enough to find him guilty of killing her. Just not enough to find him guilty of doing so premeditatively.

And so, as the world awaits the sentence next month, I too am one hoping that he will be sentenced to the maximum jail time for his offense. And I take comfort in these things:

* He was found guilty

* He was found guilty of killing

* He was found culpably guilty of killing,

and, as a friend rightly pointed out, the most important thing of all is this:

* He still bears the lifelong burden of conscience and the need to be made right before God.

Just a few of my thoughts. For what it’s worth. (Since more than a few have asked for my once-upon-a-time-I-went-to-law-school-in-South-Africa opinion.) Holding my breath for sentencing day, and along with you all, hoping for justice.