Communal justice

Bolivia’s new draft constitution would allow its tribes to enact communal justice; that is, punishments ruled by tribal elders or, more commonly, by the people themselves. The penalties could not be appealed through the court system. Indeed, any appeal would be too late, since communal punishment tends to be instantaneous. They include beating, hanging, burning, and burying alive.What this means, in effect, that the nation state, with its rule of law, is allowing itself to be trumped by tribalism, and a reversion to bloody revenge codes (as is already happening in Africa) is sure to follow. The rule of law–with its legal system, police forces, and fair trials–is a huge advance over tribal justice. To devolve back into that is multiculturalism gone insane.(P.S.: Read Romans 12 and Romans 13 together, to see how the Bible has influenced the rise of lawful governments over against personal and communal revenge.)

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Joe

    This is not good, and it is basically what is happening in Muslim communities in Europe as well. Relativism to its highest degree. The question I always have is doesn’t this de facto prevent people from moving beyond their caste? Take Muslim women for example, what if they want to modernize and say I don’t know do something crazy like speak in public or be in public without a male relative. How can they do that if the gov’t will allow her husband to take her to a Shira court and punished?

    Sorry for making this a Muslim post – I don’t know enough about Bolivian tribalism to make my point with an example.

  • Joe

    This is not good, and it is basically what is happening in Muslim communities in Europe as well. Relativism to its highest degree. The question I always have is doesn’t this de facto prevent people from moving beyond their caste? Take Muslim women for example, what if they want to modernize and say I don’t know do something crazy like speak in public or be in public without a male relative. How can they do that if the gov’t will allow her husband to take her to a Shira court and punished?

    Sorry for making this a Muslim post – I don’t know enough about Bolivian tribalism to make my point with an example.

  • Bror Erickson

    I wonder how much this has to do with a reaction on behalf of the people to corrupt courts, and laws that do not give justice to the victim. This is something every nation has to watch, including our own. I think people are willing to tolerate a certain amount of corruption and injustice for the sake of good order. But eventually it gets so bad that people will find the old way of doing things to be preferrable.
    Look at the American fascination with vigilanty justice in the movies, from the Old Westerns, to “The Brave One” and the Bronson “Death Wish” movies. Where does that come from? Possibly we are dissatisfied with the current court decisions?
    People long for justice. When justice isn’t served hatred brews in one’s heart, believe me I know. But then we all have to watch what we ask for. True justice would put us all in hell. Thank God for grace and mercy, that puts us in heaven. But then the government can’t act with grace and mercy, the government is not the realm of the Gosple. The government that operates on gosple is a poor government.

  • Bror Erickson

    I wonder how much this has to do with a reaction on behalf of the people to corrupt courts, and laws that do not give justice to the victim. This is something every nation has to watch, including our own. I think people are willing to tolerate a certain amount of corruption and injustice for the sake of good order. But eventually it gets so bad that people will find the old way of doing things to be preferrable.
    Look at the American fascination with vigilanty justice in the movies, from the Old Westerns, to “The Brave One” and the Bronson “Death Wish” movies. Where does that come from? Possibly we are dissatisfied with the current court decisions?
    People long for justice. When justice isn’t served hatred brews in one’s heart, believe me I know. But then we all have to watch what we ask for. True justice would put us all in hell. Thank God for grace and mercy, that puts us in heaven. But then the government can’t act with grace and mercy, the government is not the realm of the Gosple. The government that operates on gosple is a poor government.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    In a society where the majority believe in beating, hanging, and burning alive, I think you’re not likely to do very well under any system. If greater justice is imposed from the outside, it has to have a lot of power. So where do they find all the impartial people to administer this power if such people have grown up believing in something other than the rule of law?

    This is not to say that I think Bolivia is on a good course here.

    In my reading of the Old and New Testaments, I don’t see a good legal system and fair trials to be a good result of the nation state. The Romans prevented the Jews from meting out their “tribal justice” to Jesus, but when he was handed over, he received worse after a corrupted trial. I think that that incident is an indictment.

    Further, St. Paul considers it a scandal when Christians use the nation’s law courts. He wants them using their “tribal” ones (1 Corinthians 6:1-7).

    The rule of law is important. And when the nation’s functionaries are doing things that are legitimate, they should be respected in their tasks. But I don’t see an overall Biblical preference for the larger group imposing its vision on the smaller. When it does, you don’t automatically escape from corruption.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    In a society where the majority believe in beating, hanging, and burning alive, I think you’re not likely to do very well under any system. If greater justice is imposed from the outside, it has to have a lot of power. So where do they find all the impartial people to administer this power if such people have grown up believing in something other than the rule of law?

    This is not to say that I think Bolivia is on a good course here.

    In my reading of the Old and New Testaments, I don’t see a good legal system and fair trials to be a good result of the nation state. The Romans prevented the Jews from meting out their “tribal justice” to Jesus, but when he was handed over, he received worse after a corrupted trial. I think that that incident is an indictment.

    Further, St. Paul considers it a scandal when Christians use the nation’s law courts. He wants them using their “tribal” ones (1 Corinthians 6:1-7).

    The rule of law is important. And when the nation’s functionaries are doing things that are legitimate, they should be respected in their tasks. But I don’t see an overall Biblical preference for the larger group imposing its vision on the smaller. When it does, you don’t automatically escape from corruption.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X