Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Time to Kill

by Tyler Blanski
Crisis Magazine 

In the 1996 crime drama film A Time to Kill, a ten-year-old black girl named Tonya is violently raped by two white supremacists. She survives and the men are arrested, but before an all-white jury they will likely walk free. So Tonya’s father, Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson), takes the law into his own hands and kills the rapists himself. A white lawyer, Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey), agrees to defend Hailey. But since the district attorney seeks the death penalty, and the presiding Judge denies Brigance a change of venue, Hailey is left to be tried before an all-white jury in rural Mississippi—he will likely not walk free. During his closing arguments, Brigance tells the jury to close their eyes and listen as he describes the rape of a young 10-year-old Tonya. “Can you see her? I want you to picture that little girl,” he says, and pauses. “Now imagine she’s white.”

Brigance wants you to see that his case rests on a principle. Even if you disagree with that principle, it remains a principle. It is not special pleading. If the jury would ever spare the life of a white man for avenging the brutal rape of his daughter, then they must do the same for a black man. Jake Brigance wants you to believe there is a time to kill.

The recent Planned Parenthood videos make a few things obvious. Human organs with human DNA are being harvested. Since only living organisms generate organs, these human organs are presumably being harvested from living human beings. A fetus is a living human being, at least scientifically; the natural sciences can say nothing as to whether or not a living human being is a person, for “personhood” is an abstract concept described and defined by other disciplines. Who decides which human beings have “personhood” and which do not? Who decides who gets to live or die based on such tenuous guesswork? Is an unwanted pregnancy a time to kill?

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Tyler Blanski, a Catholic convert, is the author of When Donkeys Talk: Rediscovering the Mystery and Wonder of Christianity (Zondervan, 2012) and Mud & Poetry: Love, Sex, and the Sacred (Upper Room Books, 2010).

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