Ends-justifying-means emotionalism

A follow-up to this message (with this emendation) and replying comments

[For my prior abusive invocation of scripture, I am rightly admonished and regretful.]

Dear friends, I have no heart for this debate, but consider how badly thinking can be unprincipled when emotionally driven. Hasn't similar ends-justifying-means emotionalism been remarked upon as the error of liberalism?

Shall we cut off the hand of the thief, too, or would that be two eyes for an eye? How about just a fingertip for petty theft? (Where's Kevin? Was Bridget just baiting us? What is going on here?) Look, friends, when we say that the punishment should fit the crime, do we rape the rapist, eat the cannibal, murder the family of the person who murders a family? Of course not! "That'll teach 'em" doesn't and revenge is lust that will never bring spiritual satisfaction.

Society must behave like a sober, loving, patient, but firm parent, even like the divine parent. Exacting judgment, yes, and when we're dealing with returning stolen value and paying fines, recompense (not revenge) can sometimes be achieved. In violent crime, there really cannot be recompense. One cannot bring back the murdered, repay for wounding, undo terror and pain.

Exacting justice never involves cruelty for cruelty. We forbid cruel punishment in the heart of our Law. We forbid vigilantism and vendetta, the means of revenge when barbaric people are unsatisfied with civil judgments. We leave whatever "vengeance" there may need to be to the Higher Judge.

The appropriate combination of punishment and rehabilitation is set by a wise and impartial arbitrator. Not always possible, but the ideal, the principle, to which we aspire. While society must protect itself, we can only stop the crime, and if we're not going to execute then hold the prisoner until "rehabilitated," if ever. (As if.) Our justice system is poor, fails to exact justice perfectly, and those who operate in it are too often more concerned with dollars than principles, but it's the best we've got to separate us from anarchy. We strive for true justice and do not sink to the level of the criminal to do so.