The Blind Leading

Peaky Blinders” is a show on Netflix that takes place in Birmingham, England, with a largely poor Irish community in the ’20’s. The main character, Thomas, is essentially a gangster–into bookmaking, murder, and whatever may be necessary–but is very bright and may have a good heart, maybe softened or hardened by experiences in World War I. In this episode, John, his younger brother, is a widower with four young children. He is no so bright and tells Thomas his kids need a mother, so he has decided to marry Lizzie Stark. Although a well known prostitute, John is convinced she has changed her ways and will be a devoted mother. Thomas is not convinced–likely because of his personal experiences with her services–and takes Lizzie for a drive. He offers her a large sum of money for one last time and, though she hesitates, she does agree. Thomas tells John of this encounter–but not of his previous visits to Lizzie–and the marriage falls through.

So what possible reason could I be bringing this up in a forum about spirituality? For good or ill, watching a show like this gets my mind to thinking: “See? The idea of a just God doesn’t work without reincarnation. The traditional ‘one and done’ traditional Judeo-Christian approach means that these people will be judged for either eternal salvation in heaven or damnation in hell on the basis of one lifetime. That just can’t be…well…’just.'”

After all, these people are so different. Thomas is brighter than John by nature and has had experiences John has never had. John is blessed by having an older brother who looks out for him. It would be easy to dismiss Lizzie as a conniving, evil whore–until one remembers that there weren’t many options for older, unmarried women in poor towns back then and many were forced to do what they had to do in order to survive. And what of John’s four children? Surely their fates would have been different with a mother in the household to help raise them.

None of this is meant to excuse any particular decision by anyone. It just means that people throughout history have been born into widely different circumstances with widely different DNA and lived for widely different periods of time. The notion that a just God would judge them all on the same basis for all eternity on the basis of one lifetime makes no sense. As Abraham challenged God before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah: “Will not the Lord of the universe do justly?” (Gen 18:25) Exactly right.

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