I watched the Bonnie and Clyde special this past week. I knew they were murderous, but didn’t realize just how cold-blooded they were. So I was stunned at the end of the show when the historical facts rolled across the screen to learn that 40,000 people viewed Clyde Barrow’s open casket as it lay in state at a Dallas funeral home; 50,000 viewed Bonnie Parker’s.
These figures reminded me of John Steinbeck’s very insightful reflection: “It has always seemed strange to me…the things we admire in men; kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second.”
If I ever doubted Steinbeck’s statement, all I need do is look at the number of people who traveled from all around to say their goodbyes to Bonnie and Clyde. Many were simply curiosity seekers, but many more no doubt truly admired Bonnie and Clyde’s Depression era panache. At a time when life was miserable for the masses, Bonnie and Clyde led a stylish, exciting life (when not dodging bullets and running between hide-outs, that is).
I was pretty intrigued at the end of the movie when, answering a journalist’s question about the injustice of the bloody ambush that ended the notorious couple’s lives, Texas Ranger Frank Hamer replied: “Ma’am, they got what they wanted” (referring apparently to suicide by cop). If not what they deserved, which, according to the law of our land, was a fair trial.
All this got me thinking about injustice, specifically about Michael Morton, a Texas man who wrongfully served 25 years in prison for his wife’s murder. Morton was freed in 2011 after DNA evidence as well as evidence concealed by the prosecution in his 1986 trial came to light, proving his innocence. What’s amazing about his story is the spiritual experience he had in prison that convinced him that God exists, God saw what he was going through, and God loves him. All of which gave him a peace and almost nonchalance as he waited for his freedom, which he believed would come. At the end of a televised interview, Morton made a stunning remark that has stuck with me (paraphrased): “I am grateful for the suffering and injustice I endured,” basically indicating that experiencing these things made him a better person.
I don’t know about you, but I am never grateful for any injustice I face, even if it’s simply being overcharged by a service provider that won’t revise the bill. But what if that injustice makes me a better person? What if it opens my eyes and my heart to the plight of the less fortunate? I have never thought about this “consequence” of injustice before, and to be honest, it makes me uncomfortable. Because injustice is exactly what Jesus suffered, and He calls His disciples to follow Him.
As I face an injustice this very moment, I need to review plans for recouping my losses and respond to the Christian call to emulate Jesus. As you face the injustices of your life, I dare you to do the same.