No one can predict the future. No one owns a palantir. Not even Harold Camping. Thus, we don’t have to worry about the frightening consequences of ‘pre-crime’ seen in the movie Minority Report, that is, endangering the legal principle ‘Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat‘ (‘innocent until proven guilty’). Or do we?
It seems that Christians, maybe more so Christian pastors, have this ‘minority report tendency’. Over the years, in conversations with friends in the pastoral occupation concerning their ‘flock’, I have noticed that what they look for or are sensitive to tendencies and underlying motivations. Maybe it is because of the American popularization of psychologizing ourselves. Now, you may ask, what’s the big deal about that? Nothing, really. That is, until judgement or suspicion is channeled into the action of confrontation. To explain… Take a moment and think as if you are NOT a Christian. I could be wrong, but I observe that most judgement, accusation, or correction occurs, for a non-Christian, post commitment of the ‘crime’ or ‘sin’ (whatever you want to call it). Before the action of ‘wrong’ occurs nothing is suspected, no mention of changing any behavior, no red balls from the Minority Report. Such a nonchalance to immoral potential is, quite frankly, refreshing. It makes the company fun to hang out with. Christians, on the other hand, tend to judge, accuse, or correct before the action of the ‘crime’ is committed, such accusations are based on tendencies or assumed motivations and happen ‘pre-crime’. We predict the crime and attempt to prevent it from ever happening, in the days of the Pharisees (‘1st century Jews’), it was called “fence building”. Rules were added on top of each other so that you would not get close to breaking the original rule, that is, if walking 10 miles on the Sabbath was prohibited, then maybe walking 9 miles was later prohibited, then 8 miles; fences built to protect oneself from reaching the original fence of ‘resting on the Sabbath’. Such unreasonable wariness makes Christians into unlikable company. It’s in a word, stuffy, like the Pharisees.
Of course, this is not to say that there is no value in Christian ‘pre-crime’ tendencies. It is important to inspect one’s motives, one’s tendencies, primarily because sin does not hit you like an eighteen wheeler head-to-head collision, but rather, it creeps up on you, like a frog in slow heated water, swimming nonchalantly insensitive to the incremental rise in temperature, until eventually, it dies. But ‘fence building’ is no better. Those who ‘build fences’ live lives like people with OCD, keeping a mile of a distance from any potential ‘sinfulness’ that we become unenjoyable company to those around us and in a sense, miss out on vibrant life (let alone one’s evangelistic capacity to enter the broken, dirty, sinful in order to be a redeeming presence). Certainly, crime is bad, sin is deadly and predictions still an impossibility. But in such a mix, which is our reality, how do we prevent ourselves from ending up as a dead frog or a despicable pharisee?