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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Wednesday, February 12, 2003
    Sleep of Reason
    Ten years ago the news broke about James Bulger's death; only a mile away from where I'd been working when it happened, the boys' route to their destiny taking them right past our office. "If only we'd seen them..." the thought still haunts.

    Remembering James today, and the impact his death had on society, I've put up here an essay I wrote while at Ridley, my 1999 meditation on the Bulger / Venables / Thompson case under the question, "Love and justice are the same, for justice is love distributed, nothing else." (Fletcher). Is this an adequate understanding of love and justice?

    To what extent can society love Venables and Thompson, I was asking, as decision day regarding their release drew close. We know what happened since; but fundamental questions remain. Tonight I've got to help a group explore how, on our Lent study course, we tackle the theme of redemption.

    We accept the redemption of time-served criminals such as Jonathan Aitken (establishment deceiver turned Oxford theologian) and Charles Colson (Nixon aide turned top evangelist) but not Venables and Thompson, or Hindley (despite her assertions about Christian conversion). Why the difference; what are the limits of redemption and who sets them? Do we really believe in the power and reach of love ... can we? dare we??