When it comes to criminal justice we have two opposite camps in this country: one side cries “defund the police” and the other side demands more "law and order.” How is it possible to have two very different perspectives on the same criminal justice system? And how should Christians be grappling with the way justice is currently carried out in our country?
On this episode we hear from Matt Martens who is a criminal lawyer, a graduate of Dallas Theological seminary, was a federal prosecutor for 10 years, has written for the WSJ and WaPo and is currently writing a book entitled Reforming Criminal Justice: A Christian Proposal (forthcoming with Crossway in 2023). Martens has a unique and qualified perspective with his robust background in both theology and both sides of our legal system.
From a theological perspective, Martens says Jesus not only declares us just, but is making us just. Meaning the gospel is not only about our individual salvation, but also our sanctification and how we live amongst one another. Part of preaching the gospel is seeking justice in our midst.
From a legal perspective, Martens says many Americans just don’t know how our system really works. He says there are outrageous injustices built into the system that the average person simply doesn’t know about. He wants to change that through his presence online and in his forthcoming book.
Two primary reasons we don’t see our criminal justice in a unified way, Martens says, are because we have varying degrees of education about our history as a nation and varying degrees of knowledge and experience with how our justice system currently operates.
Have a listen and learn. Martens covers a ton of both history and present realities. You’ll hear about how our criminal justice system was organized after the Civil War and how some of those practices remain today; how jury selection can have a huge and unjust impact on the accused; how both our bail and plea bargain systems coerce innocent people to confess guilt to crimes they did not commit; the realities of a broken policing system that leaves many crimes unsolved and prevents victims from experiencing justice; and more. Martens closes this episode by telling us what you and I can do to seek justice in our own localities.
The following books and links were mentioned in this show:
Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II - Douglas A. Blackmon
Talking about Race: Gospel Hope for Hard Conversations - Isaac Adams
Profit and Punishment: How America Criminalizes the Poor in the Name of Justice - Tony Messenger
A Theory of Justice - John Rawls
Matthew Martens on Twitter: @martensmatt1