Posted by: ritagone | October 9, 2019

What’s a Hug Worth?

If you’ve followed the Amber Guyger story, you know that she was a Dallas police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man when she mistakenly thought he was in her home.  It’s one of the saddest, most unnecessary crimes I’ve ever read about.  I don’t think she meant to do it, and she certainly seems to exhibit terrible remorse.  But still, a man is dead, and no amount of remorse will bring him back.

In a courtroom last week, Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in prison.  Judge Tammy Kemp is a black judge, a woman of faith who for 25 years has attended the same church in Dallas, where she serves as a deaconess.  She keeps a Bible in her chambers so she remembers to pray.  She encourages defendants sentenced to prison terms to use that time to remake their lives into something positive.

So when Guyger was sentenced to a decade in prison, she asked the judge for advice and a hug.  Now, that alone is fairly unprecedented in criminal justice proceedings!  Judge Kemp told her about the sermon she had heard in church the previous Sunday: the parable of the Lost Sheep, where the shepherd who has lost one sheep out of 100 still goes looking for that one lost one (Matthew 18:12-14).   And then she gave her the requested hug.  That photo has gone viral, but not always positively.

The victim’s brother also gave the perpetrator a hug after she was found guilty of killing his brother.  He forgave her.  Most people, I think, read about that and saw the photo of that hug and were brought to tears because of his position of forgiveness, because it is so rare and so touching.  A brother forgiving and reaching out to his brother’s murderer.  Unheard of.  If you haven’t seen the viral photograph of this hug, Google it.  It should bring you to tears.  I’m not sure if there was any public outcry about his forgiveness of Guyger’s crime.  (In our world, I’m sad to say that there probably was.  How sad is that?)

But the outcry against the judge is coming hot and heavy: she shouldn’t have put forth her religious beliefs. Why did she bring a Bible into the courtroom? She violated separation of church and state issues, and on and on and on.

The judge, who has become one of my heroes, felt remorse all right: that she had to be asked twice by Ms. Guyger for that hug.  Judge Kemp hesitated because she knew what the backlash was going to be, and didn’t rush right into the embrace the defendant asked for.

I can only shake my head in bewilderment, that a hug and a Bible can be so severely criticized in a culture where shootings run rampant, where hatred is spewed everywhere, and where people feel that they have the right and the privilege to tell everyone else how awful they are for behaving in a way they don’t agree with.

That a judge would come under severe criticism for hugging a person in her courtroom who so obviously admitted and felt remorse for what she had done is beyond me.  That that same judge was willing to hug her and give her a Bible speaks about courage and bravery in the face of a culture that doesn’t “get” the right thing to do when it is faced with it.

God, make me willing to hug like Judge Kemp when and where I can.  And may that hug – and that Bible – find blessings and results in the heart of the woman who received them.  And may she pay it forward in her surroundings in the prison where she will spend the next decade of her life.

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