On September 15, 2016 one of Jamaica’s most well-known clergymen Rev. Merrick “Al” Miller was sentenced to a fine of J$1,000,000.00 or a term of 12 months in prison following his conviction for “Perverting the course of justice.” This conviction has come about due to his now infamous role in the drama that ended in the ultimate arrest of Jamaica’s most wanted fugitive Mr. Christopher “dudus” Coke following the events of great upheaval in May 2010.
I have very strong feelings about this case in terms of the ethics of what Rev. Miller was doing on the day in question and the larger society is torn on this matter. There are some saying “no-one is above the law” and wished to see a greater punishment. Conversely, there are those who see Rev. Miller as a sacrificial lamb, who was giving a heroic and helping hand to the State in a perilous time who has been thrown to the wolves by those he indeed sought to assist. Ultimately, the final arbiter of legal right or wrong in the land has found the pastor guilty of an offence.
Rather than further delving into the merits of this conviction or the “rightness” of Rev. Miller’s actions, I actually want to tread on what might be more controversial territory and that is the interplay between ones moral/religious beliefs of right or wrong and the law. My conclusion is that the reaction of Rev. Miller to his fate, though seemingly begrudgingly on his part, is instructive in how I think this relationship between religion, in this case Christianity, and the law should be treated.
Rev. Miller has said and implied several things that I do not agree with but where we are at one is his explanation for why he will not appeal the decision of the Courts in this matter. He essentially stated that though he does not agree with the decision, as a Christian principle , doing what we feel is “right” can run counter to the law and/or have grave negative consequences. If we feel our action to be right then we are to do right no matter what the consequences are. Therefore rather than wishing for the legal consequences to be eased because of our Christianity, we should face them head on accepting that it is honourable to suffer for doing right if we truly feel we are right.
To be abundantly clear, I am on no way endorsing the choices of Rev. Miller in his episode with Mr. Coke, in fact based on the information I have encountered about the incident, his actions at best leave me uncomfortable. I am however saying that for persons who ascribe to the Christian faith or any moral compass really, doing what we feel is right can come with harsh repercussions. Too often especially Christians want everything in the world to operate based on their/our principles and all structures in the world should bend to the views of the Church.
I struggle to see a biblical basis for this self-entitlement syndrome but I stand to be corrected. The Bible, from my understanding, intimates that the Christian standard and the “world” or legal standard can and often will be at odds. If ascribing to the former leads to trouble with the latter sometimes we might just have to “hug it up.”
Don’t confuse me to be saying unjust laws should not be challenged. My larger point is that the role of the Christian is not to try and legislate morals and feel so special that the law will always be in alignment with one particular moral code. When we start to think that way we become lazy and want the law to do our job for us.
National servant or egregious wrongdoer? That is in the eye of the beholder. But for certain no-one is above the law. Though probably half halfheartedly, I am impressed by the Good Reverend’s “submission” to the law of the land. His alleged choice of “chariot” to leave his sentencing hearing…not so much.