I have only seen a few episodes of Babylon 5, courtesy of James and Michelle. One of them has stuck with me for years; it’s called Passing Through Gethsemane. In short, a man who is now a monk discovers, through flashbacks and research, that he has a past as a serial killer. As punishment for his crimes, when caught, his mind was wiped – “death of personality” – and he was reinvented as a man of learning and of God. His realization is, not surprisingly, pretty hard for him to digest, and when word of who he was gets out, there is an uproar, and he ends up murdered by a man who tortures him to death – a reflection of his own crimes. The monk accepts this man coming for him – he waits in the Garden of Gethsemane, as it were.
It was a very powerful episode, with a lot of very interesting questions about humanity and what we are capable of.
And then this morning I read this: http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/08/10/jonesboro.shooting.ap/index.html.
A 13-year-old boy and his 11-year-old accomplice in Arkansas go on a shooting spree at school, killing four students and a teacher (this was a year before Littleton, CO). Due to a loophole in the law at the time, the boys can only be kept incarcerated until they are 18. Prosecutors managed to tack on another three years for weapons charges. The 13-year-old is now 21, and is being released.
What is of particular interest in the article are the last paragraphs, where the boy’s mother is quoted:
Woodard has said that her son will not return to Arkansas when he is released from prison in Memphis, Tennessee. She said he wants to become a minister and hinted he will move at least a day’s drive from Jonesboro and enroll in college.
A minister. A man of learning, and of God.
And then the last paragraph:
Woodard said her son dwells on what happened.
“He’d give anything. He’d give his life 100 times over to turn this thing back. The best thing, I really believe, the best thing to do is give him a chance,” she told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “Let him get out there and spread his wings and help other people.”
I am not sure, however, particularly in the American South, how much help other people want from him. One wonders what will await Mr. Johnson in his own personal Gethsemane.