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Must we hope for repentance?

by Greg Krehbiel on 3 July 2013

Tonight we watched “Identity Thief.”

It’s a decently fun movie with some completely gratuitous nastiness in it. IOW, it would have been a far better movie if they’d aimed at PG-13, or even PG. It’s the kind of movie that makes you sad that “Clean Films” has been killed by the lawyers. (The bastards.)

There’s a compelling moral message to the movie that is worth your time.

Very briefly, an immoral woman in Florida steals a man’s identity and starts living the high life on his credit, ruining his life. He goes after her to set things right.

In the first half hour my attitude was “hit her with a brick, put a gag in her mouth, tie her up as tight as you can, shove her in the trunk and drive her to the police station.”

There are some mild spoilers here, so if you don’t want me to ruin the movie for you, stop now.

For the first hour I’m thinking the male lead is a naive wimp. He’s treating this monstrous creature with a respect she doesn’t deserve. The whole time I’m thinking, “find a brick, for God’s sake, and aim at her head.”

As the movie progresses you realize the moral issues are a little more complicated, and you start to feel sorry for this nasty identity thief. As you get deeper into the movie you start to think maybe the naive guy was (vaguely) on the right track, and by the end of the movie you (I) start to question your (my) rush to judgment.

When the movie is done I found myself wondering if protecting yourself (hitting the bad guy with a brick) misses the opportunity to allow something far more beautiful (repentance) to happen.

From a practical perspective I know that self-preservation is the right decision, odds-wise. But I begin to wonder where I would draw the line. If I had ten lives to live, would I give up nine of them in the hopes that in the 10th try the desperate criminal would repent? Because while there is joy in taking the wicked to justice, there is far more joy when the sinner repents.

That is the hard question I take away from “Identity Thief.”

Sure, the softie is usually a sucker who is taken in by unprincipled people. But might it be better to live your life in hope that people can be redeemed?

-- 2013-07-03  »  Greg Krehbiel

Talkback x 2

  1. RootCzar
    9 July 2013 @ 12:12 pm

    this to some degree, makes me think of the varied religious faiths that reject medical treatment … christian scientists, jehovah’s witnesses, etc. what if we all did that? what would happen if society just abandoned law enforcement and/or the ‘system of justice’, with the notion that some absent being would eventually, take care of things? can the redemption you refer to, occur in a substantive way, without the requisite of divinity?

  2. Greg Krehbiel GregK
    9 July 2013 @ 1:06 pm

    There is no religion in the movie. The identity thief just has a change of heart and reforms her life.

    My question is really about the conflict between being the practical guy who takes the “tough, but not as likely to get screwed” approach, vs. the hopeful guy who is willing to be cheated from time to time, but wants to give people room to do the right thing.