Unpacking the Casey Anthony Case

Chris —  July 5, 2011

I didn’t follow the Casey Anthony case closely enough to offer any meaningful opinions about guilt or innocence.

But one of my goals with Unpacking Forgiveness was to consider situations when the wounds are deep and justice seems far away. When a case such as this is so much in the center of public awareness, it is critical that Christians interact responsibly with it and take the opportunity to point people to the Cross. To that end, I offer some basic principles regarding how we ought  to respond.

  • Trust God for Justice – Romans 12:19 (quoting the OT) explicitly tells us that vengeance belongs to God.  No one is getting away with anything.  I take no pleasure in writing that there will be a Hell of a reckoning one way or another very soon. No appeals.  No evidence hearings. No shenanigans.  God who sees all perfectly will deal justly in the timing that it pleases Him. (By the way, this is one of the reasons why this discussion Frances Chan, Rob Bell, and Hell is so critical, see also Mike Wittmer’s excellent book).
  • Be confident that God loves little girls infinitely and eternally more than any of us. Again, justice will be served. [Update: I wrote this ambiguously – – I mean that God loves little girls more than we love little girls – – – not that God loves little girls more than, say, little boys.]
  • Take no revenge. Scripture repeatedly warns us against taking revenge, again see Romans 12:19.  You may let yourself off the hook by saying, “There is no possibility of me taking revenge on Casey Anthony,” to which I would respond, “Don’t you think that some of the people writing about Casey Anthony are taking revenge? It would seem that some are trying to pay Casey Anthony back if no other way than through Tweets. Or is it just my imagination?”
  • Honor our court system. Some who watched the trial and believe that Casey Anthony was guilty may be tempted to be very cynical about our court system.  Never the less, Romans 13:1-7 tells us to pay honor to our government recognizing that God is sovereign.  Like Joseph, we can say that whatever harm may have been intended, God will work it together for good for his people (Genesis 45:5-7, Romans 8:28). The government is only a tool in God’s sovereign hand, however mysterious it may seem that God allows injustice in the short run.
  • Point people to the Cross. Situations like this are the opportunity for Christians to point to a balanced view of forgiveness that stresses love, justice, and grace.  Casey Anthony is not the only one who will stand before her Creator. We are all sinners, and we will all be there.  If we don’t know Christ, then the wrath of God abides on us (John 3:36).
  • Examine yourself. If you find yourself feeling terribly ungracious towards Casey Anthony, then perhaps it is because you haven’t been thinking enough about God’s grace in your life.  Indeed, this is what happened with the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35. Do you get more energized about the sin or perceived sin of someone else or your own? Consider 2 Corinthians 13:5.
  • Don’t trivialize forgiveness and misrepresent it by saying silly things like, “We all need to forgive Casey Anthony. Christians have so often said cheap things about forgiveness in contexts like this.  We need to point people to the Cross, not say something like, “We just all need to forgive Casey.”  Lots more to say about this, but I won’t try and re-write my book in a post – – though you could take the forgiveness quiz to get some flavor of the discussion. The answers to the forgiveness question are here.

What else would you add?

See also this column I wrote after the Virginia Tech murders or my article for Reformation 21, Packing Unforgiveness.

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35 responses to Unpacking the Casey Anthony Case

  1. Thank you, Chris… I needed that.

  2. Much needed thoughts, thank you!

  3. 1) Your suggestions seem to assume her guilt – perhaps I’m wrong.

    2) Had this been a death penalty trial in Israel, she would not have been convicted either: The direct testimony of one witness was not enough to put anybody to death – Numbers 35:30. In giving his law, even God himself did not allow death in a purely circumstantial case.

    Other than that, your suggestions of looking to the cross are correct. The gospel is the main thing in any situation.

  4. I am not assuming her guilt. As I said, I didn’t follow the trial. My point is that justice will be done, whatever justice is.

  5. Thank you Chris for sharing this. I followed the trial closely and truly believed the mother had something to do with the death of her child. However, now that she has been acquitted, it all rests in God’s hands. He is Sovereign. He will bring justice ultimately to the child that was thrown away. The tragedies of this world will one day be dealt with by the only one holy enough to see the truth. I find comfort in that. I appreciate your thoughts.

  6. I followed the case from the very beginning. Your statements here make sense and help see things in a different light. (I do have the book!) Thanks for putting some perspective on this tragic situation.

  7. Sharon Thomas July 5, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    I followed the case from the beginning. I never believed she intentionally harmed her daughter. All the Anthony’s hid her death as they hid her birth. I believe American justice was served 2day! Christians judgment isn’t our duty! I prayed for Casey more than once. I am thankful she will NOT die! Caylee little angel in heaven.

  8. Joyce Ongstad July 6, 2011 at 8:15 am

    After reading angry comments of Christians on FB last night, I was deeply troubled by their hateful attitude toward Casey, the jury, and the justice system. I went to bed praying that someone would know the right words of caution to speak to them. Then this morning I read this, the answer to my prayers. I shared this with my FB friends today.

  9. “Be confident that God loves little girls infinitely and eternally more than any of us.”

    Pastor Brauns,
    Can you provide scriptural support for your statement?

  10. David – – rereading that line, I see that I may have been a little ambiguous. My point is that God loves little girls infinitely and eternally more than we love little girls. I was not implying that God loves little girls infinitely and eternally more than, say, little boys.

    Does that help clarify the point?

  11. Nancy Stewart July 6, 2011 at 9:21 am

    So well said. Thank you!

  12. Pastor Brauns,
    Thank you for the prompt response and clarification. I’m happy to have found your blog while I was reading the The Christian Post today.

  13. The public out cry for Caseys head mirrors the same emotions the OJ Simpson trial brought out of people. Remember this worldly act of the flesh, step back. Let go n let God. For He is the only one to answer to today and Judgement day!!

  14. Having grown up with a grandfather who is an attorney (criminal cases) and a daughter who is now an attorney, I have always followed cases very closely. God established the authorities and the courts to deal with the wrongs of society so as to keep order and peace. As believers, we are called to be discerning. No…we are not someone’s heart judge as to whether they are saved or not. However, in cases where a jury is commissioned to determine guilt or non guilt, they must make a judgement call. Truly God is our ultimate judge in the end of all things. However, I hear Christians saying…”oh we shouldn’t judge someone”. Jesus said we will know people by their fruits. I am concerned that many of the fruits displayed by Casey Anthony did not provide proof that she was a loving, doting mother. Whether she directly or indirectly had something to do with the death of her child, she was definitely at fault for not keeping watch over her child. Certainly keeping quiet about a child that is gone for 30 days is something I cannot swallow. I am disappointed with the verdict. I watched the trial and followed what was said. I think she should have been convicted of child neglect or child abandonment at the least. Now…it is in God’s Hands completely and I am praying for justice for the little girl who was murdered. Whoever is responsible will answer to God in this life or the next. If I sound hard, I do not mean to but I believe our society has gotten so into being nonjudgemental that we do not use our reasoning ability and follow the facts. Another attorney friend of mine who regularly tries cases made a good point. Even though this person was found not guilty does not mean she is innocent. It just means that there was not enough evidence in the mind of the jury to convict. Casey Anthony alone knows what has happened and she will have to live with the consequences of her actions as we all do when we go down a wrong path. Sorry to be so long winded. Just cannot sit back and not speak up on behalf of the little girl who has been lost and the justice that was not done. As in the OJ Simpson case, justice did not come to him until much later. Now he is where he should have been long ago. That is not unforgiveness. It is justice which was delayed.

  15. Barbara, those are some important thoughts on your part. This is a tangent, but one of sections in my recent book on calling a pastor is, “Judge Lest Ye Be Judged.” Here is how I introduce that segment.

    Judge Lest Ye Be Judged In Matthew 7:1 Jesus says, “Do not judge or you too will be judged.” That verse in mind, it may come as a surprise to you that I have given this part the title, “Judge, lest ye be judged.” After all, Matthew 7:1 may have surpassed John 3:16 as the most well known verse in the Bible. Even people who are not Christians quote this verse.
    To be sure, Jesus taught that there is a kind of wrong judging. If we make evaluations about people without first bringing ourselves under the same standard, then this is a serious offense (Matthew 7:1-5). In implementing Jesus’ exhortation, however, we need to be careful that we do not throw biblical discernment out with the bathwater of hypocrisy. Make no mistake. In order, to call a pastor you will have to discerningly judge or evaluate the candidate. So, the goal in this section is to equip you judge or evaluate in the right way, lest ye be accountable to God for not wisely and discerningly leading your church forward.

  16. Good point Chris. I appreciated your exposition of that verse as it relates to choosing a pastor. We are to be discerning and wise in what we do each day. In fact, every day we make judgment calls whether with our children or business decisions. Some times we are right and sometimes we are wrong. However, with the Bible as our standard and the Holy Spirit as our teacher and guide, we can make informed decisions whether it is a court case or some other call. Thank you for your response Chris in explaining the verse.

  17. We do not need to forgive the mother, except for causing us all so much grief. Her sin was against her child, parents, and God. You and I are not involved.

  18. Agreed, John. To the extent that she sinned, it isn’t against the wider public. And, the collective grief was as much self-inflicted as anything. People didn’t have to watch.

  19. This case is a reminder that life is not fair. Not in the outcome of the verdict but that the life of a small child was abruptly ended and no verdict is able to change that fact. We desire justice but our justice still falls short. Only in the next life will we be able to fully understand and appreciate God’s holiness and sovereignty.

  20. well this is just what i needed to know. i know these things but sometimes i need to hear/read them again and again until i finally get it. i’ve been overly critical of others lately, for example this crazy way people drive and are completely unaware of what is around them, then i would find myself thinking horrible thoughts. God deliver me from the frailness of my humanity! i just want to love everyone, and come from understanding and knowing.

  21. I’m with you Shawn. I have to keep reviewing these things – – and then, hopefully, spot the inconsistencies in my own life. Your example is challenging to me personally.

  22. Thank you Chris. Barbara, by your own admission, you have been around the court system for a long time, then you of all people should know that truth is not presented in the courtroom. Evidence that could support someone’s guilty or innocence may be ignored because of some loop hole in the judicial system. By your words, “keeping quiet about a child that is gone for 30 days is something I cannot swallow.” Many of us can’t but Casey (for whatever reason, insanity, drugs, alcohol, blah, blah, blah), didn’t believe her daughter was missing. Why would she report it? We were not selected to be on the jury, therefore we cannot judge, period. By your standards and understanding of scripture she is to be judged by the courts, and she was, so we have to believe that she was judged according to God’s plan and purpose. The main things is that we, as Christ followers do not turn anger into hate. I am ashamed of some of my brothers and sister’s reactions and words in this and other cases. Father, forgive us. Help us to trust you in ALL things.

  23. Oh, and I forgot to add that I agree with Lawyer. When I read “Again, justice will be served.”, it appears to me that you think it hasn’t already been served. Justice is served. It is done it is finished.

  24. Carla….I am not angry over the verdict as much as I am grieved to my core. Justice was not done for little Cayley. I believe the mother was responsible and so did several jurors who spoke out. They made the call and decision. Now she will face the Lord one day and have to answer for her actions. My heart cries out only for justice. In all my years of living, it always makes me sad to see the victim forgotten and the criminals pampered. But one day when Christ returns, His government and judgments will be perfect.

    I shared in my blog http://aviewfromserenityacres.blogspot.com a post on Discerning or Deception that clarifies my thinking on Christians taking a stand for the right things…not in a hateful manner. I wish no ill on anyone….but I am and will be disappointed with the verdict. In the end, God’s justice will be done. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  25. Thanks so much for your blog. I was very disappointed with the reactions of my brothers and sisters posting hateful comments on Facebook yesterday. For those of you that sincerely want to pray for Casey Anthony, please see the FB group called just that.

    As Christians, we are called to love – period.

    I did not follow case, however, I know that evidence was presented and a jury of her peers found her not guilty. What concerns me greatly is that so many people, because of the biased media coverage have decided in their own mind that she is guilty. This is not only naive but ridiculous. The jurors sat for 30+ days and saw an heard things that led them to conclude that she is not guilty. It saddens me that so many well minded people are being brainwashed by our media. How on earth can people conclude she is innocent or guilty by watching tv??

    Morgan

  26. So much and so many opinions have been expressed about this Casey Anthony situation…I too have been guilty of saying, “she is guilty as SIN.” But how do I know…ONLY GOD and the one or ones who took this beautiful baby’s life really know what happened. I do think that Casey had something to do with Caylee’s death though…What mother in her right mind does not report a child missing for 31 days…IF my children (when they were small) and now my grandchildren get out of my sight for a minute, I start looking, searching and calling their name till I find them. I speak out of the ANGER at this baby’s death and the injustice of it…I know people that would give anything to have a child like that..I wish I could UNDERSTAND WHY things like this happen…I KNOW-I KNOW…it is because of SIN…but I guess what gets me and always has is WHY CHILDREN, DEFENSLESS ANIMALS, ETC ARE NOT PROTECTED…SOMEDAY we will understand…because, our ways are not HIS ways and our thoughts are not HIS thoughts….being a WHY person, I know I will probably drive HIM crazy with QUESTIONS….
    Chris, I am going to purchase your book, “UNPACKING FORGIVENESS.” I so need to be FORGIVEN AND TO FORGIVE!!!!
    WHOEVER did this to that baby WILL GIVE AN ACCOUNT SOMEDAY…Because, “When He splits that eastern sky, EVER KNEE WILL BOW AND EVERY TOUNGE WILL CONFESS THAT HE IS LORD…AMEN

  27. Joyce, I think you put down on paper the sort of thought cycles that many are going through right now. I’m with you on one of the children being missing. Even now when are children are teens, my wife doesn’t sleep well if she doesn’t know exactly where they are at or until they get home.

    The question of why children suffer is simply beyond us, isn’t it. Like you, I know the big picture answers, but it is so unthinkable. A few days ago I put up this post: and I think it relates well to this context.

    We can be sure – – justice will be done – – won’t it be something when the eastern sky splits?

  28. Chris, I wrote a blog post yesterday concerning this ever-so-sensitive issue and am glad to see my amateurish approach to it made many of the same points yours did. You can check it out if you’d like…

    http://allthingsloss.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/casey-anthony/

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