In Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, the criminal, Jefferson Hope, is an avenger of his wife’s death who offers his victims, under threat of death, a choice between two pills: one is poisonous, the other’s nothing. After the guy takes one pill, Hope takes the other. (This works for the first man; the second one refuses and is killed.) As he explains, he trusts God’s providence to protect him and destroy the offender.

Now consider the movie No Country for Old Men, where the criminal does the same, except that he is a psychopath and serial killer, who flips a coin which decides his victim’s fate, according to whether that victim calls it correctly or not. Now suppose the call is wrong. What if the serial killer asks before committing his crime, mocking the guy and adding insult to injury by enjoying the favor of his demonic providence, “Where is your God? How come He did not protect you?” What’s the right response?

Of course, this situation is familiar to us: “The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’ There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!'” (Lk 23:35-39)

I would say therefore, “God did not help me, so that you may be condemned more easily, and I, glorified as a martyr. You can’t win. If you strike me down, you will seal your doom, and I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”

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