A Dystopian’s take on the Book of Judges and Judge Dread? DeMarco Banter

judge-dredd-320x240America is an irradiated wasteland. Within it lies a city. Outside the boundary walls, a desert. A cursed earth. Inside the walls, a cursed city, stretching from Boston to Washington D.C. An unbroken concrete landscape. 800 million people living in the ruin of the old world and the mega structures of the new one. Mega blocks. Mega highways. Mega City One. Convulsing. Choking. Breaking under its own weight. Citizens in fear of the street. The gun. The gang. Only one thing fighting for order in the chaos: the men and women of the Hall of Justice. Juries. Executioners. Judges.”  -Judge Dredd

Yes I know—the comic book character is spelled Dredd…wait you did not know about the comic—well I am sure you know the movie…

Judge Joseph Dredd is a fictional character whose comic strip in the British science fiction anthology 2000 AD is the magazine’s longest running, having been featured there since its second issue in 1977. Dredd is an American law enforcement officer in a violent city of the future where uniformed Judges are empowered to arrest, sentence, and execute criminals at the scene of crime.  So great is the character’s name recognition that his name is sometimes invoked over similar issues to those explored by the comic series, such as the police state, authoritarianism, and the rule of law.

megacity-1The setting of Judge Dredd is a dystopian future Earth damaged by a series of international conflicts; much of the planet has become radioactive wasteland, and so populations have aggregated in enormous conurbations known as ‘mega-cities’. The story is centered on the megalopolis of Mega-City One, on the east coast of North America. Within Mega-City One, extensive automation (including intelligent robots) has rendered the majority of the population unemployed.  As a consequence, the general population is prone to embracing any fashion or craze they encounter. Mega-City One is surrounded by the inhospitable “Cursed Earth”.  Much of the remaining world’s geography is somewhat vague, although other mega-cities are visited in the strip. ….only one thing fighting for order in the chaos…judges…

But, as usual, I digress.  I am listening to a North Point Series… “Right in the Eye”  via podcast in the AM.  Andy Stanley covers the Book of Judges and what it might mean to us today.   Of course being the dystopian I am… I can’t help but see the connections.  The book has both a tactical perspective and a strategic point of view as well.  What does it mean for us as a country…what does it mean for us as individuals?

Samson in the Kingstone Graphic BibleThe Book of Judges is a vivid biography of leaders, followers, and human nature…Tactically, Samson was a Judge. We know his story and it didn’t end well for the man. At the strategic level, he was the perfect reflection of what was going on in his country at the time.

Judges takes place in ancient Canaan, the Promised Land given by God to the Jews. Under Joshua, the Jews conquered the land with God’s help, but after Joshua’s death, the lack of a strong central government …let’s call it the utter lack of leadership…led to infighting among the tribes and periodic oppression by the individuals who lived there—a semi dystopian…Judge Dredd society.

Nature abhors a vacuum.” ― Aristotle

It’s all about leadership–or a lack thereof.  Just as water fills a vacuum, some one or some thing will fill in where there is an absence of leadership.  In the Book of Judges as in Judge Dredd–a vacuum in leadership has long lasting consequences. Hitler came to power when there was a vacuum of leadership in Germany; Ahmadinejad has come to power in the absence of leadership in Iran.

So what happens when there is a vacuum of motivation, guidance, and direction?  Nothing good!  

Judge Dredd Still ImageThe Israelite Tribes formed a loose confederation. No central government existed in this confederation and in times of crisis, the people were led by ad hoc chieftains known as judges.  A biblical judge is “a ruler or a military leader, as well as someone who presided over legal hearings.”  Or in Judge Dredd terms: Judges were the police, and executioner all in one.

The stories in the book of Judges follow a consistent pattern: the people are unfaithful to Yahweh and He therefore delivers them into the hands of their enemies; the people repent and ask Yahweh for mercy, which He sends in the form of a leader or champion (a “judge”); the judge delivers the Israelites from oppression and they prosper, but soon they fall again into unfaithfulness and the cycle is repeated.

Compromise, a serious problem with people today, is one of the main themes of Judges. When the Israelites failed to drive out the nations in Canaan, they left themselves open to the influences of their enemies—chiefly idolatry and immorality.

John Maxwell points out that there is a similar cycle that people and even nations go through, and this is the cycle we illustrated so clearly in Judges.

Andy Stanley brings it to a tactical level…“It’s my life. I should be free to do what I want, when I want, with whom I want . . . as long as I’m not hurting anybody.”  This is what we tell ourselves, is it not?  But what if it’s not true?  What if our desire to do what is right in our own eyes has major consequences for us, for the people with us, for the people who love us, and for the people coming after us?  At the tactical/personal level–what leads us—where do we get our guidance?  Do we see ourselves in a cycle similar to the book of Judges outlined above?  Poor decisions, leads to bad things happening in our lives, so we turn to God or others for help, we receive the help, get better…only to make bad decisions again….

On a strategic level, do we see our country in this cycle?  The country faces prosperous times–things are going great, we focus on the wrong things, bad things happen, we re-focus—get better, the country ascends back to prosperity…only to repeat the cycle.  Britain, Spain, Islam, Rome, Persia, and Babylon? Leadership vacuum? Is America any different?

The general life cycle of empire:  expanded, matured, declined, and collapsed. Has America today entered this life cycle’s ending stages? If so, Americans must critically examine the current state of culture to see what could be done to prevent the same grim fate.

1573588-judge_dredd_megazine_v4_265___012__boo_cook__v3By the end of the book, there is complete anarchy.  As the final line states: “In those days there was no king (no leader, no leadership–a vacuum) in Israel.  All the people did what was right in their own eyes” (21:25).

Just something to ponder…we need to fight the cycle of the Judges and avoid the era of Judge Dredd.




One Reply to “A Dystopian’s take on the Book of Judges and Judge Dread? DeMarco Banter”

  1. One of your most thought-provoking pieces, Bill. Thanks for sharing. Would be better if we were discussing it over a pint in the same room.

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