Making a Murderer Makes the Case for God
Confession time. I don’t usually binge on Netflix but I recently obsessed over the latest instalment of Making a Murderer (released on 19 October – yes, I have already finished it).
It’s a true crime documentary about the tragic murder of Teresa Halbach and attempts by legal teams to secure the release of Stephen Avery and Brendan Dassey who were convicted in 2007.
It’s like an addictive drug for an ex criminal barrister who interned for a death row defence firm in the States.
Whatever you think about Avery/Dassey’s guilt/innocence, you cannot help but notice everyone’s passion for justice. Justice for Teresa and her family. Justice if the wrong people have been convicted and the real killer is getting off scot-free. Emotions run understandably high on both sides, by those directly involved, and millions watching.
But justice doesn’t make much sense unless there’s an absolute moral standard, against which we can determine whether something is just or unjust. This is what everyone is appealing to or presuming in Making a Murderer. It’s not just wrong for some, it’s absolutely wrong. Murder is absolutely wrong. Convicting an innocent person is absolutely wrong. It’s not just that we don’t like them, or a majority of people happen to think this way. They are wrong, always, everywhere, for everyone, regardless of what people think. I don’t believe they’d arouse such passion and emotion if they didn’t.
The civil rights legend, Martin Luther King Jr, once said:
“…all reality hinges on moral foundations. In other words, that this is a moral universe, and that there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws.”
Making a Murderer makes the case for God because it assumes the existence of a universal moral law – as real, to use King’s illustration, as the physical law of gravity.
Some argue though that morality is just a biological adaptation. They say morality evolved from genetic programming to care for those who share your genes and to scratch the back of those who scratch yours. But this isn’t much of a morality. It’s all about me, me and mine. It cannot account for random acts of kindness and Good Samaritan behaviour. It’s deterministic. You’re only ‘good’ because you’re programmed to be that way. And it’s not absolute. It’s changeable according to the whims of society, which means you can’t make absolute, true for everyone statements like “murder is evil” not unless you’re living above or inconsistently with your worldview (i.e. borrowing, I would say, from Christianity).
Put simplistically: objective values exist (some things are wrong for all people everywhere); and therefore, God exists. Why? Because there must be a moral law maker, who is both absolutely good and genuinely personal, who can create these interpersonal good ‘laws’.
And what’s amazing about the Christian faith is that it doesn’t say go and studying this morality in a textbook, it says this morality can be best seen in a person, Jesus. The one Time Magazine once described as “the most persistent symbol of purity, selflessness and love in the history of Western humanity.” You want to know what justice is, look at Jesus. Read the biographies about his life. Study his ministry. Consider the cross.
You’ll learn more about justice that way than any jurisprudence (philosophy of law) class, trust me, I’m a lawyer, or at least I was.