Dr. David Thiessen is an educator, writer, pastor, and speaker. His books can be found at theoarch & other articles at theologyarchaeology
These statements have become a very big part of the sentencing hearing. Since the American Supreme Court ruled in Payne v. Tennessee (501 U.S. 808 (1991)), they have been used by prosecutors and families to get ‘justice’ in a criminal court case.
The definition of a victim impact statement is as follows:
A victim impact statement is a written or oral statement given to the sentencing judge by the victim. Such statements may include the impact of the crime on the victim, how the crime affected the victim on psychological, financial, and physical levels. Such statement gives the victim of crime an opportunity to speak during the sentencing of their attacker or at subsequent parole hearings. In some cases, videotaped victim impact statements are permitted.
While the Supreme Court has allowed these statements we do not agree with them nor do we agree with their use in any phase of a criminal proceeding. We are not lawyers or judges so we will not speak of the legality of these statements, we are people who believe in God and God’s justice.
These statements do not bring any justice at all. In fact, we have yet to find one biblical verse supporting their use. They are very emotional, very subjective, and very hard to verify as victims lie just like anyone else lies or they misrepresent the impact for whatever reason they may have.
Their use tends to sway the emotions of a judge or jury in hopes of getting a harsher sentence than justice says is right or more of a financial reward than the victim is entitled to. Also, the defendant does not get his chance to rebut these statements in any legal sense of the word (that we have seen).
When you look into the Bible using the word truth as a search guide, you will notice that 2 verses pop up- 1 Kings 22:16 & 2 Chronicles 18:15 and they both say the same words:
Then the king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear that you will tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?”
The only biblical statement that may be regarded as declaring an impact on a victim would be Acts 16:16ff:
16 It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave woman who had a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing great profit to her masters by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us and cried out repeatedly, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you a way of salvation.” 18 Now she continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and he turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment.
19 But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was suddenly gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities, 20 and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, “These men, Jews as they are, are causing our city trouble, 21 and they are proclaiming customs that are not lawful for us to accept or to practice, since we are Romans.”
Notice that the ‘victims’ were not making a statement about how much they lost when the girl was cured, they went after laws that were supposedly broken. Later in the same chapter, Paul said this:
But Paul said to them, “After beating us in public without due process—men who are Romans—they threw us into prison; and now they are releasing us secretly? No indeed! On the contrary, let them come [l]in person and lead us out. (verse 37)
But that is as far as it goes. Victim impact statements do not bring justice, nor do they bring any rational, logical thought or even wisdom to the proceedings. They are also used very badly as is the case of Lori Anne Thompson who recently released her ‘victim impact statement.’ You can find it here on YouTube.
Now that she has the public’s sympathy, she releases a 16-minute statement even though she was not released from her Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). We do not want to be crass or sarcastic, but it was reported that she and her husband received $250,000 from RZIM before Mr. Zacharias died.
Not only does she have no right to release this statement as she was well compensated, but she should have released this prior to the final report and prior to Mr. Zacharias’s death. Waiting till the final report was out and with almost everyone on her side, is not courageous nor is it justice.
There was no point in releasing this statement since Mr. Zacharias is not around to defend himself. But then that type of action has been par for the course in this issue. We have not listened to that video nor are we going to. We do not think it is biblical or contributing anything biblical to the issue or to true justice.
It is only her and possibly her husband’s words against a dead man. That is not just or even right. But the world does not live by God’s words or ways anymore. We cannot expect Mr. Zacharias to get justice in this issue at any time.
Jesus said in Luke 17:3 & 4 the following words
So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.
Sadly, we do not see this taking place in this issue. We see a lot of hatred, a lot of judgment & condemnation as well as other sins taking place by Ms. Thompson and others. The reality is that Mr. Zacharias cannot repent if he did anything wrong.
But Ms. Thompson and others can. Her victim impact statement is not the first step nor the right move. If people want to heal and grow in their spiritual lives, then they should forgive Mr. Zacharias, especially if they want their sins forgiven by God (Mt. 6:14-15).
If Ms. Thompson wants to heal and move on, if she is sincere and honest about her Christian faith, then a victim impact statement is not the way to go. She needs to truly forgive Mr. Zacharias and RZIM (that is if they actually did anything wrong).
She needs to stop stirring the waters, creating more hatred to awards a man of God and his organization as well as stop committing other sins, She is not, nor are her supporters being biblical. She is milking the sympathy and empathy sent her way, which are two reasons why we do not believe her.
Christians need to stay away from secular legal strategies and stick to what both God and Jesus commanded everyone to do. Because nothing will be resolved when believers or so-called believers listen to the blind and lost world in how to act and react in any situation.
God has already laid out how believers are to act and react and we certainly do not see those instructions implemented by most people in this issue. If the church wants to make an impact on the unchurched world, it needs to obey God in all situations and follow his instructions.
© 2021 David Thiessen