Caught in Providence
by: Deji Yesufu
While the cost of a lot things is on the increase in Nigeria, for some reasons I find the cost of internet data reducing. So much so that I can now freely watch videos on YouTube – something I never could attempt in the past. My venture into YouTube might also have come as a result of a piece of counsel I received from my immediate younger brother, Wale. He said that YouTube is a world of its own and you can learn practically anything on that forum. So in my free hours, and when I do not have any new videos from channels that I have subscribed to, I just browse YouTube and watch videos that appeal to me: thankfully the owners of that medium have enough morality to censure illicit contents.
It was while watching YouTube one day that I encountered “Caught in Providence“. Caught in Providence are short video clips of the court session of a judge – Justice Frank Caprio, who is the chief Judge of the Municipal Court of Providence . The court is situated in Providence, Rhode Island, and I think the idea is that since most of the people that come before the judge are sometimes guilty of an offence, the label “caught” is therefore inserted in the title of the show. While “Providence” is the name of the city where the whole drama occurs. I was drawn to the videos by a couple of things but the very fist thing that caught my attention was the word: providence.
Providence is a theological word and it is one of the most comforting and gracious words in theology that describes the nature of God. On watching the show, however, I discovered that there is no mention of God in it.
Providence, in theology, is a description of God’s gracious provision to his people. When Jesus told his disciples, in Matthew 6, not to take a thought as to what to eat or drink, our Lord was describing the gracious providence of God. Providence also extends to God’s gracious hands extended to all humanity, including men and women, who despise God. The mere fact that a human being is made in the image of God warrants God’s gracious provision of food, drink, health, rain, and so on, on them. God’s providence is also extended to all of creation. God provides for the plants, the trees, the animals and everything that is on earth and in our universe. It is God’s providence that works the issues of our lives out such that a human being who once despised God, comes to understand his grace and bows his head to him in repentance and faith, and becomes a born again Christian.
Providence is such a gracious word and I think residents of that city in Rhode Island are very blessed indeed. I am convinced that if the history of the name of that town is traced, it would be traced back to the Puritans that came from England and the staunch Christian values they brought with them. It is only such a worldview that can birth such a name.
Justice Caprio is a lot of fun to watch. His court proceedings are done with so much graciousness – it reminds me of the grace of God. As the ultimate judge in his court, Caprio often writes off the bills of many offenders – many of whom might be too poor to pay their debt. At other times, he would often reduce the charges slammed on individuals. In a recent video, he told a gentleman that rather than paying off his debt so quickly, if he had come to court to argue his case on a certain charge the city had placed on him, the court could have either written off the whole thing or reduced it. Caprio is of Italian descent and he always wants everyone to know that. His father had come to America from Italy during the 1920/30s and the man provided for his family from the meager amount he earned from distributing milk to the community. He however believed in education and ensured that his children were educated. One of them would one of day become a judge in that town. On a particular episode, Justice Caprio was brought close to tears when one woman, who had come before the court, told the Justice that her mother told her that if she was ever before Caprio, she should tell him that his Dad used to supply them milk.
As touching as Caught in Providence is, I find myself sometimes uncomfortable watching it. Wikipedia lists Justice Caprio as a committed Democrat and the leftist worldview of his political leaning is strewn all over the show. Yesterday, a woman and her wife (misnomer?) appeared before the judge to pay a certain fine she had acquired. Caprio had no reaction when this lady suddenly announced that her wife was in court and would like to speak to the judge. Their lesbianism was considered normal. Besides, the very thing that catches viewers’ attention, the goodness of the judge, is the thing that acts as an impediment at seeing the all round goodness of the Judge of the whole earth.
There is something particularly wrong about a society that espouses morality but leaves out the name and person of the God who is the source and foundation of all morality. Without the Bible, without the ten commandment, it is not possible for humanity to know good from bad. The errors of our age is in people deciding to choose the standard of good, while at the same time despising or disregarding the Person who brought about morality. The atheist argue that morality does not require a worldview that includes God in it. They say the standard of good and bad is imbedded in nature and in all of us.
The theist, on the other hand, ask the question: who put these standards there? The natural answer is God; an answer that the atheist or agnostic must reject or all their worldview comes falling apart. Justice Caprio and all those behind the production of Caught in Providence have succeeded in rewarding good and punishing evil, without regard to the Ultimate Person who will judge all humanity one day. It is actually not the fault of Caprio – he is simply reflecting the worldview that pervades most of the West today. I hope that Caprio and all of his viewers will realize some day that the drama in his court is also a drama that will one day play before the Judge of all the Earth. The only difference is that in the life after now, there will be no grace: all that will be left will be judgement. God must punish every rebellion against him.
With this in mind, I must return to the scenes in Justice Caprio’s courts. I enjoy watching Caprio show mercy to the poor. I love to watch him hug children. I see him use the money sent in by anonymous donors to pay off the debt of people who normally will be unable to pay. As I watch these scenes, I see the Christian gospel play out. God, as Judge of all the Earth, will punish every sin and every sinner. But one day, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, came to the earth and died for the sins of all men. So that when the sinner enters the courts of God’s justice and that sinner names the name of Christ, God looks on him, like Caprio often looks at folks before him in court, and say: because my son has paid the debt of your sin, I hereby discharge and acquit you of every sin. You are redeemed; you are justified; you are free; and your sins can no longer damn you.
This is the Christian message and, friends, it plays out practically daily in Justice Caprio’s courtroom in Providence.