The question at the heart of Lear’s film, then, isn’t whether these children deserve to spend the rest of their lives behind bars. Undoubtedly, they do. Rather, it’s whether we’re willing to take a second look at these “monsters” and see something of ourselves in their plight.
The simple fact is that there’s no such thing as an “adult” crime, just as there’s no such thing as a “respectable” sin. Apart from God’s unmerited grace in Jesus Christ, none of us would have any hope if God had elected to deal with us the way our legal system deals with juvenile rapists and murders.
As people who know better than any the transformative power of grace, we have every cause to support an approach to justice that holds offenders accountable while still leaving room for the possibility of redemption and restoration. There are plenty who would say that the final scene of these teenagers’ lives has already been written, and they’ve walked out on the rest of the show. They Call Us Monsters dares to suggest that there are plenty more unexpected plot twists yet to be revealed, if we’re willing to stick around for the whole production.