Thursday, January 04, 2007

A Little "Ditty" on the Death Penalty

Ok, so I'm actually not singing any songs, but I just like the word "ditty". hehe...I guess it's politics week here at hungry and thirsty.

Shane Claiborne is really an awesome guy from what I know of him. Everything I read of his regarding justice and living the life of Jesus resonates so strongly in me. And this man is really truly honest to goodnessly living it. Any time I read about people like Claiborne, I'm humbled.

This is something he said on Jim Wallis' blog today regarding the death penalty.

It is rather scandalous to think that we have a God who loves murderers and terrorists like Saul of Tarsus, Osama bin Laden, or Sadaam Hussein – but that is the "good news" isn't it? It's the old eye for an eye thing that gets us. But the more I've studied the Hebrew Scriptures the more I am convinced that this was just a boundary for people who lashed back. As the young exodus people are trying to discover a new way of living outside the empire, God made sure there were some boundaries, like if someone breaks your are, you cannot go back and break their arm and their leg. If someone kills hundreds of your people, you cannot kill 160,000 of theirs. ** Read the whole entry here.
I personally agree with this interpretation and think it's about time we as Christians started looking at "punishment" differently...through the eyes of a redemptive Christ instead of through the eyes of a vindictive people.

I am the first to admit that, for me, much of this is philosophical (as a member of our faith community pointed out on my blog recently) since I've never experienced what it means to be a victim of a heinous violent crime. So please know that I'm trying not to get overly zealous about this issue. But it's important for all of us Christians to examine our ideals and filter them through the proper lens. And vengeance, no matter how you cut it, is not what we're called to.

I think that our penal system in America is offensive and reprehensible and that as Christians, if we're going to shout down people who receive abortions as murders, then we better turn the shouting inward. It might just cause us to drop our stones and walk away with heads bowed.


o2thoughtful said...

Makeesha, good post. Shane's book really challenged me on this point and I'm still working it through. Check out the rob bell sermon from pre Christmas called "calling all peacemakers", it's along similar lines. He talks about the need for active love, not pacifism.

Bringing it all back to practicalities - do your cops give up guns, your and our armies abandon Iraq and we ignore Darfur? Well, I think that's the wrong way to think about it and actually it's about how we can find a third way, a way to re-assert our humanity, a way to go the extra mile and make opposition rethink the violence they show.

Makeesha said...

I agree, it's not always easy. And I'm not officially a pacifist but am working out what it means to be a non violent peacemaker, but I am officially opposed to the death penalty.

I also agree that we need an "above the line" solution, a term I heard first used by Brian McLaren. Above the line is different than compromise and different than balance, it's a completely new and counter cultural solution all together.

I'm not claiming to have any answers but like Bell talked about in that series - we have to at least start thinking about it and working toward a more Christ like response.

Makeesha said...

By the by, in case anyone gets the wrong idea, I'm not necessarily suggesting that Christians have to be pacifist and opposed to the death penalty in order to be good Christians. It's all a matter of conviction.

David said...

Good stuff.
I'm not sure how to handle situations like Darfur and I don't think we should have put down our guns and let Hitler win, but I do believe that once someone is in a position where he or she can do no further harm to others then death is not the right answer. That goes beyond self-defense (peronsal or national) to Vengance and that's not our place.

John Lynch said...

Okay... I've just spent a half hour looking for a full-text online version of Martin Luther's 1524 treatise "Zwei-Reiche-Lehre" or "Doctrine of Two Kingdoms"... but had no luck. It speaks directly to this, helping create an integrated Christian response to injustice while helping us avoid homogenizing our beliefs into something that doesn't really follow Christ's example. Anyway, it's a VERY good read if you can track it down at your local Bible college / seminary library or if I can find the link.

Sam said...

Help me understand, please. on one hand you agree with abortion and do not think its murder of life. and make no mistake it is life of unborn humans that god created that is being ended by choice. if we found the same amount of living cells on mars, how much money would be spent to save them and being it back to earth?
Then on the other hand you think the death penalty is wrong because its vengence and or murder. its not, its punishment. God told the jews in Exodus and Deuteronomy, the punishment for certain acts was stoning. Least others become contemptable and do the same.
On judgement day, god is going to punish everyone who does not accept christ as lord and savior, by sending them to the burning lake of fire. there is a right way to act in this life and a wrong way. and if you live the wrong way there is punishment.
if stoning was still around, i know i would have not done some of the things i did 10 or 21 years ago. so help me understand your view.

Makeesha said...

I never said abortion isn't murder or that abortion isn't bad.

My theological response to your questions is addressed in the article by Claiborne.

Makeesha said...

I also want to say that threat of punishment does not change someone's heart and Jesus said that he is more concerned about the heart. Right behavior is important. Laws with consequences are important. I simply don't agree that death is an appropriate or redemptive consequence.

...not to mention that if I take your view of old covenant law regarding punishment, we need to take it all...including diet, laws of cleanliness, etc.

John Lynch said...

When confronted with the adulteress brought to Him by the Pharisees or with Saul, a murderer of Christians, or with any of the countless other transgressors condemned by Old Testament law, Jesus chose to redeem, rescue, & give life... not take life away.

John Lynch said...
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