Do-Your-Own-Theology: Ethics 101 and The Church

The church, as many people know, has a history of supporting death as a way of dealing with people it considers unsavory.  This is a truly dumb idea, and not particularly Christian.

My friend Lynn Carman Bodden, an ordained UCC clergywoman, posted a cause on Facebook that I couldn’t believe. It’s a complaint about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s lack of courage in one area and perceived over-zealousness in another area.

The cause blurb says, “The Archbishop of Canterbury has failed to exercise moral leadership to protect gays & lesbians in Uganda and has instead exercised political pressure to attack a bishop-elect in Los Angeles because she is a lesbian.”

It goes on to say, “The proposed legal actions that would make homosexuality punishable by death in Uganda, and the lack of outrage regarding this proposed action by the Church of Uganda… ” [Italics mine]

What an exceptionally dumb idea.  Let’s assume, for the sake of the argument, that the Bishop  doesn’t believe in lesbianism. Let’s say he thinks its a sin.  OK, it’s open to debate and it’s not my position, but OK.  Killing people because you think they’re sinners is a really dumb idea. In fact, it’s pretty much the ultimate dumb idea. It has been a dumb idea and it continues to be a dumb idea.

(I should be clear here. I’m not sure the Archbishop is pro killing of lesbians. In fact, I hope he’s not, but there’s a history in Christianity that comes to mind that I wanted to address.)

So, here’s my reasoning:  In the Old Testament, in the 10 Commandments, it says, “You shall not kill”.  Seems fairly clear to me, and straightforward.  In fact, the Hebrew is something like “Don’t kill!”.  But there are those who would point out that it means something like “Don’t murder!”, which differentiates between general “killing” (like for dinner) and planned killing (against people, and supposedly not in war).  Making laws to kill people doesn’t make it any less murder to me, but we do it all the time.  So…

Next, in the New Testament, Jesus — the founder of our faith — says, “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you”.  I don’t want people to kill me, so I don’t kill them, no matter what kind of a jerk I can be.  He’s also against being angry and likens that to killing/murder (I’m not sure what the Greek/Hebrew says).  I can’t beat that rap, as I get angry, so that’s not going to work.  Which leads me to …

In the Old Testament, it says, “‘Vengeance is mine‘, says the Lord.”   And that’s where I stand pat.  If, in fact, God is the ultimate judge of sins, then it’s not our place to be the judge for sins.  Sadly, of course, we do judge people for their sins, me included.  It’s the ultimate part that we don’t generally do.

In therapy, I frequently tell people, “Therapy works best with the living“.  That means the first thing I have to do is keep people alive. After that, they can work out whatever problems they have.  If I don’t do the first, I can’t help them do the second.

If salvation is the goal, the same rule applies. Salvation works best when people are alive to be saved. After that, all bets are off.  Until then, there’s still hope.  If I kill the person, I short-circuit the process, I take all hope of salvation from them. Nothing could be more against the God Who Saves’ plan than preventing salvation.  It’s that simple.

So, killing people that you want to save (if, in fact, you want to save them)  makes no sense.  Now, personally I don’t feel the need to save lesbians from themselves, so I don’t see any need to kill them… or witches, or gay people, or Jews, or non-Catholics, or non-Protestants or anybody else. The list goes on.   And, by my standards, other Christians shouldn’t kill them either.  So, Christian = Don’t kill people you want to save and don’t kill people you like. Simple as that.

And yet, oddly, the Church has done it on so many occasions and can’t understand why people think we’re hypocrites or murderers.  Did I mention it was a dumb idea? So, in case anybody hasn’t said it lately — the Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, the killing of gay folks by the Nazis with the support of the church, the fiasco of 17th century British religious history (change leaders, change religions, kill the last one) — all really dumb ideas for the church.  Nobody should be killed with the blessings of the church, ever. Even if we don’t like them.

Oh, by the way, the killing of people for falling in love  in Uganda or anywhere else — another really dumb idea. Stop that law. Now!

Peace,

John

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