Today I participated in the vigil in Mobile, marking yet another execution in Alabama. There were not many of us: we are a nation, it seems, in
overwhelming popular vote goes to killing our enemies as a solution to our problems. We barely got over the glee we felt at killing Bin Laden, and now we can rejoice over another death of another killer. Killing is wrong, so we kill those who kill.
We are a majority Christian country – certainly Alabama is a majority Christian State. But reading the comments on the web-version of every article about those who have been or will soon be executed, you would think we were all back in the days of Joshua in the Old Testament, ready to slaughter every Canaanite in sight, with justice and joy. Comments went like this:
“use the same gun he used. remember he killed four human beings,so shoot him at least four times.”
Have we learned anything at all since the days of the ancient Near East?
“Then they devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys.” (Joshua 6:21)
Yesterday’s lectionary daily reading was from Luke 6
27“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.
There is precious little spirit for giving those words a hearing these days.
Later, at the supper table, my son and I got into a discussion of the question: do
the ends ever justify the means? It seems that many people have heard the phrase, “the ends justifies the means” and think that because it is common, it is also correct. Nothing is more clearly incorrect. If the end goal is justifiable, then justify it – out of necessity, or moral imperative, or some other criteria. But the goal we want to achieve is just that, a goal; it is not an argument for the way in which we decide to accomplish the goal. It may be a good, justifiable goal to have peaceful streets and quiet cities, but that worthy goal does not justify shooting protesters in the streets as they are doing today in Syria. Ends do not justify means. If the means are justifiable, then let’s hear the arguments that justify them.
How do we justify the purposeful taking of human life? How do Christians justify it in the face of Jesus’ teachings?
Today, at the vigil we read John 8, the story of the attempted execution that Jesus was present for. What did he do? He stopped it. It was the case of the woman caught in adultery. They were ready to stone her. Their scriptures (the Old Testament) said they should. They wanted to. Probably they felt the glee coming on. Jesus told them:
“Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)
We just don’t look at it that way here in Alabama.