Saturday, May 07, 2011

Is there anyone whom God will not forgive?

Those [clergy] who plan to discuss the news with their congregants say the killing of Osama bin Laden is cause for relief, but not for joy. "I'm not in the middle of the street rejoicing that he is dead. I don't condone murder. But I do condone justice," said Pastor xx of xx....Though all said the decision to kill was the correct one, some struggle to reconcile their teachings...with the jubilant celebrations that erupted... (The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Saturday, May 7, 2011)

I wrote about this last Monday right after it happened, but it was a week of trying to deal with it, a week, for me, of feeling more and more isolated. I heard a congressman on Tuesday say, "All Americans delight in the death of this man." I most emphatically do not. The President continued to say all week long that this was a triumph of American values-the doing of justice. I disagree. And this morning all of my colleagues interviewed in the newspaper "said the decision to kill was the correct one." I am horrified that at least Christians would say so. I do not.

We assume there is a category of people who are obviously "truly evil" and with whom we have no responsibility for due process or restraint in the use of violence. These are the ones we are sure "deserve it." But there are significant questions that need to be asked. Is such an assumption biblical? I do not believe so, especially when it is Jesus with whom we are interpreting the Bible. Is this justice from a biblical point of view? Again, I do not believe so. Where does one draw the line to arrive at the "truly evil?" Must they be mass murderers? Or are they simply unrepentant sinners? Are they those who are obviously going to hell, whom God will not forgive? Who gets to decide that? Is there anyone whom God will not forgive?

These questions are why the Episcopal Church has categorically opposed the death penalty since 1958. Of course, it is argued that bin Laden was an enemy combatant in the "War on Terror." Do we shoot unarmed enemy combatants as a matter of course? Somehow I don't think so.

This is strong language, but I think the vast majority of Christians this week were completely captive to emotional, cultural values. Christianity was cowardly this week. The message is that if we get hurt or frightened or angry enough, we do not have to follow the way of the one we call Lord.

Someone posted the following quote from C.S. Lewis on the Episcopal General Convention's Bishops & Deputies List. It tells the hard truth.

The practical problem about charity (in one's prayer) is very hard work, isn't it? When you pray for Hitler and Stalin how do you actually teach yourself to make the prayer real? The two things that help me are (a) A continual grasp of the idea that one is only joining one's feeble little voice to the perpetual intercession of Christ who died for these very men. (b) A recollection, as firm as I can make it, of all one's own cruelty; which might have blossomed under different conditions into something terrible. You and I are not at bottom so different from these ghastly creatures.

Letter to Dom Bede Griffiths, 16 Apr 1940

1 comment:

LilBearSings said...

I am one of those people who thinks that we always must distance ourselves from god in order to kill anyone. To me, killing is to fail God. Period. No exceptions. In the case of some people we decide to kill anyway because we don't want to allow them the chance to commit any more atrocities. We commit an atrocity to stop atrocities. This does not make us heros. It makes us filthy and in need of cleaning and foregivness because it is a human failing and a stench in God's nostrils. It may not be avoidable but it is still a terrible polutant to the character of the ones who have to do the killing, and is one of the "sins done on our behalf" that we beg foregiveness for in our Confession.