Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Is There a Time to Kill?



I am a man of few emotions.  Yet emotions were high as I heard the news of the horrific violence happening across the world from where I live safe and secure.  News of innocents by the thousands being killed and tortured.  It reminded me of the things I read in history books, suffering at the hands of humans so high, because of a reason as primitive as a difference in religion.

Emotions from an unemotional man is what drove me to begin this article on violence.  My goal is not to try to persuade you to see this topic my way, but I do want to provide an adjustment in the lens through which you see so that you can form your own perspective with a greater degree of clarity.

Where do you believe is the place for violence, if any, in this world?

Violence is such a broad subject, so let me narrow it down a bit.  After all, it would be hard to argue against inflicting pain in general, as sometimes pain is necessary for healing to begin, ask the surgeon.  When it comes down to it, I believe even the average pacifist will allow that sometimes it's necessary to inflict pain on another person in order to prevent an even greater amount of pain in the end.  But even this is such a broad, grey area, and very situational.  I'll narrow it down a bit more.

Killing.  Even if we could understand the time and death for causing the death of another person, we would have a great deal of insight.  This understanding doesn't come easy, and the world is full of disagreement.  However, let's look at the value of the human life before we discuss the ethics of ending it.

One cannot put a quantifiable measure on the life of a human; human life is priceless.   I hope we are in agreement so far.  This subjective viewpoint of mine is shared by most other people, and it should be.  Just as we see, think, breath, have emotions and a desire to be happy, so do other people.  We form relationships with other people, and these connections are worth more than material things, or at least it should be.  The death of a loved one is devastating.

Yet, in order to look at things objectively, we need to step back a bit from our own bias as a member of the species we are referring to and look at our origin.  If you think you know where I am going with this and you don't like it, don't stop reading.  I have all sorts of writings that aim to preach and persuade, and this is not one of them.  Hear me out.

There are two main opinions on our origin.  One is that we are a result of chance and nature taking its course, and the other is that an intellectual being aided our formation.  Let's take a look at these two in order to determine how much a human life is worth.


If We Weren't Created

A secular viewpoint devoid of any deity would place our objective value no higher than that what our own intellect would allow.  That is, what gives us our value is our advancement in the evolutionary chain.  We are important and our lives are sacred by virtue of our ability to comprehend our existence at a higher level than the animals.  Please, if I'm getting things wrong, let me know, as this is not my viewpoint and I'm not sure if I'm representing it fairly.

But still, the naturalist would argue that just because they might not necessarily believe in God, their lives have value nonetheless.

Okay.  I mean, of course I have arguments against this belief.  I would claim that if we no more than just a highly advanced species of animal, any deaths is just a result of nature taking its toll and no solid moral structure may be attributed to the subject.  Yet, for now, I'll try to go on without being too antagonistic of this point of view.

The naturalist may not have the same moral foundation as the theist, but this isn't to say that they are without a guideline to judge something as right or wrong.  After all, they could say that anything that furthers the cause of the well being of the human species as a whole is the right course of action.  So therefore, it's right to protect lives of humans, for they are part of the community of beings that we ourselves belong to.

Tell me, naturalist, secularist, atheist, how does killing fit into your world view?  When is okay for one person to take the life of another?  Can we be agreed that it's not okay to kill based on ethnicity, gender, or religion?  After all, all sorts of diversity in the belief systems of man can be allowed while still allowing for the overall human population to flourish - as long as it's not a world view that believes in killing for the aforementioned reasons.


If We Were Created

Created man has a value greater than his ability to live or attribute to the general health of the human population.  This is, at least, if our Creator created us on purpose with a reason, and not by accident.  We'll say that whatever deity made us gave us a function or a purpose.  Even if our purpose is unclear, the whole existence of the supernatural opens up the possibility that our lives may not end at death, at least not the lives of our hypothetical spirit or soul.

Let me be clear that I'm not only stating this as a Christian, but as an objective thinker:   the mere possibility that we have an immortal spirit able to survive an infinite amount of time should make us hesitant to kill for any reason at all.  After all, how can we know what awaits us after death?  Although some have claimed to have passed through death's gates, seen into the afterlife, and returned, we as members of a different club have no way of being certain of the specifics (and although this is a bit off topic, I would argue that the people with after death experiences shouldn't see that as definite proof - see my page "Our Spirits After Death").

If your viewpoint of your deity allows for the killing of others for reasons of race or religion, I'm sorry that you feel that way.  I disagree with you, and you are wrong, but I love you.  I hope you come to a frame of mind that's not only healthier to the rest of the human race, but to you as well.

If you're not sure what your deity would allow in the way of killing, I suggest you keep on reading and perhaps you'll discover a perspective that you find agreeable.


What Does the Bible Say About Killing?

After all, if our origin is indeed the result of the God of the Bible, he would have the final say in what is permissible.

A few phrases against killing from the Bible (NIV):

Exodus 20:13 - You shall not murder

Ezekiel 18:32 - For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD.  Repent and live!

Matthew 5:39 - But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.

Matthew 22:39 - And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.'

Proverbs 20:22 - Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you.

Romans 12:19 - Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

A few phrases that seem to allow for killing in the Bible:

Numbers 25:16-17 - The Lord said to Moses, “Treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them.

Jeremiah 44:30 - This is what the Lord says: ‘I am going to deliver Pharaoh Hophra king of Egypt into the hands of his enemies who want to kill him, just as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the enemy who wanted to kill him.’”

Jeremiah 50:21 - “Attack the land of Merathaim and those who live in Pekod. Pursue, kill and completely destroy them,” declares the Lord. “Do everything I have commanded you.


So is Killing Okay or Not?

I believe it's easiest to explain my point of view, which is also backed by what we find in the bible, with an illustration (which I heard from John Piper).  Suppose an employee is stealing from an employer, whether it's stealing money or resources or not doing the job that they are getting paid to do.  The employer may desire to show mercy in response to this misconduct.  However, in the interest in keeping their company and its values afloat, it may be necessary to discipline this employee, perhaps by firing them.

This world has values that it upholds.  Values like the sanctity of life.  If the world as a whole does nothing to prevent killing, their failure to act or react shows how strongly they feel about this moral value.

When we look at the Bible to see where killing is outlawed, and where it is commanded, a pattern shows up.  When an individual kills for their own selfish desires, it is wrong.  However, when the killing is done on behalf of an organization or entity in charge of upholding moral values, it is sometimes permitted given the situation.  For hypothetical instance, it's not okay for Joe to kill Jim for money, but it's okay for Joe to kill Jim because he is in the opposite army.

The Bible says that we are to respect our authorities:

Romans 13:1-4 - Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.  For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

Notice how this passage allows for rulers to "bear the sword," in other words, act with violence?  This is matched by how John the Baptist didn't tell the soldiers to leave their position when they approached him in Luke 3.

So, in my opinion, one should detest killing, as we are to love our enemies.  However, in order to uphold the sanctity of human life we should do our best to dissuade those who don't have this value, and kill because of it, even if it means we ourselves need to kill to do so.  I believe killing may be a necessity, but only as a last resort.

If you don't call yourself a Christian, feel free to skip on to the next section. 

As a Christian, I see souls as being immortal and falling into one of two categories:  the saved and the not saved.  As a member of one of the saved, I would lay my life down for the one who wants to kill me, as they are assumedly in the "not saved" category and their soul would be sentenced to eternity in Hell should they die.  Of course this means as a Christian, my ethics would guide my actions down a different path than many others, and at times this may lead my decisions to be seen with confusion or disdain by others.

 
Current Events

Today the big world news is centered on Ukraine and the tension between Russia and the members of NATO.  As much as I do not want to downplay the serious nature of this event, I wish to shift our attention instead to another, less prevalent but still infamous issue:  ISIS.

Short for Islamic State, the extremist group ISIS is responsible for horrors so evil that it's hard to wrap my head around the fact that this is still happening today's day and age.  Their acts of terror consists of beheading public figures and putting it on the internet for the world to see, keeping girls and women captive and using them as sex slaves, torturing and killing people by the hundreds, forcing people out of their homes by the tens of thousands.

Recently I saw/heard a couple of questions posed by the media that concerned me.  They were asking "do you think that ISIS poses a threat to Canadian/American security?"  To me, this is the wrong question to be asking.  The right question would be, "is ISIS a significant enough force of evil that the world should step in and stop them?"

The reason I am singling out ISIS amongst an unending stream of deaths, including devastating loss of civilians in the Gaza conflict, is because I believe there is a difference between a group of innocents dying as undesirable collateral damage, and peaceful civilians being the target of violence.


Just one human life is so sacred, so important, so valuable that the loss of any single one is devastating.  This whole topic has moved me emotionally.  Thanks for listening and allowing me to vent a bit.  I hope that my words have helped you somewhat your personal perspective.

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