Thou Shalt Not Kill, or Something

Thou Shalt Not Kill, or Something
Many years ago I was engaged in a conversation with a young woman on the topic of morality. She informed me after a bit that she derived her morals from the Bible. I soon came to understand that she took the Bible as the inerrant word of God. Everything was exactly true as written; there was to be no interpretation. This, incidentally, is the view of a sizable proportion of the Christians residing in the United States.

I asked her what she took the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” to mean. She said it was obvious. It was never morally acceptable to take a human life. I asked if the rule was perhaps too strict and maybe meant for an earlier time in history. She said no, it was meant for back then, and now, and forever into the future, for all places on Earth, and beyond, for that matter. It was absolute. It was God’s law. It was written in plain language. There were no, absolutely no, exceptions. She was extremely adamant.

I asked, “By the way, what’s your view on capital punishment?”

Without a moment’s hesitation, she replied, “Oh, I’m in favor of it.”

After I determined that she understood that capital punishment meant taking the life of a human being, I asked if that meant she was allowing an exception to the so-called absolute rule of never taking a human life. She said, “Well, the people they execute are really bad, so they deserve to be killed.”

I replied, “Perhaps so. But then that would be an exception, and you said there were no exceptions– absolutely no exceptions, ever, for any reason whatsoever.”

We went back and forth for a while, I thinking that she was being inconsistent. She got a bit flustered and said I just don’t understand. We then parted ways.

Incidentally, I had a very good friend years ago, now unfortunately deceased, who was a devout Christian. He took what he construed to be the peaceful message of Jesus to heart. He was against all violence, including all wars. He was against capital punishment. He told me he would never kill another human. This was his principled stand, based on his close study of the Bible. I presented a variety of moral dilemmas to him and in all he said he would refuse to take another human life. He would rather that he die rather than do so. Although I disagreed with him on many aspects of his stand, I gave him great credit for his moral integrity, his thoughtfulness, and his consistency. It is my impression that his view represents a minority view among Christians.

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