Chuck Colson gives a needed rebuke to folks in the GOP who have been cheering death in recent presidential debates. He writes:
Let me be clear: I think that there are times when capital punishment is necessary and justified. But the thought of taking another person’s life, however heinous their crimes, should give us pause. It’s never to be made lightly or causally.
And it certainly shouldn’t be the occasion for cheering as the crowd in California audience did twice. If the governor’s response troubled me, the crowd’s cheering chilled me…
This whole episode left me wondering what kind of people we have become. The chill wasn’t helped when, at the next debate, the audience yelled “yeah!” when Representative Ron Paul was asked if a shortsighted 30-year-old without insurance should be allowed to die.
He danced around the answer to that question.
Politics is supposed to be about a search for the common good. It would be naïve to deny that power — both seeking after and exercising it — dominates modern politics. And I know from personal experience that American politics isn’t for the fainthearted: It can be and usually is a rough game.
But it’s not a blood sport. The answer to “how now shall we live” is not and cannot be “cheering the other guy’s demise.” I like to think that the people doing the cheering at the debates weren’t Christians. If they were, shame on them.
Read the rest here.
(HT: Michael Gerson)
The GOP debates have reminded me why I am not a Tea-Partier or a Republican… Being an Independent is the only option for me. I like Ron Paul, but that entire question/answer/audience response was very disheartening.
I believe cheers for the death penalty are proverbial:
Proverbs 11:10 When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices;
And when the wicked perish, there is jubilation.
No one should be shocked to hear cheers when the wicked die. That said, Christians should not rejoice in the demise of their enemies.
Proverbs 24:17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;
18 Lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him,
And He turn away His wrath from him.
I remember the sober feeling when seeing Saddam Hussein hanged for his crimes. I 100% agreed that he needed to die, but I also grieved that hell had just gained another soul. Hell and the death penalty are necessary things. God creates hell and commands humanity to use the death penalty (Gen. 9:6). That said, what a terrifying necessity they are!
Many Christians do not believe as you do. Here’s why:
if an unrepentant person is given ‘life without parole’, the possibility still exists that he may repent in the time before his natural death
if that person is executed, the possibility of repentance is no more
BTW . . . a lot of people use the sacred Scriptures to justify execution of criminals, and there will always be times when execution is necessary in situations where it is impossible to otherwise keep innocent people safe;
but IF a person can be kept incarcerated for life and there is no threat to the general welfare of others,
that is when some consideration MUST be given by Christian people to whether or not a person’s life NEEDS to be taken from them before their natural death by society.
The taking of human life by society is something that is becoming more controversial . . . . and when you see the ‘blood lust’ of the debate crowd, you understand how it can affect society negatively also.
Your statements seem to be without much merit to the sovereignty and power of God. A person sentenced to life without parole and a person sentence to death have plenty of time to come to a saving knowledge of Christ. The sentencing of a murderer to just life w/o parole seems to be not aligned to the idea of Gen 9:6. Would love to see your understanding on this better.
I agree with other commentators on this issue. The cheering was not of blood thirst. I saw the debate at that moment. It was the fact that someone stood up for justice and answered a horrible question well.
These are honest questions, so please accept them as such:
1) Do you mean to imply that Gen. 9:6 requires the death penalty for all murders? (I use the word ‘requires . . .’ as opposed to ‘allows . . . ‘ or ‘describes death as a result of murder.’
2) Do you mean to imply that the death penalty is per se valid?
3) If yes, does that extend to all cultures, justices systems, points in history?
Like I said, I am asking these questions honestly. I am in no way trying to put words in your mouth or trap you with these questions. I’m simply trying to unpack and better understand your sentence: “The sentencing of a murderer to just life w/o parole seems to be not aligned to the idea of Gen 9:6.”
Let me ask you a few questions to better help us both.
1) What is your idea in regard to what God meant in Gen. 9:6?
2) What time frame is Gen 9 written in regard to? In other words, who else was on the earth at the time this command was given to Noah and his sons?
3) How important is our being created in God’s image important to our Creator?
Thanks for your answers
I suppose the cheering is for justice. If a murderer rapes and kills a young girl, they in too many States are given life, and parol sometimes, I’m thinking. The justice system has become way too one sided. This last death penalty case in point. they focus on those who didn’t want the execution. But little is shown of the mother of the police officer who was shot in the face and murdered in cold blood.
“when Representative Ron Paul was asked if a shortsighted 30-year-old without insurance should be allowed to die.
He danced around the answer to that question.”
I’d like to know more about this. Ron is a good Christian man.
I am wondering what your thoughts are regarding last night’s debate when Ron Paul was asked about the exception for abortion for rape and incest. How can he state being the most pro-life candidate and hold to a positive position on this exception?
Ron said that is where charity comes in, but that charity is different from using the gov’t to force others to pay for you.
I’m not going to address the Ron Paul thing. Sounds weird, need more context, not sure what was going on there.
But as to the cheering of Perry on capital punishment, Colson is talking rubbish. I would have been cheering with the crowd had I been among them. As Perry himself said, Americans understand justice. It is one thing to condone the cruel torture of a criminal, heinous or otherwise. It is another to cheer over his swift, clean execution. There is a perfectly right and proper satisfaction we should have when justice is served.
YGG, you are certainly consistently integral in your opinions, I’ll give you that.
The same spirit flows through your many comments.
Thank you. I like being consistent. The same spirit flows through your comments too.
thank you for posting this . . .
when did the incident occur with the people cheering ‘yes’ when the question was asked Ron Paul, this:
‘should society let him die?’
I don’t think it was at last night’s debate
I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to discover that the cheering individuals were planted. One of the moderators on last night’s debate said that the person or persons who booed the gay soldier yesterday were not even audibly heard on the stage. In any event, even if there were a couple of nut jobs in a big auditorium and political event, why would that surprise us?
First, “the audience” did not yell “yeah” regarding the health care question to Ron Paul. One person did. And I imagine that he speaks for about one person as well. To insinuate that his reply is representative of conservatives, Republicans, Ron Paul fans, libertarians, or otherwise is a gross overstatement, and I think Colson should acknowledge that.
Second, the Bible teaches that one day we will celebrate God’s judgment on the wicked. So it can’t be sinful in itself to celebrate God’s wrath against sinners (and yes, the state is the instrument of God’s wrath against wickedness, Rom 13). And the Proverbs example quoted above seems relevant as well.
Third, I think the cheering is better understood in light of the broader culture war. I understood the cheering to be an expression of approval for someone who understands the concept of justice (as Perry himself said). Many conservative Americans are frustrated that some in society want to coddle heinous criminals, but punish little girls who have a lemonade stand, or send in the SWAT team because a guitar maker uses the wrong kind of imported wood (both of which happened recently). In other words, the cheering is an expression of identification with a politician who understands proportionality. Certain people deserve death (like child murderers). Others deserve to be left alone (like young entrepreneurs).
In short, I think Colson whiffed this one (or at least, fouled it out of play).
Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live…
Just to balance things out. Is it possible to rejoice in justice executed and grieve for lost souls at the same time?
“Just to balance things out. Is it possible to rejoice in justice executed and grieve for lost souls at the same time?”
that is an excellent question . . .
perhaps one way to answer it is this:
‘society’ is sometimes given a ‘choice’:
do we incarcerate for life, giving an opportunity to come to repentence?
do we execute an unrepentant person?
if we ‘choose’ the former, we give affirmation that a person can repent and be saved
if we ‘choose’ the latter, we as a society have closed the door to possible repentance and salvation . . .
isn’t it strange that there are many Christians who ‘celebrate’ closing that door and feel that they are justified fully,
and yet they grieve for the lost in this world sincerely?
I am Roman Catholic. I celebrate a culture of life from conception to natural death.
For myself, I would grieve at the closing of the door of opportunity that ‘life without parole’ offers for possible eventual repentance . . .
There are different ways to look at this, yes.
But, if we are asked at judgment, did we do all in our power to ‘choose life’, what then do we answer ?
What are the ‘boundaries’ of our responsibility as a society?
Are we the arm of God’s justice?
Or are we the ones who, having received the mercy of God in our own lives, would then close the door of opportunity for that mercy to eventually be received by another ?
We, as a civil society, must choose . . .
but as individuals, there is another thought from an old Judaic saying:
‘If I am not for myself, who will be?
If I am not for others, what am I ?
If not now, when?
Do we permanently close the door for another human being that was opened for us by God’s merciful loving-kindness?
As a society, our choice WILL determine ‘WHO WE ARE’..
I don’t think Ron Paul was being dogmatic about rape and incest. His bottom line thinking is the US Constitution needs to rule the nation, and not people making thousands of laws. Ron is pro-life, and he is a doctor really. There’s more to his thoughts on this subject for sure, and if we could sit and talk a while then I’m fairly sure he would show that he is pro-life across the board, and yet we have to allow for each State to have their secular ways. The Sate is not the Church. Much bigger discussion than this short comment, but thanks for asking.
Have a great Lord’s day!
After the audience reaction to him saying “Yes”. This is what Ron Paul said, “No. I practiced medicine before we had Medicaid, in the early 1960s, when I got out of medical school. I practiced at Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio, and the churches took care of them. We never turned anybody away from the hospitals,” said Paul to additional applause. “And we’ve given up on this whole concept that we might take care of ourselves and assume responsibility for ourselves. Our neighbors, our friends, our churches would do it. This whole idea, that’s the reason the cost is so high. The cost is so high because they dump it on the government, it becomes a bureaucracy,” he added.
Yeah he danced around the issue- whatever. His answer is not only dead right, but should have the support of every Christian. The idea that the medically needy would turn to churches and not to government is something at which a Christian like Colson should be jumping for joy.
Whether or not Ron Paul is saved I do not know. What I do know is he was a pro-life OBGYN who delivered over 4,000 babies. If anyone knows the value of taking care of a person in need of medical attention, it’s him.
I’m not registered as a Republican, so I can’t vote for him in the primaries, but I really get tired of defending the guy. People need to actually read and listen to what he says. Not what we project on him to say.
Precisely. Who cares if a few cook-balls cheered at that particular moment? Look at what Paul himself actually said. And there was a much bigger and fuller cheer after he said “we [the churches] never turned anybody away.”
‘Precisely’ . . . ? Which of three incidents are you talking about in your first sentence?
cheering executions, or cheering the death of an uninsured single man, or booing a United States soldier stationed in AFG ?
It’s called “context.” Read what comes immediately after sentence one and figure it out.
She wasn’t talking about any of the three incidents. She was talking about Colson’s evaluation of Ron Paul’s answer. The focus was on the crowd (wrongly) instead of what the candidate actually said. The crowd is not seeking election, the candidate is. The candidate did not appreciate the audience’s response. You know if your going to spout your opinion, at least think before you jump on someone else’s comment like that.
Well I was specifically talking about the Ron Paul incident as opposed to Perry or Santorum. Which I think should have been obvious.
The three ‘incidents’ have a ‘connection’ . . .
can you guess what it is ?????
Yeah. They involved Republican candidates giving more or less reasonable answers to loaded questions (though in the Santorum case, the position now being embraced as the “conservative” one seems so inadequate to me that I had trouble working up much interest one way or the other there).
I apologize for having to reply lower down on the page. Apparently, your question had reached the maximum level of sub-threads. (There is no option to reply to your last comment.) Regardless, here are my answers to your questions. (I’ll copy and paste the original questions, so anybody else reading this does not have to constantly jump back and forth between this comment and your original questions at the to of the page.)
“1) What is your idea in regard to what God meant in Gen. 9:6?”
> Obviously, this is an extremely broad question, so I’ll tailor my answer to the very narrow context of my original questions to you: I do not believe that Gen. 9:6 establishes a per se validity of all capital punishment.
“2) What time frame is Gen 9 written in regard to? In other words, who else was on the earth at the time this command was given to Noah and his sons?”
> I’ll confess that your question is very confusing for me, and that’s likely on my end, not yours. The reason I’m confused is because the first question, (“What time frame is Gen 9 written in regard to?”), does not seem like it is the same as the second question, (“who else was on the earth at the time this command was given to Noah and his sons?”). The reason I’m confused is because you preface the second question with the phrase “In other words,” which to me implies that you intend both questions to be read as one in the same. Are they related? Sure. However, if you mean to imply the same question by both, then I would humbly ask for some clarification.
If you’re simply asking for the context of when and to whom this was said, then it was said to Noah and his family immediately following the flood. If you’re asking whether I believe that this is a statement of pre-Moses law, (a part of the Noahide Laws, perhaps?), which we as the NT church are still under, then my answer is much, much more complex. In short, I believe that this does establish a principle against murder which existed before the Mosaic law and which extends to the NT church. However, I do not believe that this establishes a per se validity of (or requirement for) capital punishment.
“3) How important is our being created in God’s image important to our Creator?”
Finally, as an aside, I do want to reiterate that my original questions were merely meant to seek clarification on what you, personally, were saying. As such, I would greatly appreciate you answering my original questions.
Sorry for the delay! I did not find your response until yesterday when I happen to just scroll all the way down. Thanks for answering the questions I had for they helped me understand a bit better.
1) How would you define the term “must” or as other translated it as “shall”? When has anyone seen these as mere suggestions? You say it does not bring to bear all capital punishment. If you mean by that the old west hanging for stealing horses, I am with you on that. However, you will have to go through some exegetical hula hoops to argue that Gen 9:6 is not a command.
2) Sorry that my question was a bit confusing. I reread it and found it confusing myself. However, the answer to the second question answers your 3rd question you asked me. If the only people on earth at the time was Noah and his family and all our cultures are derived from them, one would rightly conclude that all cultures are under such a mandate.
3) The validity concern is surprising to me. You agree that it is applicable to the NT in regard to murder is wrong. Yet, you try to divorce the second part of the command from the Lord regarding what the punishment is for such a notorious sin.
Perusing the NT, nowhere is capital punishment either rejected or condemned but actually supported in Romans 14 by Paul.
I hope that this helps. Again, sorry for the delay
With all due respect, (and I really do mean that), I don’t really have the time or energy to keep answering your questions on this thread. If you are truly interested in my positions regarding translation and exegesis, then I fully authorize Denny Burk (or whoever moderates these threads) to release my email address to you privately, and I will be glad to answer any questions you may have.
However, as it currently stands, you and I do, and will continue to, disagree sharply, and it’s clear that we both feel very strongly about this issue. Knowing my own propensity to argue incessantly, I don’t think that it would be beneficial to keep splitting hairs on this thread. I do not think that this is a an issue of first order (or even second order) importance in theology, so I suggest we simply leave it at that.
I am sorry to hear that questions are a concern for you. Does not one have a “conversation” by asking questions? I thought I stated my positions fairly clear. Honestly, there was only two questions in my last post and they were in response to your first initial question. The other two questions you asked, I thought I answered fully as well.
I do not know where we disagree on exactly. I guess I will differ to your latest response that we are miles apart.
Though we may differ on this issue and the issue does not directly speak towards salvation, I think there is valid concern as to how one achieves a position that would seem contradictory at first glance with what Scripture makes abundantly clear. I may be missing something, but I guess I will never know.
Until next time….
“I am sorry to hear that questions are a concern for you.” Your questions are of no concern for me. I’m very familiar with the majority of theologically conservative evangelical ethics literature concerning capital punishment, which all focus, to some degree, on Gen. 9:6. When I said, “I don’t really have the time or energy to keep answering your questions on this thread,” I meant exactly what I said. No time. No energy. You asked a questions which concern translation, exegesis and theology.
A proper exploration of that passage would require highly technical knowledge of both the original languages and exegetical principles, not to mention the theological application of the passage once you’ve decided what it actually says.
“Does not one have a “conversation” by asking questions?” Building upon what I said above: This is precisely why I offered to have the conversation privately. I do not think it is wise or beneficial to bicker on the comments section of a blog post over highly technical issues of translation, exegesis and theology. If you read my original comments, I was merely asking for a clarification of what you said, not why you said it. If you want to have a conversation, ask the moderator(s) for my email address, and I will be glad to continue this conversation one-on-one.
I’ll repeat what I’ve already said: As it currently stands, you and I do, and will continue to, disagree sharply, and it’s clear that we both feel very strongly about this issue. Knowing my own propensity to argue incessantly, I don’t think that it would be beneficial to keep splitting hairs on this thread. I do not think that this is a an issue of first order (or even second order) importance in theology, so I suggest we simply leave it at that.
I hope you’ll forgive me for not responding to whatever else you might post here on this topic. I’m not ignoring you or trying to avoid your questions; rather, I simply do not feel that this is an appropriate forum for that discussion. Also, I’m turning off my subscription to this thread, so I probably won’t see anything else posted on the issue here.
You stated, “A proper exploration of that passage would require highly technical knowledge of both the original languages and exegetical principles, not to mention the theological application of the passage once you’ve decided what it actually says.” Speaks volumes to your issue.
I am unsure as to what problems you have with when the text seems to clearly teach what it states. One is hard press to argue that the church has misunderstood Gen 9:6 for two thousand years. Your desire for technical dialogue seems a bit out of place for such a verse.
Though I hesitate to ask but, how else would you translate it? It is not like we are debating Gen 6 where the Sons of God are involved with the women of man, where such a technical debate is required.
Thanks for your willingness.