Sunday, 26 May 2013

Spreading hate

This popped up on my Facebook earlier today:

I remember when I was in sixth form we in our critical thinking class were discussing whether we thought the death penalty was right or not. Saddam Hussein had not long been executed which was why it had come up. It was certainly interesting to hear people's views, many were against it in principle but agreed that Hussein should die for what he'd done, others felt no one should undergo the death sentence no matter what and some (but not many) believed capital punishment is an effective deterrent to crime and should be reintroduced. Personally I am not in favour. I believe that all life is sacred, all life is precious. No one has a greater or lesser degree of dignity than another. We are all created equal, we share equally in the fact that our dignity stems from our being made in the image and likeness of God. I firmly believe that no one has the right to take the life of another. Michael Adebolajo had no right to murder Lee Rigby but the State has no right to execute him either. I know that many people are very angry about what happened, I too was shocked and appalled when I heard how brutal the attack was. Some would say that I am wrong to say that Adebolajo should live having done something so dreadful, that it isn't fair for him to keep on living, that his crime calls for the supreme punishment and to stop further attacks of this nature we need to have a hard line on people like him.

I have several issues with all this.
1) Assuming that there will be more attacks like this and capital punishment is the required antidote/deterrent is scare mongering. There is no evidence that there will be a wide scale attack upon our service men and women by Muslim extremists. From what I have understood thus far from the media reports there are a lot of questions that need answering about why he was allowed to settle here when he had a history of extremism etc. but there is no sign of any imminent threat. And one reason this attack was so deeply distressing is that we have never seen anything like this happen before, there have not been previous murders like this. Jumping the gun is only more likely to make people paranoid and hostile than protect us from threats.
2) Michael Adebolajo is a human being. Yes he has committed a terrible, terrible crime but he is still a human person. He deserves to be punished, don't get me wrong, but we must not lose sight of his humanity. Adebolajo didn't see Rigby as a person with equal dignity, equal humanity which is why he did what he did but we should not demean ourselves by coming down to that level, letting hatred cloud our eyes that we see a human life as no longer worthy of living. This makes us as bad as him and the preachers that influenced him. We must take the higher ground.
3) Capital punishment is not an effective deterrent to crime. Countries that have it still have murders and hate crimes committed, the thought of "what might happen if I'm caught" evidently doesn't cross their minds, they either believe they won't be caught or, like Adebolajo they want to be to publicise what they've done and why.
4) Capital punishment is not about justice, it is about revenge. It is about getting our 'pound of flesh' our 'eye for an eye' when the response that we need to give is forgiveness. We need to give it not only to stop ourselves from forgetting the value of every human life but we also need to forgive if we are to properly mourn and heal. Hatred is insidious; it festers in the heart, makes us bitter as resentful, it eats away at us, hurting us ever more deeply, fragmenting us. Forgiving those who do us harm lets love rule in us and not hatred, that doesn't mean we are doormats but are not consumed by our anger. It helps to keep us whole and to move forward.
5) We need a penal system that reforms criminals as well as punishes. It's all well and good to say we need deterrents but we need to stop the cycle of reoffending too. Deterrent alone won't work.

I agree something needs to be done to stop the radicalisation of young people. I don't know what, I can't give that answer but I do know acting out of anger and a desire for vengeance will only make things worse. We will make things worse. Lee Rigby's family need our love and support not our loud cries for blood. Will executing Adebolajo bring Lee back? No. Will it heal the wounds? No. Will it help at all? No. Forgiveness is the hardest path to take, but it is the most fruitful and the most worthwhile.


  1. I notice you never consult God. See Genesis 9:5-6. There God gives a death penalty for murder only to both Jews and Gentiles (keep this separate from the over 30 death penalties God gave to Jews only). In Genesis 9:5-6 God gives a reason which is perennial not situational or history context limited. God's reason for giving the death penalty for murder is that the VICTIM is made in the image of God.

    1. Actually I do;

      "You have heard it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." Matthew 5:38-39
      " You have heard it was said 'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:43-44

      Jesus calls us to love and to act always from that love and not to seek acts of revenge.

  2. Then why did Jesus as part of the Trinity inspire Romans 13:4 after...postdating your above quote of Him? It reads..." not without reason does the state carry the sword, for it is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who does evil.". You cannot use red letter words of Christ to void epistles which Vatican II said have God as their author. You are using parts of God's word to defeat other parts of God's word. Aquinas saw Romans 13:4 as pivotal on the death penalty. It was written while Rome had life sentences in the mines.
    Take the two largest Catholic populations....Brazil and Mexico. Both have terrible prison systems, no death penalty, and murder rates exponentially higher than Shinto Japan. The two worst countries for murder...El Salvador and Honduras....have no death penalty and are 97% and 79% Catholic.

  3. now your readers will never see Romans 13:4. And....You're doing this for God?

    1. Sorry, I have not been on my computer in a few days which is why it has taken me time to post these and reply. You can't moderate comments from the blogger app.

      The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us;

      2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
      If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

      Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent."

  4. Reintroducig the death penalty in this country is not necessary. We need a better way to deal with perpetrators of serious crimes and better rehabilitation methods too but capital punishment will not make our country any safer. We have to learn to forgive, not forget, but forgive. Death sentences are about revenge and nothing more.


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