Wed | May 22, 2019

Orville Taylor | Revenge killing is unchristian and simply bloodlust

Published:Sunday | April 21, 2019 | 12:18 AM

Jamaica is full of churches but short of Christians. Vex all you want, but we have one of the highest densities of churches per square mile in the world, 80 per cent of our population self-declaring that we are members of a denomination and actually belong to a church. Yet, at least that percentage of regular churchgoers have never read the Bible in its entirety. Therefore, they cannot possibly be capable of reasoning out its contents and teaching it to others, who are seeking salvation.

If they do not even understand the core messages of what Jesus taught, how then can they even begin to address what the role of the Church and Christians are? Thus, they fail to see the disconnect or the connection between being the most ‘religious’ set of humans in the hemisphere, but also the most murderous. Jesus’ message was about life and the sanctity of life; not about a vengeful, bloodletting society. As long as we keep preaching blood for blood, we are no better than the criminals.

It is a cycle, which continues the lie that some lives are unworthy, that helps to fuel the homicide rate in Jamaica.

Last week, another innocent child had her life snuffed out by a yet unknown assailant. Sorry, inasmuch as the justice system convicts innocents and releases criminals from time to time, one is never guilty unless he has gone through the judicial process. True, I have lots of faith in our detectives investigating the murder and other acts of homicide, but the probe is still going on, despite the cops having two persons in custody. Therefore, I will not conclude that the police have their killer as yet.

Nonetheless, a set of Jamaicans pounced upon a person who they seemed to believe was the culprit, beat him to death and burned his corpse, like poorly monitored jerk pork or a dog’s carcass. By any standard, that is simply savagery and shows how close we are to chimpanzees, with whom we share 98 per cent of our DNA, a ruthless and vengeful set of animals, who kill other members of their species with little apparent provocation and brutally exact punishment where crossed. Indeed, beyond the facial similarities, some people might have even more.

A society which reels against extrajudicial killing by our security forces cannot condone the mob killing of anyone, no matter how guilty we believe him to be. Use of deadly force policy does not only apply to members of the constabulary, military or firearm holders. At common law, the only basis for the taking of another life is in defence of the life of others, including oneself.

Killing for revenge is simply animalistic and reduces the persons who do it to the same level as the criminals.

Oftentimes churchgoers and others cite Moses’ ‘eye for an eye’ law, as if it is still applicable. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection carry some simple messages. All life is important, all can get redemption, and only God must pass final judgment for the taking of lives.

Unfortunately, many pastors and Christians filled with other spirits, but certainly not the Holy Spirit, make irresponsible statements about unnecessary trials, prisoners eating taxpayers’ money, and bringing back the hangman. It is bad enough when ordinary citizens hysterically make such cries. It is repugnant to hear it from the pulpit.

On the most important of Christian holidays, few of us who call “Lord, Lord!” even know what Jesus, whose resurrection we celebrate today, says about the death penalty.

Of all the gospel writers, Matthew is the one who personally knew and used to ‘par’ with Jesus. There is some ambivalence as to whether the John who wrote the gospel is the disciple or the one who wrote Revelation. However, the same Matthew reported Jesus’ teaching of turning the other cheek, loving neighbours as oneself, not seeking revenge, not holding grudges and telling the non-sinners to cast the first stone.

FORGIVENESS FOR MURDERERS

Even Matthew 15, which is mistakenly taken for an endorsement of the death penalty, is nothing more than a criticism of double standards of the Pharisees and ‘teachers of the law’. Here, Jesus chided them that they conveniently broke tradition, such as the law which said “Honour your father and mother … . Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death . … But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ … they are not to ‘honour their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition … . You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you.”

This is my very ‘christicism’ of the bloody wrath of men of cloth and church members who keep bawling out for vengeance. For the record, even an imprisoned Paul, who did not personally know Jesus, was writing of the legal consequences of breaking the law, rather than endorsing it in Romans 13:3-4.

The same Paul as Saul was witness to the stoning murder of Stephen, who did exactly like Jesus did when he was talking his last breaths. He asked forgiveness for his murderers. That is the difficult, painful but Christian straight and narrow path.

Yet, as we celebrate both the resurrection and mourn the lives of our children who are murdered, has anyone asked about the parental responsibility under the Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA)? Doubtless, the innocent children were murdered by evil men. However, if they had been mauled by feral dogs, killed by a bull or fallen over a precipice while left to face all kinds of dangers by themselves, would the parents have been any less neglectful?

For me, the vigilance of parents is an absolute, especially for children of primary school age. Indeed, if it were today’s Jamaica, Mary and Joseph should be charged under some type of CCPA. Can you imagine travelling and losing sight of your 12-year-old and only finding him when you turn back three days later?

And then the little boy is full of chat, “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

I don’t know about Mary, but the typical Jamaican mother would’ve ‘crucified’ him right there.

Seriously, though, we cannot eliminate the dangers, but we are bound to constantly watch over and protect our children, because killing the killers doesn’t bring them back.

- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at The UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘ Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.