Sunday, August 07, 2005

Blood and High Justice

The Seamless Garment There is an interesting read to be had at First Things on the subject of the death penalty. Here are two passages that struck me as worthy of reflection:
One hears so many bad, thoughtless, and even dangerous objections to the death penalty in the United States. That it is unconstitutionally “cruel and unusual,” for instance, though the Constitution itself mentions capital crimes. Or that the large number of prisoners removed from death row in recent years by commutation and technical legal appeal somehow prove that hundreds of innocent convicts are on the edge of state-sanctioned death. Or that opponents of abortion are hypocrites if they don’t simultaneously reject the execution of criminals. Why, I always wonder, does this never seem to cut in the opposite direction: If the issues are genuinely linked, then what about the people who oppose capital punishment while supporting legalized abortion? Aren’t they equally hypocritical, and for exactly the same reason?
The divine right of kings was a short-lived political theory, swept under by rival theories in early modern times. A new understanding of the limited sovereignty of government emerged, and one of the primary causes was the gradually developing awareness that Christianity had thoroughly demythologized the state. But that is not, by itself, a stable condition. Without constant pressure from the New Testament’s revelation of Christ’s death and resurrection, the state always threatens to rise back up as an idol. And one sign of a government’s overreaching is its claim of power to balance the books of the universe—to repay blood with blood.
Still on the subject of blood, here is a video clip from the hard left San Fransisco Independent Media Center that is intended to show a group of pro lifers as violent, foaming at the mouth bronze age nutbars trying to "shut down" a Planned Parenthood clinic. Funny thing is, as far as pro choice propaganda goes, it kinda sucks. The kids are well behaved and articulate. They sing and they pray. There is no indication that they made any attempt to storm the doors of the place or block its entrance. And yet there is a very noisy group yelling at them and trying to drown them out, and they are oh so proud that the clinic is open. That is the group that looks angry; very angry in fact. So much so that some of pro life girls use their signs to hide their faces from the group shouting at them. More about the pro life group here (short version). Watch for the guy who denounces them with a argumentum ad hominem. He's a peach, and he's got a small child holding his hand too. The longer version offers a mother telling her daughter she was luckier than her siblings were. The First Things article suggests that the highest justice is not a matter for the state, a view that I am inclined to support, and that carries over to the second subject as well. I am still wrestling with the concept of the seamless garment and the subject of war between states. While I recognize that there are limits to what I can do to protect my life, I have not been able to reconcile myself to a rigid pacifism.

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