K is for Killing

The current debate over gun violence likely will not be ended so easily.

My church, First Presbyterian Church in Albany, NY, is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year. The church donated some artifacts to the Albany Institute of History & Art, itself founded in 1791. The Institute has an exhibit, ongoing through April 17, showing some of the church history over the years.

Some of the church members included John Jay, eventually the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury; and Aaron Burr, third Vice-President of United States, and the first NOT to go on to become President.

After Burr killed Hamilton in a duel in 1804, Continue reading “K is for Killing”

K is for Kill

Surely, self-defense is often raised as a defense of war, just as it would be for an individual under attack.


I was attempting to have a theological conversation with my mother a few years back. She demurred, “I just follow the Ten Commandments.” Yeah, I said, but what do they mean? Take that one that says, “Thou shalt not kill?” How does one interpret that in today’s world?

For instance, according to some sources, “the Hebrew word that was used in this case for ‘kill’ (or murder) was the somewhat rare term rasah… Although its exact meaning has defied explanation, in other contexts it could refer to killing that was inherently evil… However, the same term could also have applied to unintentional manslaughter…, blood vengeance…, the legal execution of a criminal …”

Indeed, most iterations of Scripture now use the word “murder” rather than “kill” in Exodus 20:13, which I interpret as a more legalistic term.

This study suggests five topics for discussion, so I thought I’d touch on the same, though there are plenty more.

Suicide: if killing anyone is considered a sin against God, by its very nature, some consider suicide to be an irreparable sin. Yet in legal terms, one mitigates for “diminished capacity.” Would God do any less? The only suicide I can recall in the Bible was by Judas Iscariot, after turning Jesus over to the authorities.

Capital Punishment: “An eye for an eye,” the Old Testament says, but Jesus seems to modify that. Many, including me, feel quite uncomfortable with the state executing others in their name. Some even consider it murder by the state (rasah), and there are Biblical references to that being the case unless the guilt was absolutely certain.

Euthanasia: the miracle of medicine allow people to be kept alive much longer than we once thought possible. But what of the quality of that life? And certainly, one can distinguish between stopping doing everything possible to let go, and aiding the process, something most U.S. states would consider a form of murder.

War: certainly many wars were fought and recorded in Biblical times. How does that inform what WE should do? Some were expecting Jesus to be a great warrior in the military sense and were disappointed by this “Prince of Peace” fellow. And are there just wars and unjust wars? This has been argued for millennia. Surely, self-defense is often raised as a defense of war, just as it would be for an individual under attack.

Abortion: when does life begin? One would be hard-pressed to argue against the notion that at least the potential for life commences when a zygote is created. But these can be formed fairly frequently and don’t usually attach to the womb to grow. This discussion also is addressed in the stem cell debate and even some forms of birth control.

These are complicated issues. What do YOU think?

Unrighteous anger as murder?

ABC Wednesday – Round 7