Alright, Sister Exodus, I made a mistake.

In some translations, Exodus 20.13 (the sixth of the Ten Commandments) says you shouldn’t murder, while other translations say you shouldn’t kill. It may be interpreted as a style issue, but however you figure the reason behind the schism in word choice, it is worth taking the time to clarify. Murdering and killing are not the same thing.

The original Hebrew for the word in question is רָצַח (ratsach), which means “to murder”, not “to kill.”

There may be someone reading this blogpost who would say, That's adorable, Kathryn, you know how to use the Internet. Would you like a gold star?

No. I would not like a gold star.

Thank you for asking.

I’m regurgitating this not-trivial piece of trivia, because I used “Thou shalt not kill” as an argument against the death penalty in my last post, “Faster, Sister Exodus! Kill! Kill!” After I played the Exodus 20.13 card (thinking, at the time, that I had it right), Sister Exodus answered it with Exodus 21.12, which says that anyone who takes the life of another should be put to death. In light of the Sixth Commandment translation discovery, Exodus 21.12 is more strongly supported by the sixth commandment than I previously realized.

This is me fessing up to my former ignorance. I may not have considered it worth blogging about if it weren’t for the fact that I previously used bad information to argue my point.

Thank you for reading. I feel better now. I mean, about the oversight. I don't feel any different about capital punishment.

How about you? Have you ever (knowingly or unknowingly) given people bad information to support an important point?


Faster, Sister Exodus! Kill! Kill!

There’s a 67% “recidivism” for murder in America. I know this. Sister Exodus told me so. “67% of murderers who are released from prison will kill again,” she insisted.

Just to clarify: Sister Exodus isn’t a nun. She’s my sister in Christ, and we’ve been emailing back and forth recently. Sister Exodus is all for the death penalty, which, she tells me, should be the sentence for every convicted murderer. And rapist. Every single one.

Kill ‘em all.

According to Sister Exodus, it wouldn’t be fair otherwise. They shouldn’t be “rewarded” for murder (or rape) with the privilege of living (...because once you’ve taken someone else’s life, you don’t have a right to your own?). Countless innocent lives would be spared if we’d please just kill these irrevocably sick convicts.

I could see the logic. But I couldn’t see the Judeo-Christian logic.

My decision to cite the Ten Commandments didn’t come without hesitation. As a general rule of thumb, when I make the choice to bring in the Word of the Lord for the purposes of arguing my point, I try to thump wisely.

I told her that it’s made very clear in those basic Ten - so basic to the faith that some say those very Ten are written on our hearts - among them: Thou shalt not kill.

Sister Exodus answered that God makes it very clear (couldn’t be any clearer, she said) that he wants murderers to die. She cited Exodus 21.12: “Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death.” (NIV) To that 33% who statistically won’t kill again, tough tittie. The Bible tells us so.

The Bible also has its fair share of dinner party scenes.

Allow me to tweak the general idea of inclusion at these dinner parties in order to illustrate what I understand to be the pillar of Sister Exodus's capital punishment theology:

Just like in the real Bible, Jesus broke bread with tax collectors, Pharisees, prostitutes, Gentiles... Jesus didn’t discriminate, except for, apparently murderers and rapists. Sure, those other people around the table sinned, but some transgressions are just plain too despicable.
This is a Warhol. He did a whole series of them.

Does that sound right to you?

Don’t get me wrong.

If one of my loved ones was murdered or raped, in my anger, I’d crave some significantly damaging comeuppance unto the head of the soul responsible (which is NOT the way of peace, by the way). The fulfillment of such a craving would be destructive and unsatisfying to say the least.

I made a suggestion to Sister Exodus, “What about life without parole?”

“That’s not how the American Judicial System works,” she corrected. “Prisoners can get out of jail on parole.”

In these fantasy solutions, Sister Exodus, as long as you’re entitled to your hypothetical death camps, may I please have my hypothetical life camps? Because if I lived in a country where the government not only had no trouble with killing off hella people, but also wove it into their law as The Right Thing To Do, I would be sickened and sad. I realize Sister Exodus desires protection over the lives of the potential victims on the outside. I do, too. But I also want protection for the criminals on the inside.

Those we judge to be hermetically despicable… in this case, to the point where it’s insisted that their bad choices have disqualified them from life itself... even they are God’s children. Irredeemable, hard-wired killing machines unable to change their ways ever? We don’t know that. That’s between them and God.

Far earlier in the same email thread, Sister Exodus expounded to me, with as much vehemence as mere text on a screen can convey, that I am made perfect in Christ Jesus. (In all-caps, too: PERFECT.) I’ll say now that I, every single fiber of me, is no more or less human than anyone who has ever murdered, ever raped, ever collected taxes, or cast lots with their purity. The sins remain unacceptable, but those people - those murderers, those rapists - are also made perfect in Christ Jesus.

What do you think?

UPDATE:  A relevant note on Ten Commandments translations can be read here.