Everybody Wants to Kill Somebody: Conclusion

This is the link to the entire document, Everybody wants to Kill Somebody: An Epistle for Killers Everybody wants to Kill (1)

Conclusion: Thou shalt not kill

I find it curious the way God sometimes assembles people into a congregation. I once served a remote church which for no reason that anyone could discern had a high percentage of dance teachers and former professional dancers. Another church had an unusual number of diabetics who were not related.

One Sunday when I took my seat in the chancel and as the choir sang a call to worship, something occurred to me for the first time about the rural parish I had served for years. There in the choir was a man who was in the first wave at Omaha Beach. In front of him was a mid-life woman who served a prison term for manslaughter. To her left was another woman who recently had to make the decision to end life support for her husband. The choir director had an abortion in her teen years that, until a few weeks ago, no one else in the church new about  except her husband and me. The organist lost a daughter in a horrible crime thirty years ago when a burglar broke into her home. In the congregation was a man whose son was executed by the state. He was sitting not far from a couple whose son committed suicide. They were seated behind a couple who lost their grandson in Iraqi Freedom. Across the aisle was a man with his wife and young children who was back from his latest tour in Afghanistan.  At the back of the church was a sheriff’s deputy who was first in the door at a house where a mother and her children were murdered. This was a church with an average attendance of about one-hundred.

There are things these people will tell you—if they will tell you anything at all. I once listened to a soldier who spoke for over an hour about what must have been seven seconds of battle. The woman who terminated life support for her husband talked about how surreal it was to be in grocery store with people behaving normally: “Don’t they know the whole world has changed?” Every one of them will tell you that the taking of a human life…even when it is necessary…even when it is permitted…even if it is unintentional…is not something that happens privately in a corner of someone’s life. It is a cosmic event.

These are the ones being healed. They know what redemption means even if they cannot define the term. These are the ones who were most appreciative when I used the old order for Holy Communion with its Prayer of Humble access and lengthy confession.

There are occasions when killing may be necessary or recognized as deserving no further punishment by the community, but it is never justified in the sense that Christians use that word. Taking a human life cannot be described as an act of holiness, nor does it leave us completely guiltless before God. Something significant happened. When we are involved in the taking of a human life something has gone terribly wrong. It damages both the individual and the community. It ought to cause us to feel something. It ought to cause us to ask questions. It ought to cause us to turn to God. Turning to God is the definition of repentance. Our soul is harmed. We need healing.

We butter the toast as the TV news anchor reports that the state (that’s us) executed a serial killer by lethal injection last night, and we ask our children, “Do you have your homework ready?” A reporter notes the number of casualties in Afghanistan as we pour another cup of coffee. Across town a homeowner shot and killed an intruder, and we think, “I’m glad they got that one,” as we reach for the keys to the car. We drive past a clinic where some of the 600,000 people will die this year to “protect the life and health of the mother,” and we drop our children off at school and say, “I hope you do well on the test today.” It is 8:00 A.M. and we have already failed our test for today. This is not the way things are supposed to be.

The taking of a human life is always displeasing to God, breaks Shalom, is contrary to a life of holiness, and is harmful to one’s soul. So much so that God demands propitiation for the act, and we stand in need of Christ’s propitiation. Even if the act was necessary or permissible, we ought to ask why this was necessary. We ought to take note that somewhere someone is grieving, even if it is only God. We ought to notice that a soul has been returned to God for judgment and ask, “Am I prepared to stand before God just as swiftly?” We ought to notice that sin is loose in the world and it has crept into our house under the doorway and through the windowsills: We are unclean.  We ought not to continue our life as though nothing of significance has happened. Our soul was never meant to be comfortable with killing.

Is it really asking too much of us that we just not kill each other?

Something is lacking in what presents itself as the Christian faith in North America when Christians—especially those who are committed to the sanctity of human life—insist on retaining the right to kill some group of people. Something is missing from our faith when everybody wants to kill somebody. There is something missing that was known from the time of the ancients until just the last two generations.

It is enough of a starting point to recognize that something is missing. Others are more capable than I to propose effective remedies, and it requires more space than what is appropriate for this epistle. I doubt the remedy will come through catechism alone, or better Sunday School curriculum, or even epistles such as this—though each of these are helpful. What we are missing likely falls more into the category of Christian formation than Christian information. It seems more a symptom of an uncared for soul than an unoccupied mind. I suspect that when we find what is missing it will be somewhere in our worship. I believe that right worship begets right belief which begets right living. Ad hoc unfocused worship severed from its roots does not equip us for life in this world and leaves us totally unprepared for life in the next.

Contrary to popular preaching, who we worship and how we worship is essential to life. The church must first agree as to the God we worship and God’s nature. On this the church must be of one mind. If we have different answers to the question, “Who do you say that I am?” then we must gather at different altars. Otherwise, we start our worship with confusion and chaos and neither of these are of God.

The language of the people of God is not the same as worldly language. I hope I have communicated in these pages the problem of letting the worldly use of the word “justified” to corrupt the Godly meaning of the word. The language of worship is a foreign language to the world, and it is one that Christians must learn if we are to learn the way of life. Too often Scripture is translated into words that make it sound like it was written yesterday. It is good to hear the word in a way that reminds us that this was not written yesterday. We are not making this up as we go along. Often words are avoided because they sound strange and are difficult to understand. We are entering the word of God: It is likely that we will encounter things that sound strange and are difficult to understand. We cannot take that away without missing something important in our faith.

The people in the pews have endured far too long the message after the Scripture reading which is either 1) twenty minutes on how what we just read does not say what it just said 2) five minutes on how it said what it said followed by a fifteen minute apology, or 3) a twenty minute dissertation on an unrelated topic.

Our clergy make perfectly clear that which God has left a mystery. We fill God’s silence with many words, and we use many words to complicate what God had left plain. This is so common that your pastors likely don’t even know they are doing it. Help them. If they refuse the correction, then seek care for your soul from some other source.

In many parishes the Eucharist has been replaced with newly invented rites and a fraud is perpetrated on the souls the charge. Where the benefits of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection are not mentioned, asked for, or offered they cannot be received. I have said much on this elsewhere and will not go further now.

In many cases it is not altogether the clergy’s fault because there is no one there to teach them. Those who have found the way have done so on their own apart from the seminary and institutional overseers. Much of what is lacking in our North American worship is simple honesty, integrity, and faithfulness on the part of those leading our worship. Corrupt worship begets corrupt belief which begets a corrupt life. That kind of worship will not form a Christian people. That forms a people who can participate in killing and imagine that nothing significant has happened. That kind of worship produces a people where everybody wants to kill somebody.

We need to put back what is missing in worship. Our souls need forming more than our minds need informing. This is not an “insufficient data” problem. Christians need worship with honesty, integrity, and faithfulness. Our soul needs to feed on the ancient words of God that were not written yesterday. Our soul needs worship that lets mystery be mystery and leaves plain what is plain.

O Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us,
O Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world, grant us, thy peace.

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