Life and Death – Our Choice?

Been thinking about ‘death’ since ANZAC Day and the discussion that took place around some of my posts and links on Facebook. Not only that, Scott McKintyre (Sports commentator) was sacked from SBS for making ‘insensitive comments’ around ANZAC Day and death on Twitter. Then, just days after ANZAC Day, two Aussies and their mates were put to death in Indonesia for drug smuggling, Nepal fell over in a massive earth quake and in the US riots have made the news almost every day.

But it’s something of the tricky stuff around death, the ethics of death, that has me scratching my head.

So let me get this right;

[In general] Australia is not happy that Indonesia killed 2 of our citizens for committing a crime that was (and still is) punishable by death. 

Some questions on this; The USA still has the death penalty in a few states (see facts sheet here), so would we still feel as outraged if the it was the U.S. killing Aussies? Maybe.

I note we have withdrawn our Ambassador to Indonesia, at least temporarily, to make a statement. Would we do the same to the U.S.?

So, are we saying as nation that the death penalty irks us, or just when it is our people…or just our people who have shown clear signs of rehabilitation? These guys certainly have done this. In a predominantly muslim country these guys, particularly the Rev Andrew Chan, have shown clearly that they are committed to Christ and living reformed lives. He DID organise the heroine smuggling ring, and was guilty as charged. Could this be religious persecution? Or in fact was this ‘fair’, they did the crime in a country in which they knew they would face death if caught. The questions still remains, is death ever the right punishment for a crime. Since 1973 140 people have been released from death row in the US as a result of further evidence coming up proving their conviction to be wrong.

So for whatever reason, the popular opinion from us Aussies (at least our politicians?) is that these folks should not have been punished with death. Left in prison maybe, but not killed. *There was some criticism toward Triple J for releasing the findings of a pole suggesting 52% of Australian supported the death penalty but the SMH said this;

A poll finding a slim majority of Australians support the death penalty for Australian drug traffickers – seized upon by the Indonesian government to justify the killing of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran – is crude and misleading, according to critics.

So maybe it’s close, but certainly the public/political voice from Australia is that we dont support the death penalty placed upon our citizens in other countries.

What about the one who enters a house and kills someone? Prison? Unless it is your house, right? Then its personal – death penalty? This kind of question unfortunately can never be personal. It ends with everyone making different rules based on their personal experiences and feelings. So lets keep it at arm’s length? The twin towers, the Bali bombings – death penalty for any guilty parties? If we say yes, then why not for the Bali 9? Their smuggled drugs were surley to take a life/s down the road some where, so and eye for an eye?

How is the death of the Bali 9 different from a death in war?

Take Gallipoli – for whatever reason, justified or otherwise, we land on the Turks beach with the Kiwi’s and the Poms and start killing them…on their beach. We have 8000 of our folk dead before moving the living to another battle field to continue the war effort. Are the killings in Turkey in that battle okay? It was not self defence, no one was smashing down my door to kill my wife and kids, we were smashing down their door! There are rules and ethics around killing in war. Just watch the movie Breaker Morant to see how confusing it must get. Augustine created the “Just War Theory” which Bush used in Iraq version 1 to justify his invasion…”God told me to“. And so went the justification for our early Christian Crusades. So that’s ok? But Jihad (a holy war because Allah told them to) is not ok? (unless you are a Jihadist!). Some people shudder to think of the damaged caused when [we] the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs in Japan in our WWII effort (like Australia/NZ and the Brits in WWI, we had a coalition going with the U.S. in WWII). So it was a kind of retaliation for the Japanese invasion of our collective space (Pearl Harbour, Darwin, Sydney etc). Is this different on a personal scale from a house invasion? Did they deserve that response on all those civilians, or even the military? And if so – who says so, where are the boundaries here? Particularly in the example of Turkey in WWI and Japan in WWII.

Come to the house invasion, the hypothetical that people always use. “What happens when a guy busts into your house and wants to kill your family?” Well truth be told it really DOES happen.  Would you kill to save? Take a life to save a life?

If Jesus really intended us to live in non-violent ways, as he indeed lived out his days and taught in his teachings (turn the other cheek, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you) then do we just invite the killer at the end of the bed to kneel down and pray with us? My wife Christine suggested in no soft way that she was hoping for more from me than jumping up and loving the intruder, she suggested that she feels quite unsafe with this theology sleeping next to her! I made the comment to her and the kids that “I would die for you, but I’m struggling with the idea of killing for you.”

What about just maiming? Could I try to harm not kill? But is that not an act of violence for a person who believes in non-violence? Or is it justified in that circumstance? But that takes me back to Gallipoli. If we can agree that Jesus taught (no I’m not bringing Old Testament angry God into this conversation!) to love your enemies and the only thing that caught his rage was a table in a temple…yes and a herd of pigs suffered under his ministry but … he WAS a Jew! 🙂


Death penalty bad, yes? Or only under certain circumstances…who makes up these circumstances?

Gallipoli good or bad? Or we just can’t talk about this right? Too sacred.

Terrorist sending planes into buildings…death penalty?

A holy war – good or bad? Depending on if it is a Jihad or a Christian Crusade I guess, or I guess that then depends on if you are a Christian or a Muslim!

Me defending my family from attack with my life or by me taking a life?

Harming the aggressor in the process of defending instead of killing – Okay?

I kind of can’t help coming back to Jesus every time…I do try to base all my ethics and values out of his life and teachings. WWJD is such a cliché – but seriously WWJD? Look at the teaching. Look at the cross, look at the sword in the hand of Peter and that rebuke – “We don’t do it that way!”

The sacrificial lamb – Jesus, the ultimate scape goat was all about an end to a system of violence and sacrifice, of war against one another, against our enemies and against ourselves. The whole ‘new Kingdom’ was about Lambs and Lions laying down together, it was about swords of war being beat into tools of life or farming – plough shears. These words are not prophesies for the future Kingdom when Jesus returns, lets not miss the fact that on his first visit, he pronounced the beginning of this new way of life. He didn’t paint this picture of peace and say…

“so, if you like this idea of a new Kingdom of peace with me as the new Prince of ‘Peace Kingdom’, then just wait around for 2 or 3 Millenia and I’ll come back and set it up.”

No, it began in him and continues in us! We are his agents of peace, not war, love, not hate, reconciliation, not separation.

We need to bring life, not death…in our words, and our deeds.

Life, not death.

*Disclaimer – As I have said in the past. I’m no writer, in fact I’m not even sure what I fully believe when I write half the time. I humbly put out this text in the hope that others might read, think a little or a lot. Maybe engage in conversation, not always with me responding, but with anyone in this open forum. Maybe I will change my opinions and ideas, maybe I could change yours.


– This is an edited version of a post made 3 weeks ago.