The Problem With Murder

Introduction We all have an instinctive revulsion of the wanton destruction of one of us by the hand of another. But why? If the victim is not one of our family or close relations, how is it that we feel the evil of his loss? How are we – the victim and I – connected? Where does our sense of the fact that his taking is evil come from? This piece is an exploration of a recent “revelation” I’ve been considering that points to a much more profound loss than the loss of just this one person. Context The Hebrew Bible is full of stories in which a wife is left childless at the death of her husband. The social practice, in such a situation, was defined by the rule of yibbum (Deut 25:6) – the requirement for the nearest kinsman of the deceased to marry the widow to honor and provide for the perpetuation of the line of the deceased relative’s name. We can speculate as to why this was the social norm an the Ancient Near East . But it was. The concept of the perpetuation of one’s “name” through the fulfillment of producing “his” progeny was commonly accepted. The Story of Ruth “Ruth” is a book of the Hebrew Bible. Ruth is not the only person in the Hebrew Bible subject to the kinsman redeemer/levirate marriage edict, but she is perhaps the most revered of those who were. Ruth was a Moabitess who married one of the (Jewish) sons of the Elimelech, a man who had emigrated from Israel in response to a famine. Shortly thereafter, Elimelech dies. Not only that but so to do his sons, one of which is Ruth’s husband. So this leaves Naomi, Elimelech’s wife, and her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Oprah. Naomi decides to return to her native Bethlehem, and Ruth pledges her undying devotion to Naomi and to stay with her and care for her in their new home. Oprah elects to stay in Moab. Upon their return to Bethlehem, Naomi settles near her deceased husband’s uncle, Boaz, a prosperous land owner. Boaz observes Ruth caring for Naomi and commends her for her faithfulness. Naomi, on behalf of Ruth, plans an encounter between Ruth and Boas in which she will petition Boaz to marry her under the law of yippum – the kinsman redeemer law of Deut 25:5-6: [5] “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. [6] And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. Boaz, despite his earlier reticence to extend mercy to Ruth, accepts her proposal and marries her, leading to the birth of Obed, and from Obed Jesse, and from Jesse, David, King of Israel. What’s This Got to Do With Murder? Well, nothing. Yet. The point so far is that widely disparate cultures in the Ancient Near East all shared a social principle that the Israelites called yippum – the benefaction of the kinsman redeemer in redeeming the line of progeny that otherwise would have issued from a deceased “brother”. My thesis is that this practice was common because God wanted it to be. If so, why? My thesis is that God wants as many as possible to be exposed to His Creation and His person – His love – His redemption to Himself. I have written elsewhere about the notion of God’s comprehensive plan identifying all possible (“prospective”) people who might ever come into existence. If one of them comes into existence but, for whatever reason, dies before procreating, then an entire line of prospective humanity is cut off. And their loss is God’s loss. There are fewer people for Him to embrace and enter into communion with. So it makes perfect sense that God would promote the social practice of what was known in Israel as “Levirate Marriage”, or simply the principle of the kinsman redeemer, as a method of producing more people for Him to bless. Murder So what would God think of murder? Obviously, He’s opposed to it, as the sixth commandment makes clear. Why? For the reason identified above: He wants as many of His prospective people as possible to come into being and, themselves, procreate. In this framework, what should we think about abortion. What should we think about the 10’s of thousands of lives extinguished annually that otherwise would have created more of God’s humanity? In a very real sense, we’re stealing from God through this practice. And this theft is not transitory or incidental. We’re removing humans from existence with Him permanently. What He elects to do with the souls of those aborted we can only speculate. But we must acknowledge that their life experience with Him has been forever curtailed. And this is the abomination.

The Inversion of Virtue

The West, I argue, has turned a corner from which it will be impossible, short of a miracle, to un-turn.  We’ve become addicts of narcissism, ignorant judgements, and feigned righteousness.  We’re continuously fed their messages of “just a little more” so that our impending overdose is all but assured.  But, perhaps most depressing is the fact that we don’t even realize it. 

America is Not Greek

Our democratic institutions evolved out of those invented by the Greeks.  The Greeks were intoxicated by the idea of rational speech – logos.  Their principle was that logos was at the heart of the Greek-invention and revered culture of political discourse.  And “discourse" only occurred when those involved shared in the same virtues and  all sought after the same common good, setting aside their personal interests.  To the Greeks, their edification came from striving together to achieve a common good for their citizens.  To them, politics was the process of seeking the highest possible good for the people. Nothing could be less true of today's America.

Life Elevated

Much of today’s popular psychological messaging is designed to make us happy and content with ourselves by puffing up our self-esteem.  Much of this messaging is commercial, designed to create in us a frame of mind favorable toward purchasing whatever is being sold.  This psychology doesn’t have your best interests at heart; it doesn’t want what’s best and most edifying for you.  It just wants your money, your time and attention, and your “clicks”.

Freedom from Disquiet

It’s interesting to me that today in the West, a substantial portion of the population apparently believes that they have an innate right to not be exposed to anything that upsets them – be it KAG hats, critical commentary (social media posts?) on their ideas, objective description of our real history, moral values… whatever. This is a prescription for disaster.

The Narcotic of Moral Superiority

Just sitting here, listening to a bit of the media frenzy following Trump’s statements on the Charlottesville tragedy, and wondering if the genie is now truly out of the bottle.   He said the apparently unsayable – that both sides of the confrontation shared blame.  You can’t say that in the media’s America.  After all, we’re talking about Nazis here – vile, evil, haters of people different than them.  The story being pushed is that this confirms that Trump and everyone associated with him have exposed themselves as just such vile, evil, white supremacists.

Christianity in the Age of ‘Whatever?’

Lots of people write blogs.  Very few people actually read them. So why this one? Recently I’ve been absolutely stunned by the power of the delusion our society is suffering regarding truth, good and evil.  In this perverse worldview, people who elect to strap on explosives and detonate them, or fire automatic weapons at unsuspecting … Continue reading Christianity in the Age of ‘Whatever?’