by Bruce Gerencser cross posted from his blog The Way Forward
“Thou shall not murder” includes suicide, terrorism, euthanasia, abortion, but not necessarily capital punishment, just war, self defense.
Currently, Driscoll is incoherently preaching through the Ten Commandments at Mars Hill. This past Sunday, Driscoll preached on the command, thou shalt not murder (kill) . Based on Driscoll’s tweet, he thinks:
Murder is not:
- Capital Punishment
- Just War
- Self Defense
Welcome to the schizophrenic world of Evangelicals as they try to hang on to their right-wing politics while still professing to be followers of Jesus. Countless Evangelicals think just like Driscoll does. While I do not have any empirical proof, I suspect that Driscoll’s interpretation of, thou shalt not murder, is the dominate Evangelical view.
When terrorists fly planes into buildings in New York and Washington DC, it is murder. When American drones kill women, children, and non-combatants, it is just war. When America prosecutes its immoral war on terror or when American planes drop napalm on helpless Vietnamese, it is just war. When American planes drop incendiary bombs and nuclear bombs on helpless Japanese, it is just war. When “terrorists” respond in kind and kill American soldiers it is murder.
When a person decides to end their life, either by their own hand or through the help of a compassionate physician, it is murder. When the State straps a man, convicted of a capital crime based on circumstantial evidence, to a gurney and injects him with pharmaceuticals, it is not murder. When the State hangs, shoots, or gasses a convicted criminal, it is not murder. Yet, if my pain becomes such that I can no longer bear it, and I choose to swallow a handful of drugs in order to end my pain and suffering, it is murder.
If a woman aborts a zygote it is murder, but if an American bomb blows an Afghan, Pakistani, or Iraqi infant to bits, it is just war. Every abortion, from the moment of conception is murder, yet killing the mother in a just war, executing her for a crime, or killing her because she, in a hormonal rage, threatened me, is not.
Got it, This all makes complete sense to me.
Ahab, at the Republic of Gilead, focused on the suicide aspect of Driscoll’s tweet. Ahab writes:
On October 21st, Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll posted a tweet that read, “‘Thou shall not kill’ includes suicide, terrorism, euthanasia, abortion, but not necessarily capital punishment, just war, self defense.” Driscoll’s anti-choice approach to abortion did not surprise me, but his demonization of suicide caught me off guard. The implication, it seems, is that Driscoll sees suicide as a sinful form of killing, in the same moral category as terrorism.
Driscoll’s lack of empathy and compassion disturbed me. Suicide is an act of despair, the act of someone who cannot see a way out of a painful situation. For many, suicide is the tragic end of their struggles with mental illnesses, addiction, or trauma. Mental health disorders such as depression, substance abuse, a family history of mental illness or substance abuse, and traumas such as physical or sexual abuse are all risk factors for suicide. It’s also a significant public health issue. According to the CDC, suicide was the cause of death for 38,364 persons in 2010, making it the 10th leading cause of death for that year. Instead of demonizing suicide as a sin, we must recognize it as a serious public health problem and offer support to those at high risk.
To declare suicide a sin is to demonize and belittle people who struggle with despair. It ignores our responsibility to help those in need, ostracizing people with suicidal ideation as “bad” and “other”. To boot betrays a dangerous ignorance about mental illness, addiction, and trauma, one that I’ve seen too often among fundamentalists.
And I’m sick of it…
Like Ahab, the Evangelical approach to mental illness and suicide sickens me. Is it enough for a Christian pastor to say, God commands you to not kill yourself? How is the person who is struggling with suicidal thoughts to interpret God’s prohibition against suicide? They are at a place in life where they see no other way to deal with their pain besides killing themselves. It is evident that religion is rarely an antidote for suicidal thoughts. It is not enough to tell them that they need to have more faith or that they just need to trust God. Telling a depressed person that God will never give them more than they can bear only deepens their pain and depression.
Several years ago I realized I was one of people my friend Ahab calls, at high risk. I have battled with depression my entire adult life. As an Evangelical pastor, I hid my depression from everyone but my wife and children. After all, God only wants winners, right? Anyone who commits suicide is the ultimate loser.
This hiding of my depression only depressed me further. Finally…three years ago, I sought out secular, professional help. The psychologist I see every two weeks has helped me tremendously. Has he cured me of depression? No. Has he kept me from having suicidal thoughts? No. He has, however, kept me from sliding down into the pit of darkness so far that there is no hope of return. He has become the knot tied on the end of the rope. He knows that my depression is driven by the health problems I have. When pain levels are off the chart and I am reduced to a human blob sitting in a recliner holding a TV remote, he knows I am at risk. This is why one of the first questions he asks me is, how are you feeling? All that he requires of me is that I be honest.
If God says thou shalt not kill yourself was all I needed to hear to assuage thoughts of suicide, I would have killed myself long ago. Evangelicals like Mark Driscoll have a simplistic, reductionist view of the world and human suffering. They likely cause far greater pain and suffering than not.
Let me end with this post with the Biblical and theological implications of Driscoll’s interpretation of, thou shalt not murder.
As I mentioned in a post yesterday, the Bible says, the Bible Driscoll says is the infallible, inspired, inerrant, Word of God:
For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. (Revelation 22:8)
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. (John 8:44)
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,envyings,murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
Based on these verses, no one who commits suicide, has an abortion, murders a person, performs an abortion, or helps a person end their life, is a Christian. The God who said, thou shalt not murder, also said that murderers will not inherit the kingdom of God and will burn forever in the Lake of Fire.
[Editorial Note: This article is written from the premise that the Bible is not the authoritative last word for faith and practice. If you are not one of those readers, please be understanding of the intended audience and refrain from commenting on whether the Bible should be taken as such. Please show some respect for the writer and others of their faith or own belief/nonbelief by discussing the topic, rather than questioning whether the topic is one that even should be discussed or attacking the author. We try to be supportive of everyone coming out of abusive theology and Religious Trauma Syndrome. For more info on the site please visit – Is NLQ an Atheist Website?]
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Bruce Gerencser spent 25 years pastoring Independent Fundamental Baptist, Southern Baptist, and Christian Union churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas. Bruce attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. He is a writer and operates The Way Forward blog. Bruce lives in NW Ohio with his wife of 35 years. They have 6 children, and nine grandchildren.
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