Monday, November 27, 2006

Mercy Isn't Always "Merciful"

One of the remarkable things about the Baptist family is the wide range of viewpoints and perspectives it is able to encompass. Oh, to be sure, there are Fundamentalists who think only their sort are right and will be in heaven. And there are some who are so close to Unitarianism as to boggle the imagination. But aside from those fringe aberrations, the Baptist family is wide and deep.

Take, for instance, Michael Westmoreland-White's posting of a few days ago (just beneath this present offering). He urges mercy for Hussein and I am about to suggest that Hussein is neither deserving of mercy nor should he receive it. In fact, I will suggest that Michael and others who wish to spare Saddam's life are offering him anything but mercy.

Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant while in power. He killed countless persons at a whim and the United States government helped him do it for a decade or more. His brutality was boundless and for that reason alone he is not deserving of mercy.

Before you say "who is?" may I suggest that there are degrees of wickedness in the world- some which should be extended mercy and some which should not. A child in K-Mart stealing a piece of gum is not the same sort of sinner as a child molester who brutalizes his victims, sexually destroys them, and then murders them. There are, in other words, levels of wickedness. Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein belong to the upper echelons of depravity whilst Ted Haggard and Jimmy Swaggart occupy the middle (and should be extended mercy and forgiveness).

Further, and perhaps more to the point, Hussein's greatest, most severe punishment would not be death- but a life of confinement. Death, in his case, would be the most merciful disposition of his case. A quick and violent end would be "the easy way out" for a man who tortured his victims slowly and gleefully. Prison, on the other hand, would destroy him, robbing him of both his dignity and humanity. Prison, in his case, would be the least merciful act.

Do Michael and others urging mercy realize the effects of prison on persons who have wielded excessive power? I wonder. And submit, for your consideration, the simple thought that mercy isn't always merciful. Mercy doesn't always spare life. Sometimes it takes life. "There is a time to heal and a time to kill." It's time to extend mercy of an authentic sort to Hussein and kill him.


Blogger runbdp said...

I never understood the need to kill people in order for society to prove we shouldn't kill people.

If you regard prison is inhumane, I agree. But the solution isnt to kill someone.

2:27 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

What's the alternative? Should he be set free? Should he be placed under house arrest? Exiled?

3:24 PM  
Blogger Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Prison may be the most earthly mercy we can bestow. But since we cannot create people made in the image of God, neither should we destroy them. To usurp the role of the Creator is blasphemy. Saddam is guilty of such usurpation. Why should we who follow Christ choose a similar path?

9:36 PM  
Blogger Michael Westmoreland-White said...

We offer mercy to Saddam for the same reason that Jesus extended mercy to the terrorist (the Greek is lestes--not kleptos, the word for "thief") on the cross and to Judas Iscariot and to Peter.

Jim is right that the U.S. helped Saddam--Donald Rumsfeld sold him the weapons to gas the Kurds and Bush I tried to blame that attack on Iran. Neither of them were on trial with him. Most of the current Bush administration is guilty of war crimes--and will probably never see the inside of a jail cell, though I pray otherwise.

Earthly justice is imperfect. So is mercy. We must balance mercy with the need to protect society--so life in prison may be the best we can do, although prison reform is very needed.

But, except for the grace of God, I could be just as bad as a Hitler or Saddam. That's the nature of sinful humanity.

We are commanded to let God take care of vengeance. We have to extend such mercy as we can. There is little hope that Saddam in prison would repent--but at least he'd be alive to have the chance.

I will plead for the life of everyone as long as I have breath. Jim is wrong about degrees of depravity. Depravity is total in everyone. Apart from grace, none of us is worth saving. The love of God creates worth in the worthless. I'm one of those worthless people transformed by grace. I can only plead for the same for brother Saddam--and brothers Rumsfeld, Bush, etc.

9:49 PM  
Blogger runbdp said...

Yes, Jim, I am advocating he be set free. Or, failing that, set up in a villa in France.

Seriously, society should not be in the business of killing people foir any reason. Saddam is a bad dude, but think practically. Somebody has to have the job of EXECUTIONER. He doesnt magically disappear.

11:51 AM  

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