Monday, August 15, 2005


The Fifth Commandment and Cindy Sheehan

What does Cindy Sheehan have to do with the Fifth Commandment? (Just in case you are a little rusty, that's the "Thou Shalt Not Kill" commandment. )

This question arose in the Sunday School class I taught yesterday.

We watched an excellent video, part of a series on the "Ten Commandments." After the video, I turned to the class and began to pepper them with questions, as is my custom.

Incidentally, this is an adult Sunday School class. Fully unpacking the meaning of this commandment, as with all the others, cannot be done in a 50 minute class. Each commandment, fully considered, is a complex message full of many layers of meaning. At best, we fly over the terrain and spot the major features.

Incidentally, many modern translations say "Do not murder," a phrase with completely different meaning. My own feeling is the correct word is "kill," though I'm no scholar and do not speak Hebrew. My feeling is based on readings of scholars and experts who do speak the language.

The commandment cannot be taken at face value: indeed, the common documents (Old Testament) require the death penalty for many crimes, including adultery and disobedience from sons. We no longer stone people to death for having sex outside of marriage, but we do kill. And not just literally, but figuratively and, in a very real way, socially as well.

After some desultory discussion, and some slow progress in examining the meaning of the commandment for us in the twenty-first century, I grew tired of the grinding pace of the discussion. I caved to a moment of weakness.

"Does everyone know who Cindy Sheehan is?" I asked. I got one blank look out of a dozen people, not too bad. Even she figured it out pretty quickly.

"Do we have a moral duty to try to influence public policy?" I asked. "Does the commandment enjoin us to do what we can to stop the killing when the killing is part of a war?"

"Would there be more killing or less in Iraq if we withdrew our troops?"

We then had a spirited discussion. As usual, I copped out and refused to essay any answers. My goal was to get people thinking, so, "Mission Accomplished."

Thanks for your comments on my blog. I have made the necessary grammatical changes. I sometimes write my blog in hast. Thus, errors exist. Although I do believe that for the most part, my grammar and command of the English language is above average.
Correction: haste
Dear Eddie:

You are welcome.

Your blog looks good, well designed and quite presentable.
I enjoyed reading it, even though I disagree with you.

It's very difficult to proof your own work. Mine is plagued by minor errors.

We help each other, though, when we communicate. Of course, even minor errors distract from the message.


Mike Stiles
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