I was not at all surprised to read in the Jamaican media of the Rev. Al Miller’s most recent claim regarding divine justice and the death penalty. The mounting fear of being the next random victim as well as frustration levelled at the governing authorities for their impotence and lack of urgency in finding workable solutions is pushing the patience of citizens far beyond their limit.
Addressing his congregation at Fellowship Tabernacle in Jamaica’s capital, Rev. Miller sought to clarify his earlier use of the epithet ‘dunce’ to describe those opposing the death penalty. He explained that it was in light of divine wisdom that the word was used, to convey man’s folly in seeking to override God’s directive of the death penalty for the capital offence of murder — not to be confused, stressed the reverend, with the same act committed by the state.
The reverend joins a very august group of clergymen who have recently called for the enforcement of the death penalty, notably Bishop Ronald Blair and the Rev. Terrence Brown, who has generously offered himself as the chief executioner. And in January of last year, Pastor Glen Samuels, President of the West Jamaica Conference of Seventh Day Adventists also made the call for the resumption of death penalty enforcement, stating, “We have people who are continuing without fear and conscience to murder at will. I am saying that the matter of capital punishment must be put on the table. Locking them away is not a deterrent. We are producing a generation of murderers.”
At least Pastor Samuels is correct in one aspect of his statement: We are producing a generation of murderers. But the clergymen seem to have neither the time nor inclination to look beyond the revulsion and rage felt by most Jamaicans regarding the brutality and murder, statistics which have attained unnerving levels. They seem to have conveniently forgotten that the constabulary responsible for apprehending murderers is riddled with corruption, or that like mosquitoes breed under certain favorable conditions, the conditions in the society are perpetuating the breeding of savage killers. These Christian leaders tend to view the endless murder-loop as ‘demonic’ manifestation rather than the effects of poor parenting, absence of social engineering and uncaring, unscrupulous politicians.
But let us agree with what is viewed as God’s justice. The clergymen constantly use the Bible as reference for their radical pronouncements, as Rev. Miller states that “Governments represent the authority of God to dispense justice in the land, and so capital punishment would not be considered murder when dispensed for justice.” But if the reverend is sincere about upholding the principles of the bible, he seems to have studiously omitted other reasons for the forfeiture of one’s life, found on the same pages.
The Bible provides a lavish array of crimes for which death is the ultimate punishment, murder being most prolific. When one looks at biblical justice, it is no wonder why the island is awash in a bloodbath. It seems that ordinary citizens, unable to receive any justice from the state, have taken matters into their own hands and are exacting biblical justice from the least of the evildoers.
They must be reading the same bible as Rev. Miller, where the death sentence is preferred punishment for myriad offences from striking or cursing a parent to the taking of a life (e.g. Deut. 22:13-30; Lev. 24:21). The Old Testament is so engorged with blood and gore that one is tempted to question the origin of the idea that human life is sacred, and since these pro-life advocates are miraculously transformed into harbingers of death, after life struggles through the birth canal, takes it first gasp and becomes tainted by its environment.
The public’s fury resulting from the escalated levels of violence is quite understandable, but those who profess moral leadership have the responsibility of steering the nation away from knee-jerk reactions and bellicose rants to thoughtful reflection and measured solutions. As the pro-life videos educate the public on the heartlessness of abortion, here is a video that depicts biblical punishment: a young Kurdish girl being stoned to death, ostensibly for the sin of fornication. It was the duty of the male members of her family to throw the first stones. A later exhumation of the interred remains and an autopsy revealed that the mob was mistaken on their verdict.
Consider this when you watch the video: Are there any aspects of this barbaric act that bears any resemblance to “jungle justice” in Jamaica? In referring to biblical justice and Old Testament principles, are Miller and his cohorts cherry-picking as usual, or would they like to go for the full hog?
I must warn you however, that the visual effects are unsettling.
As the country decides its path and ponders over the need to put an end to savagery, the nation should consider laying the axe to the root of the tree, instead of merely hacking away at a few branches.