Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
September 10th, 2014 by Joel Watts

Christians do not behead

Dr. Jerry Falwell (en, d. 2007), the founder o...

Dr. Jerry Falwell (en, d. 2007), the founder of Liberty University (en), was a Christian pastor and televangelist. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have seen the pictures and videos (or, preferably, read the headlines) about the horrible atrocities committed by ISIS and other Islamic fundamentalist groups (plenty of Muslims oppose ISIS). They do so to appease their god and to keep the land/movement holy. They do so because the believe in the wrath of their malformed god.

Christians long ago gave up beheading for crimes. Indeed, the last major spate of beheadings occurred during the French Revolution. Many of us consider the death penalty wrong. Some do not. Many Christians in those two various camps, however, believe in caring for the poor, healing the sick, and extending a hand of mercy to the downtrodden.

However, there are some Christians who believe every great sign of misfortune is the Wrath of God. These are closeted Supralapsarianists; these are fatalists. For Pat Robertson, every time the wind destroys his combover, he is sure it is because of the LGBT community. For others, such as Jerry Falwell, diseases such as HIV/AIDS are sent by God to destroy this or that demographic and even those who support those demographics! Indeed, because of Falwell’s influence, the United States was slow and failed to help contain the AIDS epidemic that brought death to gays and straights. We are left to wonder how much of our foreign policy is set not by what is best for the country, but because some believe the end of the world is near.

Such is this plague theology; such is fatalism.

Christians still have to answer for it even while other Christians side with the likes of Westboro Baptist Church (albeit with a slightly less vengeful tone). The internet is littered with tombstones of statements and a graveyard of blog posts from these two camps — one begging for mercy, compassion, and a scientific understanding while the other demands vengeance, death, and laughs at the terrible plight of victims. Both claim Christ.

Today, the world watches in horror as the Ebola virus spreads, nearly past the point of containment, on the African continent. When we go to help, the Christian pundits are there to rain heaps of coal upon our head. Doctors Candida Moss and Joel Baden have tried to assuage this wave of hate, but the internet is once again becoming a dark place where Christians get to laugh while many die.

In Congress, however, the Republican Party is deciding right now (or has decided) to gut the President’s request for funding to fight and contain Ebola. Led by Hal Rogers, the committee will cut more than half of the funding request. He is known as the “Prince of Pork,” so why doesn’t he support this bill? We do know he is unfriendly to any paradigm shift in the American cultural landscape and supports religious exemptions to Obamacare.

I am not speaking of Christians who identify with the libertarian spectrum, as they have a philosophical stance against government involvement. Rather, I am speaking about those Christians who would rather support the military-industrial complex than help those they believe are under the judgment of God. Their goal, seemingly, is death.

While Christians do not behead our enemies — rather, we do not behead those we believe suffer under or cause God’s wrath — we have other ways to allow for their death. Christians get elected as Republicans, or Tea Party members, and move to block funding to prevent diseases in some way. Indeed, while Christians no longer behead, we have found a perfectly easy way to reach the same goal. We just let them die and call it God.

While these Christians are doing this, Churches like the United Methodist Church and other mainline denominations are mustering their resources and specially trained teams to fight the crisis.

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

8 Responses to “Christians do not behead”
  1. In just responding to the headline, we don’t support beheadings, we support bombings. It is like we think of ourselves as being more righteous because we would never participate in a beheading. But give us the right uniform and weapons, and we all to often work our hardest to use them with no questions asked. So after we consider that, we then must consider why we don’t push our government to help those in need. Rather, we are apathetic and thus, by default, allow others to determine the role our government will play.

  2. Interesting that beheadings in Britian were limited to the royalty. Considered quicker and more respectable than hanging, which was reserved for the common criminal. Certainly a quicker death sentence than dying by Ebola, apparently God’s choice of a death sentence (assuming you are of that belief, that it is a punishment for sin). Beheadings are for shock value today. 2 beheaded versus 200 killed by a bomb. A bomb is more effective in mass murder, but just not as shocking. Dead is dead.

  3. Most supralapsarians that I know believe that God is in control and that is causistic only because it is an unacceptable notion that He has become a spectator; remember, we all believe he is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent – not the characteristic of a spectator). That doesn’t mean at all that we, the supralapsarian, simply believe that this is a wrathful and vengeful God but the consequence of man’s sinfulness, thus placing the responsibility entirely on the perpetrator. I find it very hard to accept a God who partially controls and only watches events happening without any interference or intervention, and even finds Himself caught by surprise, which, considering His power to prevent them, is a crime. The notion that God is a spectator is open theism (Arminianism with a vengeance). If God is not powerful to either “create evil” (Isaiah 45:7) or calamities, (Amos 3:6), then, he may be not be powerful to save anyone. What’s wrong with many is that in these occasions they blame it on God when the challenge to a Christian is not the “who dunnit” but “now that’s been done, WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT? God’s eternal decree is NOT to be used as an excuse for comfort in the face of evil!

    Now, the subject matter of this post: Considering Christianity to be much older than Islam, and that Islamic scholars who are honest, declare that Islam is not an “original” religion, and reading a few books on martyrdom in early Christianity, Christians may be blamed for teaching Muslims to commit the atrocities they commit, namely, punishing the unbeliever and committing acts of “self” martyrdom, a conflict of terms I know, in order to gain immediate, unquestioned and direct redemption for their sins.

    • Milton, I do not think God is a spectator, but I do believe God may have set things in motion operating within his laws, but not necessarily protruding from him. I think Muslims had a good set of skills before Christians would have taught them anything.

  4. Apparently the Nazis were fans of beheading as a form of execution, using a German variation on the guillotine.

    From Wikipedia:

    “Nonetheless, the Nazis’ use of the Fallbeil was chillingly routine. It is estimated that some 16,500 persons were guillotined in Germany and Austria between 1933 and 1945. This number includes resistance fighters both in Nazi Germany itself and in those countries that were occupied by them. As these resistance fighters were not part of any regular army they were considered common criminals and were in many cases taken to Germany and decapitated. Decapitation was considered a “dishonorable” death, unlike an “honorable” death: e.g., execution by firing squad.[citation needed]

    The Fallbeil was used for the last time in West Germany in 1949, in East Germany in 1966.”

    The guillotine was only used once in North America, in 1889 on the French island of Saint-Pierre, off the coast of Newfoundland. They had to have one shipped from Martinique, and it is still on Saint-Pierre, in a museum.

    (Incidentally, you can practically drive/walk to France by visiting Saint-Pierre. Just drive to Newfoundland or Nova Scotia, and take a ferry to the island. One of these days I hope to visit.)

    France used beheading until they abolished capital punishment in 1981. The last execution by guillotine was in 1977.

    To be honest, I don’t think I’d say the guillotine is directly comparable to the beheadings of ISIS. The guillotine was developed to be a fast, humane execution. And it probably is superior to hanging, firing squad, or being beheaded with a sword or axe. Or for that matter, the recent executions using improvised combinations of drugs, which amount to medical experimentation on the prisoner.

    ISIS and their ilk seem to deliberately make their beheadings as horrible as possible, and as painful for the victim as possible.

  5. Scott Fritzsche says

    Thanks for throwing a nod to us Christians of a Libertarian bent and not lumping us with the others. That is appreciated.

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