This stuff makes me angry. Then it makes me sad. Then I read the comments and it makes me angry again.
Looking at the story with an ignorant outsider’s eye, the first second and third paragraphs seem to sit uncomfortably together. One of the jurors states that the convicted man should be put to death because the Bible tells us that’s what should happen to murderers. But the juror also says that he believes in the death penalty over life imprisonment because locking someone up is too expensive. Doesn’t that seem a little bit… I don’t know, like he’s trying to have it both ways? In my experience, doing what’s morally right is very rarely the easiest solution to a problem. Generally that’s what morals are for, aren’t they? To stop us taking the most ruthlessly expedient road? Don’t know. Obviously the writer is quoting the juror selectively, perhaps his position isn’t as suspiciously self-supporting as it seems in the story. Perhaps I’m just looking for a problem, looking to pick a fight, seeing self-deception where it isn’t there because the notion of state-sponsored murder based on a selective reading of a 2500-year old text is so utterly incomprehensible to me. It’s repugnance squared.
I appreciate that it’s monumental arrogance for a staunch atheist to try and interpret the Bible for a believer but hey, monumental arrogance is a close personal friend. So: wasn’t this “eye for an eye” stuff supposed go out when Jesus arrived with Bible 2.0? Wasn’t love, forgiveness and turning the other cheek his MO? How is it that headbanging fundamentalists go out of their way to dig up obscure parts of the Old Testament to take to their hearts but miss the really big, really important, really cool stuff that’s said over and over and over in the Gospels? Why do people fixate on, f’rinstance, what folk choose to do with their reproductive organs rather than the notion that the only way into heaven is to love your neighbour?
To put it bluntly, why is it that people who believe that the Bible is the literal truth, the literal word of God, always seem to choose the wrong literal words to believe? Yes, the Bible is the product of many writers over a long period of time and is somewhat self-contradictory in places but the overall tone and message of the New Testament is pretty consistent. So why do so many people pick out the nastiest, most close-minded, most spiteful and stupid parts of a book that in the main asserts that your first and most important duty to God is to be excellent to each other? What am I missing? Can somebody explain to me how it works, because I honestly don’t understand. Particularly given that I can barely think of a single Christian I’ve ever personally known that I wouldn’t describe as a good person. Faith is a good thing. Yes, it needs to be kept out of science classes and public health policies but it’s brought far more light and beauty into the world than stupidity and ugliness – you only need to look at the Sistine Chapel or read Paradise Lost or hear Bird In God’s Garden to realise that. I’m just having problems squaring the circle here.
The answer, of course, is that the idiots and hatemongers are a tiny albeit loud minority. But then I read a story like this which states that 80% of a sentencing jury on a murder case “introduced biblical notions into the jury discussion”, and I start to wonder if “biblical notions” is a phrase that does not mean what I’ve always thought it meant.