I refer here to the hyper emotionalism and cloudy thinking of way too many Christians in the case of two convicted criminals who met their end recently in Indonesia. I certainly did not plan to say anything further on all this, but each new day I am utterly stunned to find what some Christians continue to say about all this.
Here is my brief reply to the latest: Um, no, sorry, but I will never countenance turning convicted drug smugglers into heroes and saints. That of course is exactly what has been happening all over the place, especially in all sorts of Christian circles. But count me out. I do not want any part of it.
As I have said all along, if one or both have become Christians as a result of all this, they are now with Jesus and that is wonderful news indeed. Indeed, it is the best thing that could have happened to them. Had they not been busted they likely would still be pagans and still be selling drugs resulting in the deaths of many others.
So we thank God whenever someone really repents and turns to Christ. But a bit of a reality check is needed here. Are they in fact now to be canonised and turned into martyrs? This is already occurring in many places. Consider what I just read on one social media site:
This is quite beautiful. There should be more mercy and forgiveness in the world.
“Australian Catholic University has created two scholarships for Indonesian students to study in Australia named after Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. The scholarships would be a fitting tribute to the reformation, courage and dignity of the two men. The scholarships had been created to recognise the university’s commitment to the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life.”
The person went on to write: “I think its purpose is two-fold. It’s a beautiful act of charity and it’s designed to train up Indonesians to one day abolish the death penalty in their country. Hopefully we’ll help educate a future Indonesian President.”
Um, a few problems here. First of all, God has ordained the death penalty. Secondly, since when is it our responsibility to intervene in another sovereign state in this fashion? Thirdly, since this guy was speaking as a Catholic, I had to remind him that the Catholic Church does not oppose the death penalty.
Indeed, I have found so much sloppy thinking by Catholics on this, that I have been forced to write an article laying out official Catholic teachings on such matters. For those Catholics unaware of what their own faith teaches on this, I offer this refresher course here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2011/05/05/killing-and-catholic-social-teaching/
All this outrage over an institution God has ordained is really doing my head in. As I have often said, one need not agree at all with most of how the Indonesian government has carried this out. There is much to censure here. But my point all along has been for those who claim to be Christians to realise that capital punishment is morally licit in some cases, and has the backing of God himself.
So we can rightly disagree on what Indonesia is doing here, but I am staggered when I find Christians claiming to be more moral and loving than God as they insist that capital punishment is inherently wrong and should never be used. That has been my great concern all along; not to defend everything Indonesia has done.
Christian opposition to things like the death penalty seems to be overwhelmingly an emotional reaction. I find very little solid thinking here, or clear biblical reflection. But all that I have discussed in nearly 20 other articles so I will not repeat it here. But let me just add a few final thoughts. I quite like what one person wrote on his page about this:
Has anyone considered that if Chan and Sukamaran were not on death row, they never would’ve repented and turned to God and done so much good in the decade they were in prison? Perhaps the death penalty has facilitated them doing more good than they ever could have done if they had been sentenced say 5 or 10 years in gaol. They have passed now, not only carrying Christ with them, but giving Him to so many others. Perhaps the blind outrage we see is not the way we should be trying to end this story.
Exactly right. It does no good of course to speculate on various possible scenarios here, but we know that the death penalty certainly can have a sobering effect on people, resulting in a real change of heart and mind. I believe it was Samuel Johnson who once said that “nothing concentrates the mind like the knowledge that one will be hanged in the morning.” So there is a real possibility that the death penalty is the very thing that led to their conversion.
And consider the other possibilities here. Had they not been caught, they likely would not have considered Christianity at all. As Piers Akerman said today: “Had Chan and Sukumaran succeeded, they would doubtless have been smugly driving around in Ferraris or Porsches and thinking what a great life it was bringing drugs into Australia to sell to vulnerable kids.”
However I still keep getting the tired objection that capital punishment cuts short a person’s chances of repenting and receiving Jesus. But this objection really has no biblical merit whatsoever. The idea that we should never do anything to shorten a person’s life so that he might have more chances to hear the gospel is rather silly when you think about it for a minute.
If this were true, you then would have to argue that God is really rather immoral for allowing us all to die so relatively young. Why does he not allow us all to live to be 500, or 1000, or longer? After all, we would then have even more chances to repent. Sorry, but this is the thinking of secular humanism, not biblical Christianity.
All Christians should realise that God appoints the times and seasons of men. He gives life and he takes it away. Our times are in his hands. And that would include when the state uses the God-ordained institution of capital punishment to punish wrong-doers.
But let me conclude with a bit more of the article by Akerman. I do not know, but I suspect he is not a Christian. So he does not think much of the apparent conversion of one or both of these men. But I think he makes a whole lot more sense than many Christians when he writes, “Why turn drug smugglers into heroes for our kids?” He says:
The nauseating canonisation of executed convicted heroin smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran was well under way before their corpses had been returned to their families. At Castle Hill High, the words “merciless”, “barbaric”, “futile” and “weak” were plastered on the noticeboard on Wednesday by principal Vicki Brewer after students expressed horror at the executions of Chan and Sukumaran, and six others in Indonesia. . . . Judging by the responses on social media, a lot of locals would prefer Ms Brewer to concentrate on teaching the basics – reading, writing and arithmetic – rather than dabble in social engineering or encourage youngsters to think they are engaged in relationships with drug smugglers.
Keith thought that: “through this comment the school is promoting these two criminals as ‘heroes’. Gosh, wonder how many students in this school will engage in drug dealing over the next 10 years to emulate their ‘heroes’. Also, is it appropriate for the school to demean Indonesia in the public arena? Rightly or wrongly, these two criminals were caught organising drug trafficking in a country which has legitimately warned about the consequences for drug trafficking.”
Chan and Sukumaran — who were attempting to smuggle 8.3kg of heroin, valued at around $4 million, into Australia — were professionals who themselves showed zero regard for the sanctity of human life. It was Chan’s third run, one successful, one aborted, and, bingo, total failure. Sukumaran was more unlucky. It was his first attempt to make a big score. In 2010 Chan told SBS that he hadn’t given a thought about the consequences of his actions — it was all about the cold, hard cash….
Immediately after the executions were carried out, the Labor Party attempted to politicise the matter with absurdly false claims about directions to the Australian Federal Police. Victorian judge Lex Lasry called for a group of eminent persons to lobby governments in countries such as Indonesia and the US to persuade them to end their use of the death penalty.
It is estimated that China executes thousands every year, the numbers in Iran run into the hundreds, Iraq is believed to have executed more than 160 last year, Saudi Arabia 79, North Korea 70 and the US 39. Justice Lasry should take his campaign to Beijing. If Australia’s empathetic headmistresses and pseudo-celebrities want the Indonesians to stop executing young Australians, they should start by getting young Australians to stop taking drugs.
As I say, he may not be a Christian, so reports of their conversion do not sway him much. But as I have said repeatedly, if these were genuine conversions then thank God. And praise God they are now with their Saviour. But I am not about to turn them into some sort of heroes, nor push the foolish line that divine forgiveness means we are freed from the consequences of our actions.
Since so many folks are appealing to the thief on the cross in this case, I wish they would actually read what Scripture teaches on this. Luke 23:40-4 says this: “But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong’.”
He was forgiven, but he knew that he deserved his death sentence. There was no ‘get out of jail free’ mentality here. No expectation that now that he had repented, he could somehow escape the consequences of his actions. No anti-death penalty crowds seeking to turn him into a hero. He rejoiced in his newfound faith, but accepted as fully just his death. Let’s try to stay biblical. There is far too much emotionalism here for my liking, sorry.