It seems like a few Conservative Christians have forgotten that God said, “vengeance is mine.”

I’m not even religious and even I can figure this out.

I just read this fascinating story about how the Supreme Court has been driving the point of the death penalty. Some of the justices are making a point to do whatever they can to make the death penalty more painful, more shameful. It’s almost like they take a certain pleasure, a certain joy, in punishing other people.

As I read that article, I could not help but think of all the times that some so-called Christians went out of their way to punish other people for something they considered to be wrong. I have to wonder where they get this authority they claim to have, you know, to punish others.

I can recall how often I read stories about health clinic bombings in the ’70s and '80s. I know that dates me, but I was reading the LA Times in 5th grade. I can recall the verbal and physical fights between the protesters and supporters of a woman’s right to choose. Clinics that perform abortions now have a bullet-proof glass at their service counters in their reception rooms. They have very tight, very organized security inside and out. They are prepared for most attacks. How does one arrive at the conclusion that one has the authority to bomb a health clinic just by reading the bible?

I can recall the history books I read of the beatings, the lynchings, the church burnings and the constant and steady humiliation of African Americans at the hands of so-called Christians. Today, I can watch YouTube videos about Sundown Towns that warn you that if you are black or brown, be out of town before sundown. I have read about how black and brown people earn a fraction of what white people earn, simply by the hidden collusion among some of the white people against them. For some apparently, employee performance was not a great consideration.

I remember vividly, how Republicans in Congress put up a singular, very well orchestrated wall of obstruction for President Obama. I remember how they chastised him. I remember how they blocked judicial and executive appointments at every turn. There seemed to be a consensus in the news reports that I was reading, that it was all because his only sin was to be the first, and probably not the last, African-American president.

In recent days, presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been heckled by some members of his audience at a Democratic Party social function. They shouted that “marriage is between a man and a woman” and that he must “repent”. So Buttigieg is married to another guy and he isn’t doing marriage right in the minds of his hecklers? Those hecklers seem to think that God wants to make him feel really bad about what he is doing with his life. It seems to me that those so-called Christians would like to punish Buttigieg for his so-called sins.

In several states, new anti-abortion laws are calling for extreme punishment for abortions. The death penalty and public hangings have been suggested by some supporters of those anti-abortion laws. Hmm. The Ten Commandments say, “Thou shalt not kill”. As far as I know, there is nothing in the bible that permits a man (or woman) to kill another person. Not even for the pretended crime of abortion. I note that the Jewish believed that life comes with the first breath, a very different conclusion than some Christians have reached.

There is something else. Something God says in the bible that is absolutely crystal clear: vengeance is mine. I don’t recall anyone anywhere saying that they have received special permission from God or Jesus, to punish anyone and that they can back it up. They can’t even cite chapter and verse for such authority. Most of these people, these self-proclaimed Christians, are taking it upon themselves to mete out the punishment. But as far as I know, there is nothing in the bible, quoting God or Jesus, that says it’s OK for a Christian to punish another person.

Jesus may have punished a few people himself. But I have asked some people about whether or not Jesus is God, and as far as they know, Jesus is God. And if Jesus is God, he may have been the only person that God ever delegated any authority to punish others. In all other cases, God still reserves vengeance to himself.

Jesus said, “follow me”. He said in so many words, “I know the way, so follow me.”

He did not say, “Take up positions in the highest offices of government, and use your power to compel others to follow me.” He did not say, “Band together in small groups and punish others for not following me.” He did not say, “If you’re white, I bestow upon you, the power and the authority, to punish others for being black and brown.” He did not say any of those things. Besides, no one really knows for sure if Jesus was black, brown or white.

I still remember the huge fights over busing in Los Angeles. I find it interesting that millions of Christians have actually believed that we should be segregated according to the color of our skin. Even more so, that millions of them still believe this lie, even after many struggles in court on the matter. How it is then, that a Bible scholar like Martin Luther King, Jr. arrived at entirely different conclusions? If segregation is required by the Bible, I sincerely doubt that Dr. King would have remained a Christian. I am pretty sure he’d find some other religion more appealing if that were the case.

I am agnostic myself. I am not really sure if there is a god or even more than one. But I don’t believe in punishing other people. I believe in teaching other people how to live better. I’m most certainly not perfect and never plan to be. For if I were perfect, I wouldn’t have any friends. For perfection, I look to the photon, the electron or the proton. They’re very close to perfect. So I am mindful of my own flaws and avoid punishing other people out of spite.

It is hard to live in peace. It is even harder to live in peace if you believe that your holy book authorizes you to punish others for their sins. It is harder still to live in peace if you have punished someone else for their sins. Always looking for some pretense to punish someone. Always looking over your shoulder just in case they come looking for you, the punisher.

I am not interested in punishing anyone. I am not interested in punishing Christians who commit acts of violence upon others, either. I believe in restraint. I believe that we should restrain people who are dangerous and that they should be segregated by imprisonment after committing acts of violence. But I do not believe in making their lives any worse than they already are. For they are living in a mind that will punish them without any assistance from me, God or anyone else.

Write on.

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Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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