I shouldn’t have to put those six words in that order. Seriously, why do I even have to write this article? Don’t people know? Isn’t it obvious that killing is not okay?
While I am somewhat of a pacifist, I do recognize that there are rare cases in which someone might need to be killed in order to protect others. If a man is standing in the middle of a mall with two machine guns, spraying bullets in every direction, he may need to be shot to be stopped, and he may die from being shot.
That’s not nearly the sort of situation people have been justifying, though. We’ve all heard about John Crawford III, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Christopher Roupe. Or perhaps you haven’t, which is okay. I’ll still be here after you do some research.
What do they all have in common? Most of them were black men, but Roupe was white. Most of them didn’t do anything wrong, but Michael Brown did supposedly commit petty theft the same day he was killed (though the theft was not involved in the circumstances of his death).
They all have one thing in common. They did not deserve to die. Their deaths were the result of the abuse of power, and the mindset that killing someone is an acceptable goal in certain situations.
I did say that sometimes a person might need to be killed to be stopped. But that doesn’t mean killing them should be the goal. The goal is to stop them—if that requires killing, then let it be an unfortunate side effect. Why should we celebrate the death of a criminal? Perhaps he was a bad person?
So are you.
Everyone is bad, and everyone is good. We’re all stupid mixed-up humans, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to kill some of us.
Why exactly is killing people not okay, though? Religious people might argue that killing is wrong because their god prohibits it. But why would a god prohibit killing? In the case of the Christian god, at least, we’re talking about a perfect and logical being. He must have a reason.
Of course, the reason is obvious, and it isn’t “god said so”. Killing is wrong because it hurts people. But wait, you might say, why is it wrong to hurt people? And my question for you is if you really think you need to ask that question, or if perhaps you already know the answer. If I walked into your house and started hurting you, how would you know that it is wrong? After all, if you’re a bad person, wouldn’t you deserve bad things?
When we say something is wrong, we mean, on a basic level, that it is unjust. To be just is to be fair…that is, you get what you deserve. If you are a bad person, you may deserve bad things. A man who walks into a mall and starts killing people may very well deserve to die.
But he’s not entirely evil. Nobody is entirely evil. Everyone has some good in them, so everyone deserves some good.
Morality can be a confusing thing, but it can also be viewed simply. By your very nature you consider some things to be unpleasant, like pain and red traffic lights and Justin Bieber. Your inner life is a complex mixture of emotions in reaction to external stimuli.
Beyond emotions, you have a thing called empathy. It is the ability to see a sort of reflection of yourself in another person. You imagine what it would be like to experience what they are experiencing. You feel what they feel. Unless you’re a sociopath.
Morality is fundamentally no more than empathy. We all understand it is wrong to kill other people because we would not want to be killed ourselves. We understand it is wrong to do things that hurt people because we know and empathize with the feeling of pain. The most empathetic people are quite scared of criticizing anyone because they will feel the same negative emotions that they are inflicting on that person.
Killing is not okay because our shared empathy says it isn’t. Morality is a mutual agreement within the human species to treat each other as we would want to be treated. My Christian readers will find this quite familiar—it’s exactly what Jesus instructed.
So why do so many Christians say things like this to people they consider more evil than themselves? Why do Christian pastors argue that people should be killed? Why are people bullied until they kill themselves, simply because they don’t do what some people think they should do?
Why do so many Christians I know argue that the killings of John Crawford III, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Christopher Roupe, and others are justified?
I don’t know. Those men were unarmed. They did not present threat of death to anyone. Are police officers justified in killing someone if that person is holding an object? That seems to be all the reason they need. It doesn’t need to actually be a weapon. It doesn’t even need to be shaped like a gun. If a person is holding an object, a police officer can shoot them to death and then claim to have done so in self-defense.
Is this morality? We should destroy anyone who might possibly pose a threat to us?
Or perhaps the better question is this: is that how you want to be treated? If you are walking through a store, holding a toy rifle that you plan to buy for your son, do you want to be shot dead with no warning? If you are playing with a toy gun at a park, and a police officer confronts you, do you want to have a chance to show him that you’re harmless, or would you rather be shot dead within seconds?
I kind of doubt you would want to be in place of these people, and that’s why we can say that these killings are wrong. Or that bullying gay people, or saying they should be put in concentration camps or killed, is wrong. Because you don’t want to be treated that way, and neither do we. It’s an unspoken agreement.