Sunday, April 12, 2015

Death at Garissa University, Sin, and Consequences

About 150 people stopped living on April 2, 2015, in Kenya: Thursday of last week. They were killed at Garissa University College.

Quite a few folks are upset about this.That's reasonable.


(From AP, via Al Jazeera, used w/o permission)
("Several ceremonies to mourn the victims have been held in Nairobi"
Al Jazeera)

I put excerpts from news and views at the end of this post.1

The body count would have been higher, but the killers were very careful about choosing their victims. After collecting about 700 students, they only killed those who said they are Christians.

Don't expect a rant about those [hated group] who always commit [atrocity of the day]. I think that's as foolish as making excuses for members of [approved group] who behave badly.

Although I'm upset about the loss of life, I'm not particularly concerned about long-term prospects for the 150 folks who decided that they'd rather be killed, than deny that they follow our Lord.

Martyrdom is messy and generally unpleasant: but it's a short, and painful, way to make the big time. (Catechism, 2473-2474)

Family and friends of the dead: I'm more concerned for them. No pressure, but praying for their well-being and support couldn't hurt.

Putting in a word for the half-dozen or so who did the killing may be more important. What they did has long-term consequences, far beyond what any local or national court could impose.

Hellfire and Hypocrisy



(From John Martin, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

I think it's wrong to kill someone for having the 'wrong' faith, ancestry, or appearance. More to the point, the Church says murder is wrong. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2268-2269)

Murder, deliberately killing someone when there isn't a really good reason, qualifies as a mortal sin. I'll get back to that.

Killing another person, when that's the only way to keep the other from killing me, is not murder. It's also very truly the last acceptable option. I've discussed legitimate defense, capital punishment, and getting a grip, before. (August 24, 2014; November 10, 2013; July 6, 2009)

Why aren't I indulging in a harangue about the killers getting cast into the eternal hellfire reserved for folks who aren't just like me?

Partly because I don't need that kind of trouble, partly because I think paying attention to our Lord's example is a good idea.

My rap sheet is long enough as it is, and I'm no more than a few decades — tops — from my particular judgment. (Matthew 7:1-5; Luke 6:41-42; Catechism, 1021-1022)

While Jesus was being tortured to death, in pain and with some reason for being in a snit, our Lord said "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)

That sets a pretty high standard. So does this:
"11 If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.

"But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."
(Matthew 6:14-15)

"1 2 'Stop judging, that you may not be judged.

"For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you."
(Matthew 7:1-2)

"1 Therefore, you are without excuse, every one of you who passes judgment. 2 For by the standard by which you judge another you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the very same things. ... There is no partiality with God."
(Romans 2:1-11)

Forgiving, including forgiving our enemies, is vital. "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us" is part of the Lord's prayer. (Catechism, 2838-2845)

On the other hand, we're not required to be stupid. I'll get back to that a little later.

Footnotes to Matthew 7 points out that Jesus isn't telling us to avoid getting lumber stuck in our eyes. The idea is that being arrogant and judgmental is not good.
"2 [1] This is not a prohibition against recognizing the faults of others, which would be hardly compatible with ⇒ Matthew 7:5, 6 but against passing judgment in a spirit of arrogance, forgetful of one's own faults."
(Matthew 7, footnotes 1, 2)

Sin and Sense


I've talked about positive law, rules we make up; and natural law, ethical principles woven into reality, before. (August 31, 2014; August 29, 2014)

Sometimes a society's rules defining our rights and responsibilities are somewhat in line with natural law. Sometimes they're not.

The 'middle-class morality' that many folks got fed up with in my youth was an example of positive law gone wrong. I do not miss the days of the 'boys will be boys' double standard, when "she's smart as a man" was supposed to be a compliment.

Some of my generation's reforms didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped, and that's another topic.

Breaking a positive law may be a sin, or not: violating the ethical principles positive law should be based on is.

"Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience...." It's a "failure in genuine love for God and neighbor...." Sin is a violation of eternal law. (Catechism, 1854-1864)

Sins aren't all alike. Some are comparatively minor, some are anything but.

Mortal sin is what the Church calls a sin that attacks the charity in us. It's an act that is a serious violation of ethical principles, done deliberately. (Catechism, 1855-1859)

Like I've said before, the rules are simple. I'm expected to:
I said simple: not easy.

Wrenching myself back on-topic, murdering my neighbor is pretty much the opposite of loving my neighbor: and it's a mortal sin. (Catechism, 1858)

Justice, Mercy, and Freedom


This is not where I start ranting about the Garissa killers being thrown into Hell. I have no idea what's going on inside their heads: much less how God sees the situation.

I am, however, as certain as I can be that what they did was wrong.

Killing someone for having a particular faith is a bad thing: whether the victims are Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, or anyone else. (September 11, 2014; February 25, 2014; August 9, 2012)

Are the Garissa killers going to spend eternity in Hell? I have no idea. What they did was a bad thing — but so is trying to muscle in on God's turf, which includes vengeance and final judgment. (February 1, 2015; September 11, 2010)

Although we can decide that what someone does is a "grave offense," we must trust God's justice and mercy for what happens to them — and to each of us — in the long run. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1861)

I've run into Christians who think that America's ethical standards are faulty — arguably true — and that 'there oughta be a law' that every American be forced into church.

I sincerely hope that doesn't happen, and don't think it will. America has a tradition of grudging tolerance for folks who don't agree with the majority.

Some Catholics might think that 'the government oughta do something,' and force everyone to say they're Catholic. That, in my considered opinion, would be a profoundly lousy idea. More important, the Church says that religious freedom is necessary. (Catechism, 1738, 2104-2109)

That's real religious freedom. Not the 'free to agree with me' stuff that's been popular off and on: and certainly not a 'convert or die' policy. The Verdun massacre left a mess we're still cleaning up. (May 18, 2014)

Doing Something Constructive — or Not


When something like the killings at Garissa University College happen, local, regional, and national leaders must do something. Leaders have responsibilities, like everyone else. (Catechism, 2235-2237)

Make that do something constructive. I think Armin Rosen's op-ed in Business Insider (April 8, 2015) makes a good point: Kenya's national government is not acting, or reacting, wisely.

I think I understand why the powers that be in Kenya have apparently decided that freezing the assets of Somali-owned enterprises in Kenya is a good idea.

Al-Shabaab says it is responsible for the Garissa University College killings.

Al-Shabaab's headquarters is in Somalia.

It's easy to assume that all Somali are Al-Shabaab terrorists, or supporting Al-Shabaab.

Ironically, Al-Shabaab seems to have a rather international membership.

Assuming that all Somali support Al-Shabaab may be easy, but it's almost certainly not accurate: any more than assuming that all Muslims are terrorists — or believing that all American Protestants support the Ku Klux Klan.

Maybe there's a reasonable explanation for the Kenyan government economically attacking Somalis. Maybe Kenya's leadership panicked. I don't know.

I do know that we live in a big world, that we're not all alike, and that this is okay. We're supposed to look different, and follow different customs. (Catechism, 360, 361)

Working for Change: It's a Long Haul


I gather that outfits like Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram think there's something wrong with Western civilization.

In a way, they're right. My native culture isn't perfect, and should be changed.

It has been changed, quite a bit it some ways, since my youth. My generation helped make some of those changes: which weren't, like I said before, all bad.

There's still room for improvement. A lot of room.

There are short-term fixes, but real change won't happen until most folks think that loving God, loving neighbors, and seeing everybody as a neighbor, is a good idea — and live as if that's true.

Meanwhile, we'll keep working with what we have, correcting what is unjust, and supporting what is right. (Catechism, 1897-1917, 1928-1942)

That's why I keep sharing the best news humanity's ever had: that God loves us, and wants to adopt us. (John 3:17; Catechism, 52, 1825)

It's called evangelization — preaching the gospel, or converting to Christianity — and is, or should be, a major priority for every Christian. (Catechism, 905)

Again, I can't make you, or anyone else, believe anything. Even if I could, it's against the rules. Every person must be free to choose: to accept truth, or not.

Finally — evangelization, Catholic style, isn't trying to force everyone into one cultural mold, impose the 'correct' form of government, or drag the world back to some imagined golden age. The 'good old days' weren't. (November 23, 2014; August 3, 2014)

We've been passing along God's message of hope and love for two millennia so far, made some progress, and have a very long road ahead of us. My opinion. (April 5, 2015; October 26, 2014; June 23, 2013)

More of my take on love, truth, and perspective:

1 News and views:

(From AP, via Al Jazeera, used w/o permission)
("Several ceremonies to mourn the victims have been held in Nairobi"
Al Jazeera)

"Kenyan students march to honour Garissa victims"
Al Jazeera (April 7, 2015)
"Hundreds of demonstrators in Nairobi call for better security and compensation for families of 148 killed at university.

"Hundreds of Kenyan students have marched in downtown Nairobi to honour the 148 people who died in an attack by al-Shabab fighters at a college campus in Garissa and to press the government for better security in the wake of the killings.

"The crowd walked and jogged down main thoroughfares in the Kenyan capital on Tuesday, sometimes sitting in traffic circles and intersections.

"One demonstrator held a sign that read 'You remain in our hearts!'. Another said 'Comrades are tired of al-Shabab'.

"Al Jazeera's Malcolm Webb, reporting from Nairobi, said the demonstrators were angry with the government for failing to provide adequate security in Garissa...."

"Kenya is responding to the latest al-Shabaab attack in a way that could make the country's terror problem worse"
Armin Rosen, Business Insider (April 8, 2015)

"In the wake of the massacre in Garissa, the Kenyan government has been harshly criticized by its citizens for missing the clues of an impending attack by the Somali Al Qaeda affiliate Al Shabaab. Gunmen from the group killed 147 people at a university in the eastern Kenyan city of Garissa on April 2.

"Now, it's clear that Nairobi's initial reaction to the attack is to go after the country's sizable Somali minority.

"On April 4, the government published a list of "entities suspected to be associated with Al Shabaab", including 13 of the largest Somali-operated money transfer companies working in Kenya. On April 8, the government ordered those companies' activities to cease and froze all of their accounts...."

"Kenyans protest against al-Shabab after Garissa attack"
BBC News (April 7, 2015)

"About 2,500 people have marched in Kenya's Garissa town in a show of defiance against militant Islamist group al-Shabab following its deadly assault on a local university.

"Students have also protested in the capital, Nairobi, ahead of a candle-lit vigil demanding more protection from the al-Qaeda-linked Somali militants.

"The assault on Garissa University on Thursday killed 148 people.

"Five Kenyans have appeared in court for suspected links with the attackers....

"...A sixth suspect, a Tanzanian, is being held in the north-eastern town of Garissa, which is about 150km (90 miles) from the border with Somalia...."

4 comments:

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Brigid said...

Missing space: "when "she's smart as a man"was supposed"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...

Thank you, Interracial Marriage - I'm the grandson of a 'mixed' marriage, between a girl from a 'decent' American family and an Irishman, and don't miss the 'good old days' a bit. My hope is that most folks keep getting used to living in a big world.

Sorry about the long delay in responding. I'm incredibly far behind on attending to comments.

Brian Gill said...

Brigid, got it. Thanks!

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.