Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Saddam Hussein’s Execution: No Cause to Rejoice.

I joined with others here in asking the church universal back in November to condemn Saddam Hussein’s sentence of death. Now that it is too late to save his life, I still hope that Christians (and Muslims and others, but my first concern is with those of my own faith) everywhere will condemn the execution. Not because we find Saddam Hussein “worthy” of mercy (whatever that would mean), but because the death penalty is ALWAYS wrong. God alone can create human persons and give them life. To take that life away is to usurp the sovereignty of God. Jesus commanded us to imitate God’s mercy and forbade us to imitate God’s wrath or judgment.
By keeping the worst offenders alive, we bear witness to the infinite worth of all human life–no exceptions.

President Bush claims that this execution is a step in the right direction for Iraq. How? Sure, he was guilty of crimes against humanity–but taking his life didn’t bring any of his victims back to life. And the specific crimes for which Saddam was tried involved the use of chemical weapons sold to him by the U.S. in the persons of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. They remain unindicted co-conspirators. Saddam’s Baathist party came to power in Iraq with the help of the CIA. Executing this one man is the classic scapegoat: a multitude of others’ sins are hidden by being placed on one man. Except that unlike the biblical scapegoat, this man WAS guilty–just not by himself.

Saddam’s execution, like all executions, participates in the myth of redemptive violence–a false myth, a lie. Prison sentences are imperfect balances of justice and mercy, but, at least, by refusing to kill the killers, we unmask the lie of redemptive violence and expose it. We tell the truth that ALL human life is of infinite worth. That truth was hidden by Saddam’s execution. His execution and the rejoicing by many all over the world, including the U.S. president, repeated the lie.

Speak out Christians. Speak loudly churches and church organizations. Tell the truth. Expose the lie. Not for Saddam’s sake (he believed the lie of redemptive violence as deeply as anyone and lived by it), but for ours–for the world’s sake. For the sake of the truth of the gospel, churches must renounce “justified” violence, including support for the death penalty. Let our pulpits speak the truth–now, today.


December 31, 2006 - Posted by | death penalty


  1. Amen.

    Comment by Erudite Redneck | December 31, 2006

  2. Unfortunately, if he was kept alive, he probably would have gotten out of prison eventually. It doesn’t matter what we say, most Iraqis are very happy he is DEFINITELY gone.

    absurd thought –
    God of the Universe wept
    when Saddam was killed

    he wanted him pissed on
    being dragged through Baghdad

    Comment by USpace | January 1, 2007

  3. I did not rejoice when Saddam was killed. But I did not weep either. In fact, I’m really indifferent.

    Comment by Chance | January 20, 2007

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