A liberal, who is also a major donor to the Democratic Party, calls conservative women "sluts" (and other words I cannot use in this column), and no comments ensue. A conservative commentator uses "slut" and "prostitute" about a liberal woman's alleged behavior, and practically the entire media erupts in outrage. Even the president of the United States gets involved. Double standard?
Not too long ago, I was watching one of my favorite television talk shows, and there was this heated debate on the death penalty. As I listened to the rhetoric, I took a moment to reconsider a phrase I once heard: "How foolish our arguments can become without absolutes in our reasoning." There is a reason it is virtually impossible to have a rational debate with people who do not acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being. Without the Judea-Christian God, there are no transcendent principles, no standards and no absolutes that place value on humanity. Absent absolutes and standards, chaos reigns. Try to conduct banking, science or commerce without agreed-upon standards of measure. If such mundane operations as counting dollars, measuring inches and determining how much a pound (hamburger or British currency?) is require standards, how much more such esoteric concepts as right and wrong?
What is right or wrong? Who/what determines these standards? Is it acceptable for any group, religion or government to arbitrarily dictate (as with Islamists who routinely kill atheists and homosexuals) absolute right and wrong, absent transcendent principles?
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A mother called the police and calmly told them that she had killed her five children. She drowned them in a bathtub. In the Boston area, 13 women were found murdered, ages ranging from 19 to 85. (They also had been raped.) One man in the Midwest murdered at least 29 women (probably more). A Palestinian "freedom fighter" breaks into a home, kills the sleeping mother and father, then murders their four-year-old son and two-year-old daughter by cutting their throats. One of the more understandable cases involves a woman who, with her daughter in the car, killed her husband by driving back and forth over him in her automobile. Her attorneys have introduced the "passion defense," further modified with something called "sudden passion" (not to be confused with "temporary insanity" which is psychological, "passion" is emotional). Since we have thrown out the Ten Commandments ("Thou shalt not kill" ) as being religious concepts, should we not also have the right to throw out the cause of the driver's "sudden passion"? (An affair of the heart with another woman; after all, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" is also a religious concept, is it not?)
Justice, equity and people's lives now all hinge not upon transcendent standards and immutable absolutes, but upon, "Well, what do you think?" So, absent any absolute standards by which to judge right and wrong, juries are forced to arrive at life or death decisions based on … what? How would you have decided these cases? Based on ... what?
People have asked, what does the death penalty have to do with anything? Why should we have it? What gives the state the right to kill? How is murder by the state different from murder by an individual? Based on today's humanistic basis of reasoning, so prevalent in our modern society, one could argue that there is little difference. Based on God's (not man's) view of humanity, there is an entirely different rationale for capital punishment. If we can understand the why of capital punishment, we may be able to clearly grasp the inevitable deterioration of moral standards that must occur once the death penalty is removed.
Let us, for the sake of argument, assume the existence of the Judeo-Christian God and the biblical principles on which Western civilization rests. Let us also be cognizant of this truth: The Bible is not a religious book, nor was/is its intent to establish Christianity. There are seven references to religion/religious in the Bible, and of those seven references, only one is overtly positive, and it has little to do with most of today's commonly accepted religious practices (James 1:27). The Bible's precepts are not about religion, but introducing life-enhancing human behavior patterns. Keep in mind that at one point in man's history, there were no prohibitions against the types of behavior later outlawed by the Ten Commandments. There were no universal standards of morality or right and wrong; there were no transcendent principles. Lying, cheating, stealing, killing, appropriating your neighbor's property and dishonoring parents were all permitted. Every human being had the right to "do that which was right in his own eyes." Given this state of affairs, upon what would laws be based? Again, for the sake of argument, let us assume there was a reason for the institution of capital punishment.
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Back in the day, those in power rewarded such as pleased them and punished what did not. Generally speaking, the life of a human being had no more value (and in some cases less) than that of a favorite animal (the emperor's horse or his slave). Consider a parallel aspect in today's society. Tens of thousands of women passionately support animal rights, protect baby seals and support adoption centers for stray cats and dogs, while they simultaneously adamantly and vociferously advocate killing human babies under the euphemism "choice." (Honey, I'm pregnant! We're gonna have a fetus!!)
For the first time in human history, the God of Israel (contrary to all other gods) ascribed value to human life; so valuable is mankind that the price of equivalence is the shedding of the blood of the one who sheds the blood: "… for your lifeblood, I will require an accounting … whoso sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed …" (Genesis 8:22-9:6 Amplified Bible). Could anything be clearer or simpler? Commit murder, you die. (By the way, there's nothing in the New Testament that supersedes this principle.)
What is the significance/importance of the death penalty? Consider this: The elimination of the death penalty of necessity calls for a diminishing of every lesser law, until finally we reach the point where there are no absolutes or transcendent standards. If the worst crime you can commit, killing a human being, can be paid for with 10 years – with time off for good behavior – then how do you mete out equivalent punishments for lesser crimes?
"Among children under age five years in the United States who were murdered in the last quarter of the 20th century, 61 percent were killed by their own parents: 30 percent by their mothers and 31 percent by their fathers" ("Child Murder by Mothers: A Critical Analysis of the Current State of Knowledge and a Research Agenda," by Susan Hatters Friedman, M.D., Sarah McCue Horwitz, Ph.D., Phillip J. Resnick, M.D., American Journal of Psychiatry 2005;162:1578-1587).
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So what is murder anyway? Shouldn't these parents be able to exercise choice in whether or not the kid should live? Killing your kid because you're angry or depressed is not murder? Driving back and forth over a spouse in a car because you are upset is not murder? Drowning a baby girl in a Florida swimming pool is not murder? An abortion is no longer a murder; it has been exalted to the position of a constitutional right. If one cannot be punished for the murder of a child (albeit unborn), then for what can one be severely punished?
So, if there are only double standards – if human life is not absolutely precious, if murder is not a crime absolutely punishable by death and sudden passion or understandable circumstances eliminate guilt – what next?!