The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1865  Monday, 9 September 2002

From:           Sam Small <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 7 Sep 2002 20:12:36 +0100
Subject:        To kill or not to kill

Hi, Andrew.

In reading CS Lewis' excellent "MERE CHRISTIANITY" I came upon the
chapter on "forgiveness" which startled me.  I include a section below.

"Does loving your enemy mean not punishing him?  No, for loving myself
does not mean that I ought not to subject myself to punishment-even to
death.  If you had committed a murder, the right Christian thing to do
would be to give yourself up to the police and be hanged.  It is,
therefore, in my opinion, perfectly right for a Christian judge to
sentence a man to death or a Christian soldier to kill an enemy.  I
always have thought so, ever since I became a Christian, and long before
the war (WW II) , and I still think so now that we are at peace.  It is
no good quoting 'Thou shalt not kill.'  There are two Greek words: the
ordinary word to kill and the word to murder. And when Christ quotes
that commandment He uses the 'murder' one in all three accounts,
Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  And I am told there is the same distinction in

Shakespeare's education would have given him this angle on semantics but
is it really part of the Christian canon?  Did Hamlet know of this fine
distinction between murder, killing and punishment?  It seems he was
confused but was the writer similarly bemused?  Are pacifists therefore
anti-Christian?  Is this where Hamlet's madness lay?


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