Tag Archive: death penalty


tbV and i were watching ‘The Big Fat Anniversary Quiz of the Year’ last night as we had some internet to use up before the end of the month [and it all got eaten by the Invisible Internet-Data-Eating Monster] when suddenly Russel Brand and Noel Fielding [in top form in terms of doing fairly little resembling traditional quiz participation] had this moment where they caught a fly, who they named Chris, and then released it. They claimed it should be worth 10 points, but the host Jimmy Carr, feeling sorry for them i imagine, only gave them a single point.

And suddenly i got very sad. Because it flashed me back just a couple of hours ago where i had inadvertently become a murderer of the animal kind.

i was driving home from an afternoon of board game playing with my brother-in-law Carl [cos clearly being at his all day birthday board game playing event the day before and staying til 4.30am hadn’t been enough] and this squirrel suddenly ran out into the road too close for me to do anything about.

There was a brief moment when he looked like he saw me and was going to stop and then he suddenly changed his mind and ran and there was nothing i could do and it was the sickest feeling as the car drove over him, killing him instantly.


i didn’t even have time to give him a name. And while those who know me may know that i am not the hugest animal person in the world, and while seeing roadkill in the streets before has given me a brief ‘oh, that’s sad’ kind of feeling before life returns to normal, actually killing one of the little critters was quite a horrific thing.

Which on many levels is good. [That my response was to be horrified i mean]

Picture of Wes Craven and movie icons

And then waking up to the news that Horror specialist Wes Craven had died. And realising as i was writing this how these things are connected.

Wes Craven, as you may know, directed the movie Scream back in the day, which, back in the day, i watched and enjoyed [or enjoyed the experience of watching at least]. i have never been a Horror movie fan and yet for some reason the Scream movies appealed to me [possibly the ‘who is the killer’ mystery vibe appealing to my curiosity].

And then suddenly i couldn’t. i can’t remember there being a specific event or moment that changed things, but i do think it might have had to do with the idea that the gratuitous kind of violence that happens in slasher movies [I know what you did last Summer being another franchise i enjoyed back then] was something that happened in real life. And that it wasn’t entertaining at all. And how could i be entertained by scenes of the kind of violence that happens all around us in the world today.


Well yes, but also no. Because i noticed in myself the desensitisation that started to occur. Because i have watched twenty people ‘die’ in a movie, the news that someone was killed in a car accident actually doesn’t seem like such a big deal cos ‘only one person’ right? And also just seeing those kinds of ‘deaths’ again and again and again takes the shock and the edge off of it and in some ways makes it seem normal and okay.

May it never be normal and okay.

So it was the idea of being entertained by graphic violence as well as the desensitisation that really got to me. And so, i stopped watching those types of movies. And have noticed and increased and gradual sensitivity growing in me over the years since then, which i am really grateful for.

i spoke about this a little while ago using two incredible Pearls before Swine strips that really bring the point home well. When it comes to insects and any form of life really, if i don’t need to kill it, or if there is an opportunity to preserve life, then choose that route. It features to some extent in tbV and my attempt to reduce our meat consumption by fifty percent, by having meat free weeks every second week.

Yes, there is still some hypocracy evident in some of the movies i choose to watch [how is a James Bond ‘death’ any better than a Scream ‘death’ for example] and in the decisions we make about what we do make, but we are on a journey and we are trying to get better at it, and i think that’s a good thing.


picture of squirrel

i think if i had had enough time to name the squirrel i killed, it would have been Fred. i don’t know how to determine squirrel gender [and it feels highly inappropriate in this post to suggest you could maybe do it by looking at their nuts] so i’m just assuming he was a dude. Because for some reason that feels a lot better to me than if i had killed a lady squirrel.

It was not intentional, i don’t think it could have been avoided and it was a complete accident. But it still felt quite shitty and i don’t even say that.

The taking of a life, any life, when i had no real choice about it, also makes me pause for a moment and consider the taking of lives when we can and do have a choice about it. i’m thinking the death penalty, i’m considering abortion, i’m thinking of war, and also euthenasia. And perhaps even taking it a step further to say that the violence that erupts as the norm when we allow the kind of disparity between rich and poor that we see in our country today, without doing enough about it.

We tend toward violence. And so any moment when i can reduce the practice or celebration or glorifying or condoning of it in my life and maybe even in the lives of those around me, the better.

These are important things to think about. And they are even more important to act on.

Where are you in your thinking of any of these things at the moment? Please share some thoughts in the comments section… but play nice. 


As you all know by now, Pearls Before Swine is my favourite comic strip and if you ever have some time to enrich, you can take a look at a whole bunch of the cartoons i have shared over here. And usually he is just random or clever or biting cynically silly fun, but every now and then he draws a strip which makes you stop and go, “Wo!” and maybe even think for a minute.

i had saved this first strip to comment on some time and then he came up with the second one and i thought they worked quite well together so here they are. Appreciate them. Stop for a second and go, “Wo!” But also take a moment to think about your relationship to meat/killing. Because it is probably something that, unless you’re a vegetarian or more, is something you don’t think all that much about.

i have thought about it a lot more over the last couple of years and think our Americaland experience and some of the people we came into contact there definitely impacted my thinking in a number of ways. But here are three that come to mind:

[1] When it comes to people i am pro life, but perhaps not in the traditional way that that phrase is used. i believe that if you’re pro life you have to be pro all of life, so from babies that are still being formed to old people, from those suffering from disease to those who are going to be born with some kind of disability we have to be pro it all.

i do realise this is a tricky, sticky and potentially controversial opinion to hold. And that sometimes there might be an individual case by case scenario where some tough decisions need to be made. There might be a situation where a doctor has to choose between saving the mother and saving the unborn baby and i think probably the doctor in that scenario is going to be the best person to make that decision after consultation with the husband/father. While i disagree with the terminology [at the very least] of ‘assisted death’ i do think there are situations where we perhaps artificially help people ‘to live’ where it is not really living at all and so i do think we probably could rethink some of our artificial life preserving methods and be okay with allowing people to die when it’s their time to do so, although again i imagine these are really difficult decisions and should be taken situation by situation.

But we should hold life preciously, and the idea that someone would consider killing a child [because that is what it is!] because tests show it might be born blind or disabled or down syndrome actually sickens me. i cannot get my mind around that.

i absolutely believe the death penalty is wrong and don’t understand how so many christians are okay with their thinking that it is right. To kill someone to prove to people that killing is wrong just seems like the most ridiculous thing ever. Much more needs to be said about this.

[2] i came home from our time in Americaland with a greater appreciation of life. Now i have no doubt that i have vegetarian and vegan friends and possibly others who think i am way too far away from where i need to be. But i am definitely better than i was and i really like the change in myself. i have no idea what specifically caused it and again it might be simply from being around a lot more people who thought and lived a certain way.

The way i have seen it manifest is particularly with insects or bugs. Not that i think i would have gone out of my way to kill them before we went to Americaland. But i now have a mindset that says, ‘If i can avoid killing a bug or insect, then i will do that.’ i realised the extent of the change in me the other day when i carefully [this is going to blow too many peoples’ minds] removed a cockroach from my house and set it outside in the road as opposed to killing it. Before i wouldn’t have thought twice about killing a spider and now i will do my best – if it needs to be moved – to get it on a piece of newspaper or in a bag or on my hand and move it to a safer place. i will avoid stepping on ants if i see them – again, a really small mindset shift and a massive one as well.

Mosquitoes? Sorry, the change has not extended there. So maybe there is still some work to do. Or maybe that’s just ok.

The change can probably best be described as don’t go out of your way to hurt or kill a living creature. And if you are able to save/protect/rescue one then go for it. In some situations i probably will still kill ants and cockroaches and possibly even spiders, but i am now leaning more strongly towards avoiding it if possible. So that might not seem particularly significant to anyone, but it feels good to me. Small steps.

[3] Bacon. i imagine this one will seem silly to people on all sides of the spectrum, but i’m okay with that. i enjoy bacon as much as the next person and yet somehow i have gotten this reputation of being the number 1 bacon appreciator of the world. i am aware to some extent how i have helped create this impression and so it’s not completely surprising, but i don’t think it’s true. i mean i really do like bacon, just not THAT much. And one way it has been propogated is that any time anyone sees a t-shirt or a meme or a bacon-salad picture they immediately think of me and post it on my Facebook wall and so it helps build up the picture.

But it’s not particularly true. To be absolutely honest i think i could never eat another piece of bacon again for the rest of my life and be totally okay with that. i wouldn’t particularly choose to, cos like i said i do enjoy it. But it doesn’t feel like a need for me.

The weird point i wanted to make about bacon though is this. i’m not sure when or where it started and don’t even know why. And i don’t particularly do it with any other kind of meat although i do try to be grateful and appreciate all the food we have an eat. But particularly with bacon i started in the last couple of years, taking a moment to stop and be grateful and in a sense thank the pig. To some this will be ridiculous, to others maybe hypocritical and maybe it’s just me cashing in my senility chips earlier or something. But i think it might in some ways be linked to tradition of first nation people of celebrating the life of the animal they kill before they eat it. A real sense of gratitude and appreciation. A moment of stopping to give thanks and thank the pig for its sacrifice that was made, giving me an opportunity to eat. Maybe this means absolutely nothing and makes no difference at all, but for me it is an extra moment of gratitude and appreciation and i think that’s a good step in the right direction.

i imagine most meat eaters don’t take any time whatsoever to think much about their eating of meat. Perhaps if we did there would be more vegetarians among us. So maybe take a moment to think about your meat-eating-ness or not. If you’re happy with it, then by all means keep on. But maybe even within that we can find better ways to do it…


[For a range of other Pearls before Swine strips, click here]

This is a follow-on from yesterday’s most insightful passage about map-making from M. Scott Peck’s ‘The Road Less Traveled’ that i am busy reading and so make sure you have read that one first, but this is a little bit of a deeper look at the ramifications of it, specifically for my Jesus-following friends.

There is a much larger chance that you at some point or other have been subjected to the sung or chanted version of this little mantra:


“God, you’re bigger than my box

You’re bigger than my theology

You’re bigger than my understanding

You’re bigger than me.”

The point being, that due to the size and vastness and complexity and enormousness of God and the smallness of us mere mortals in comparison, that no matter how big your view of God is [Who He is, how He speaks, what He looks like, how He works or reveals Himself to us, if He does at all] it is with all likelihood not going to match up with the reality of who God actually is.

A really poor analogy would be akin to a four year old child taking a look at the inner workings of a personal computer and expecting them to understand it. They will have an experience with what they see and they will understand it to the extent that their minds and vocabulary allow it to. But the reality is that their definition and understanding will fall so far short of what the truth and reality is. It is not the child’s fault. They simply don’t have the capacity to understand at that point.

So it is with God. And us. We can have some measure of understanding and some extent of experience, but if we ever decide that we have arrived at a comprehensive and complete understanding of who God is and how He works, then we are very likely going to look foolish.

“God, you’re bigger than my box

You’re bigger than my theology

You’re bigger than my understanding

You’re bigger than me.”

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a box or theology or an understanding. Or a map. But it does definitely mean that we can’t hold the edges of those things too preciously. As with yesterday’s Peck passage, we need to be constantly shifting or revising our map as our knowledge and experience and conversations and learning dictate to us.

What is also super helpful is realising where we are taking our picture and understanding of God from. Most Christians would claim it is from the Bible. That was given to us to help us have a better understanding of God and His story and how and where we fit into it. I would agree with that in terms of intention, but i would also suggest that for so many people in the church, that is not their reality.

For example if your picture of God tells you that the preacher of a church [a man] has to shout and get worked up and have passion oozing out of every vein and pore for it to be an effective preach, then i don’t think you have been informed by the bible. I think you have been taught by the culture of the pentecostal church.

If your picture of God tells you that to worship Him you must raise your hands in the air and emotion must be present [you must feel the songs you are singing so they become more real] then you have not been informed by the Bible. You have likely been taught by the culture of the charismatic church.

If your understanding of God dictates that liturgy is the way to truly connect with your Creator and that the only person who is able to administer the communion bread dipped in wine [or wafer dipped in grape juice, because, you know] then it is likely that you have been influenced by the culture of the anglican or catholic church.

i am not saying for a second that any of those thoughts or ideas are necessarily in themselves wrong. What i am hoping is that each of us will look at the things we believe about God and church and christianity and really try and be more sure of what is directly taken from the Bible and what is definitely a message from God [One absolute we can hang our coat on is ‘Love God with all your heart, strength, soul and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself!] and what things [some of which might be good and helpful, some less so] were merely aspects of the culture of the church we felt connected to, that we have taken on as a God thing.

“God, you’re bigger than my box

You’re bigger than my theology

You’re bigger than my understanding

You’re bigger than me.”

It is helpful to have an idea of who God is and how He works. But it can be restrictive when we hold those as set boundaries that He is never able to break out of.

For example, before Moses, God had never spoken to anyone through a burning bush.

Before Balaam, God had never sent a message to a human by way of a donkey.

Before Jesus, God had never appeared to mankind as a baby or done many of the things Jesus did in quite the same way that He did them.

Does that mean God doesn’t speak through burning bushes, donkeys or babies? Not at all. It just meant He hadn’t yet. Until He had.


i believe the map-adjusting concept is for everyone. But i especially believe the church needs to embrace it.

What makes it particularly tricky is the need to embrace it with discernment. There are many long-held beliefs and practices in the church today that are being challenged [women in leadership, the LGBT conversation, stance on abortion, death penalty, euthanasia and more] and these need to be looked at. But they do not need to be changed simply because they are being challenged. They need to be looked at through the lens 0f scripture and in community God’s heart, view and stance needs to be determined.

This should be an easy one as followers of Jesus have the Holy Spirit living in them helping to inform, guide and nudge in the right direction. Although we have seen too often people on both sides of a complicated conversation [take the death penalty for example] who are clearly Spirit-filled and yet coming to different conclusions.

So this is not easy stuff. But it is so incredibly important. Too often i see people chiming in on Facebook discussions or article comment feeds and throwing out a statement like ‘The bible says so’ without giving any reasoning [beyond often an out-of-context quoted verse] or backing for their statement. And too often, if you look a little deeper you can easily see that it is ‘my church culture’ or ‘the family understanding i was brought up with’ that is actually saying so.

The easiest way to be sure if it is God or the Bible that is doing the informing in a particular situation is to take a look at the Love being demonstrated. If Love is lacking or not evident at all, then it is quite easy to know we are not dealing with a God thing here. Because with God, Love is always the key and the heart. It doesn’t mean that Love won’t sometimes be a tough one to swallow or be interpreted as unloving [God does not tolerate sin easily. He does always continue to Love sinful people though] because a spoken Truth that points out that you are not behaving in a Godly way will not necessarily feel like the way we expect Love to feel. But if Love is absent, then God is as well. And that is a lesson the church could do well to focus more strongly on.

Where we have failed to Love, we have failed to bring/show/demonstrate God.

And any space on our map that is devoid of Love, needs an instant change [and quite possibly a significant one] to get us moving in the right direction.

Can you say/sing this with me?

“God, you’re bigger than my box

You’re bigger than my theology

You’re bigger than my understanding

You’re bigger than me.”

[For the next part looking at how adjusting your map means refusing to settle, click here]

So today i was on a semi long-distance trip and penned a couple of new brett andy’s – usually i try them out on facebook/twitter first before i see what people really like, but these have never been viewed before and so i would really appreciate it if you would take a minute to mention if any of them make you smile or laugh or silently chortle…

“As I finished sewing up the incision, there was a moment of panic as I thought I’d left the scalpel inside Mr Jenkins. Then a wave of relief swept over me as I remembered that I’m not a surgeon, I’m the janitor.” [Brett Andy]

“I dressed up as a skeleton for Halloween, but then ended up staying at home cos I had no body to go with me.” [Brett Andy]

“As the news came to me that I’d been given the death penalty, I thought to myself, “These new soccer rules are becoming a little extreme.” [Brett Andy]

“ “I’m Thor!” He shouted again. But no-one seemed to be paying much attention. Curse that wretched lisp!” [Brett Andy]

“I’ve always wondered if it is white with black stripes, or black with white stripes. Which was pretty strange because I was looking at a giraffe at the time.” [Brett Andy]

“ “Out, Out, damned spot!” cried Lady Macbeth. But still the mutt refused to budge.” [Brett Andy]

“ “2B or not 2B?” pondered Hamlet, as he contemplated his opening move in Battleships.” [Brett Andy]

“After watching the cricket for five days, I thought, “I’ve got to get me a more interesting bug.” [Brett Andy]

“My wife asked me to turn the kettle on, so I looked at it and said, “Hey baby. How you doin?” [Brett Andy]

“That’s the last time I play Blackjack with Mike Tyson.”

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