Most of you have heard of this dramatic incident in the past few day.  My friend Fr. Ernesto posted the blog below. The OCA, Orthodox Church in America,whose stand is below, and is Fr. Ernesto’s church body. This Orthodox denomination statement is simlar to most other sacramental traditions. The current political arguments generate much discussion today, and, in my view, cloud this reality situation.

Fr. Orthohippo January 6, 2012

Oklahoma mother shoots and kills intruder

An Oklahoma women shot an intruder who broke into her house Saturday afternoon to protect her child. Once the intruders were inside she sho… January 2012

As I quoted in an post several months ago, the position of the OCA on self-defense is that the Evangelical counsels of the Church consider “turning the other cheek” as being the ideal for a Christian. Nevertheless, as the article points out, in this fallen and damaged world this is not always either possible or perhaps even the best option. But, let me quote from the OCA website as I did in my article back on 12 July.

Christ taught that perfection requires the love of enemies and the absolute renunciation of resisting evil by evil. Thus if a man will be perfect he will renounce the relative values of this world totally and will not participate in any act which is morally ambiguous. In this way, for example, the Church forbids the bearing of arms to its clergy and does not allow a man to continue in the ministry who has shed blood, theoretically even in an accidental way!

However, the Orthodox Church follows Christ and the apostles in teaching that the relative and morally ambiguous life of this world requires the existence of some form of human government which has the right and even the duty to “wield the sword” for the punishment of evil. …

When violence must be used as a lesser evil to prevent greater evils, it can never be blessed as such, it must always be repented of, and it must never be identified with perfect Christian morality.

Why do I bring this up these many months later? Well, there is a news story that came out two days ago that brings out how difficult some of these decisions can truly be.

On Christmas Day, 18-year-old Sarah McKinley lost her husband to lung cancer, leaving her the sole caregiver to their three-month-old son.

On New Year’s Eve, the Oklahoma mother proved she was anything but defenceless after she shot and killed an intruder breaking into her home, the Daily Mail reports. …

After her husband’s funeral the previous week, a man named Justin Martin stopped by Ms McKinley’s house, claiming he was a neighbour and only wanted to introduce himself.

Ms McKinley, 18, was suspicious. She said he was calling late at night, when it was ‘pitch black outside.’

Martin returned on New Year’s Eve, this time in the middle of the day and armed with a hunting knife and an accomplice – a man identified as 29-year-old Dustin Stewart.

The new mother told KOCO News that the men started knocking aggressively on her door, Martin in front and Stewart in the back.

She described to the Oklahoma station what she did: ‘I walked over and got the 12-gague, went in the bedroom and got the pistol, put the bottle in his mouth, and then I called 911.’

Ms McKinley asked the 911 dispatcher what to do should the two men break in.

‘I’ve got two guns in my hand – is it okay to shoot him if he comes in the door?’ she said.

‘I’m in here by myself with my infant baby, can I please get a dispatcher out here immediately?’ …

‘I can’t tell you that you can do that but you do what you have to do to protect your baby,’ the dispatcher told her.

Ms McKinley was on the phone with two dispatchers – which represented two neighbouring counties – for a total of 21 minutes.

Around 2pm, Martin kicked in the door and Ms McKinley shot him once in the torso. Since police said the shooting was in self-defence, she will not be charged.

Police found Martin, 24, slumped over a floral-print sofa with a single gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

I want you to look past the political arguments to the human situation. Here is an 18 year old “girl” who is already a widow. She was legally and morally married. And then her husband comes down with cancer and dies, during Christmastide yet! Within a week of his death, she is assaulted and is in danger of her life. But, more than that, her baby’s life is in danger. So, she pulled the trigger. I do have one small question, and one that is not really being addressed by the news media. How did it ever take more than 21 minutes for any law enforcement officer to show up? Frankly, if I were the police chief, or sheriff, I would promptly launch an investigation as to the slow response.

But, that is not the point of this post. What should be my response as a priest? What should I tell that fully adult woman if she were to come to me for confession? The OCA makes it clear:

When violence must be used as a lesser evil to prevent greater evils, it can never be blessed as such, it must always be repented of, and it must never be identified with perfect Christian morality.

I must ask that young woman to repent of killing someone. Now, before you get angry with me, let me point out that I must do the same with any soldier that returns from war, having killed someone(s). The taking of a human life is considered to be a terrible thing in Scripture, even when it would be considered as a “justified” killing. Life is created by God and must never be lightly taken. Even when it must be taken–read the OCA statement above–it can only be taken with regret. The OCA clearly states the Orthodox position, that because of the fallen and damaged nature of the world it becomes necessary to have governments that have the power of the sword. Nevertheless, the power of the sword does not mean that killings can be done with no regret and with impunity. Rather, the Orthodox position–according to the OCA–is that we are to call people to regret the taking of a life and to repent of it, in order that their souls may not be seared and in order that they may not become accustomed to killing but may learn that taking a life is–at best–the lesser of two evils.

Having a seared soul is probably not the problem with this woman. But, it can certainly become a problem with those who are members of law enforcement agencies and of the military. A priest needs to call police personnel and soldiers to repentance in order to prevent them from becoming so seared that they commit an atrocity without even a moral qualm. The call to confession reminds the soldier that though they have God’s permission to use the sword, nevertheless, God’s intention was never for human beings to die. That is why Cain receives such a scolding from God. The soul that cannot regret the taking of a human life, that cannot ache for the necessity of doing so, that can simply keep walking without a problem, is in deep danger of becoming a seared soul.

But, but, but, I must admit that I am a sinner. I would have a very difficult time calling this “girl” to repentance. There is even a part of me that would wish to say, “Good shot!” I must admit that I doubt that I would have the wisdom necessary in order to apply the Evangelical counsels of the Church correctly. Frankly, I would need some serious help from the Holy Spirit in order to correctly carry out my calling and duty as a priest.

Posted by on Thursday, January 5, 2012


About Fr. Orthohippo

The blog of a retired Anglican priest (MSJ), his musings, journey, humor, wonderment, and comments on today's scene.
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