Busted Halo
feature: politics & culture
November 12th, 2012

“Thou Shalt Not Kill” — God


The Ten Commandments have been drilled into me since I was young. Whether it was Vacation Bible School, religious education or other church-related activity, these 10 “ways of being a good follower of God” have always been part of my life. Unfortunately the fifth commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” seems to have been forgotten.

“NOLA For Life”

I live in New Orleans where violence has been out of control for some time. And the lack of respect for life can be seen on all levels of society — all the way from violent criminals to elected officials who take an oath to serve the community. In my own personal life, I have lost too many family, friends, church members and even youth to violence. I had to move out of the city when my best friend was murdered at the age of 16. It never gets easier. The pain is like a wound being reopened every time I receive a call saying someone was killed. The sad thing is that these calls are happening more and more often in our country today.

Many times, this violence grows from misunderstandings that could have been avoided. Other times it is someone searching for attention. But the one commonality is the lack of respect for life, and for one’s own life. In the news and in our own communities we see stories of young people of different backgrounds shooting up movie theaters or even their own schools. Why does this happen? What are the causes? I think sadly this violence stems from a lack of attention or love. If someone is genuinely loved and appreciated, then they will be less likely to hurt or kill another person. If their fundamental needs are being met then their respect for all other life increases.

Here in New Orleans a movement has begun among elected officials, individuals and the Church to step up to the challenge of growing violence. The city’s NOLA For Life program hopes to “flip the script” and change the messages that black males see about themselves in newspapers and on TV. NOLA For Life shares the positive stories of lives changed and emphasizes that the change starts within each one of us.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans is taking a message against violence into the streets, and specifically into people’s yards. It’s sent out 5,000 yard signs that say, “Thou Shalt Not Kill — God.” The signs show the community that we are all in this together and ground us in fundamental ethical and spiritual values. “If we have thousands of these signs all over the Archdiocese, perhaps someone will have a second thought,” says Archbishop Gregory Michael Aymond. In addition we’re called to pray “Our Family Prayer” as we fight what people call the New Battle of New Orleans against murder, violence and racism.

Justice and love

The goal: Face the violence in our community and remind ourselves that murder is not just a problem that affects a specific demographic. Violence in any zip code affects us all. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Such is the case when it comes to violence. Some people disrespect life because their lives have been disrespected. This does not justify killing and violence, but can help us understand ways to address the issue. Let me be clear — this is not just a problem that affects New Orleans or inner cities. Looking at the news we see that violence is taking place all over the world and in all parts of our country.

So, what does our faith teach us? Every life is sacred — from conception to death. No life is expendable since we are all made in the image and likeness of God. God valued life so much that He took the form of a man to make our lives right with Him. We are called to do the same — to reconcile to and be a connection to God and God’s love for all people. Everything we do as people of faith helps us realize who we are but, more importantly, whose we are. When we realize that we are children of God, we think about ourselves differently and we treat others differently. That’s why it’s so important for us to reach out to all of our brothers and sisters and let them hear God’s message of love by any means necessary — even if it is a sign in our yard.

The Author : Dr. Ansel Augustine
Dr. Ansel Augustine is the director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministries for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. He is also on the faculty of the Institute of Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana. Ansel has worked in ministry for more than 15 years and has a master’s degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University’s Institute for Ministry, a certificate in youth ministry from Xavier University’s Institute for Black Catholic Studies, and a Doctor of Ministry degree.
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  • Donna Grimes

    Wonderful article, Ansel!I couldn’t agree with you more. Yet, I respectfully disagree with Mr. Barr’s distinctions. 1. The New American translation (Ex 20:13) expressly states, “You shall not kill.” 2. We do not need to kill animals to survive. (That’s another topic). And, 3. From my understanding of the Scriptures, Jesus expanded rather than contracted the commandments. Examples: do not kill/do not get angry, do not commit adultery/do not lust in your heart, love God and neighbor (not just your kinfolk)/love your enemies, too. So, I think the 5th Commandment should also be understood as a prohibition against killing another’s spirit, reputation, hope for the future, opportunity to provide a decent living for oneself and one’s family, etc. Peace!

  • Kim

    I want to post one of those signs . . . and I live in Seattle!

  • Tipph

    Keep doin’ whatcha doin!

  • Kenneth Barr

    Your message against violence is admirable and worthy of support. However, the commandment is “Thou shalt not murder.” It is murder because we have to kill something in order to eat, whether it is another animal or vegetable. It is a very important distinction and would make your message even more powerful. Murder can never be justified, murder is violence done upon a neighbor, which violates the Greatest Commandment. Murder is the deliberate taking of life, done with malice and forethought. Murder is what the street gangs do, murder is their creed. It is the strongest possible language one can use to describe those who would impose their personal agenda upon God’s society.

  • Suzanne

    Beautiful, Ansel!

  • Jane K

    May God Bless you for the work you are doing and may you be infused with wisdom that allows you to find more ways to spread your important message. Working in conjunction with every church…all denominations….could be a step. Asking people in the community to volunteer to work with youth to teach the essence of what you are preaching in this essay is essential. I will pray for you in your work. Thank you and God Bless you.

  • Garmanne Mack

    Keep pounding it in, Ansel. Somebody is bound to wake up and realize it just isn’t worth the time to spend in jail. The funeral business is booming because of young people whose families do not have the financial resources to bury them so it then becomes a community burden. Yes, a burden. Seeing young people die so young takes away our future. We don’t need to blame any race other than ourselves for the elimination of our race. We criticize, disagree, and blame others for the faults of a few. When God was taken from our homes, our schools, and our communities we doomed civilization. Great article. Love your spirit and drive.

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