Religion is one of the most valued things in human society. It is what constitutes a country, group or society of individuals together. Although, in other cases it brings up problems and destroys unity between people.
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Religion is the belief that humans have in a divine entity which controls the Universe. In multiple religions, there is more than one of these godlike entities. Every religion has differences between each other, but the most part of them look for right morals and justice in life. The topic of this essay is the differences between the Asian religion Buddhism and Christianity and the similarities as well corresponding the Divine law: Justice and Punishment.
The way Buddhist approaches justice starts with how individuals behave. They are based in the moral law of Karma, to which they relate everything that happens in their life and in which good actions generate positive consequences and bad actions negative ones. Since it is centered on the monastery, Buddhism has based itself from the five precepts of good conduct (not commit sexual wrong, not to kill, not partake of intoxicants, and not to steal or lie) and it acknowledges the existing political regime (doesn’t go against it). The people who rule in this society, in the other hand, often patronize the sangha, giving a lot of protection and resources, in exchange for the blessing of the monks. These arrangements started a very long time ago, when Ashoka was the King of the Indian subcontinent King in the third century BCE and continues through many democratic and autocratic regimes in countries where Buddhism is the dominant religion. For the last twenty years, South-East Asia has grown the social engagement of Buddhism (mostly in countries like Burma, Vietnam and Cambodia).
Now that we know more about the way justice works in Buddhism, I will explain how the Biblical justice works (Christianity point of view).
Justice in Christianity involves making the entire universe (groups and communities, individuals and the cosmos whole) by remaining impartial and goodness. Christianity is considered a true helpful religion for those who need it, according to James, who says that the kind of “”religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”” (James 1:27). In previous scriptures, he mentions as well, “”The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern”” (Prov. 29:7).
Justice comes from God’s character and heart. Seeking to make the object of his holy love whole, is what motivates God throughout the Old and New Testaments in his judgments on sin and injustice.
Only if we have hope and stay in contact with Jesus we can participate in his work of restoring lives, the church, and the world by the Spirit of the Lord. The church is to live now, considering Jesus’ restoration of all things.
As we experience the wholeness that Jesus offers, we are to carry his justice forward in the world. We can see God’s heart in James’ epistle. James, fought against oppression to the poor people. He saw how the leaders of the church were favoring the rich and not taking care of those less fortunate (James 2:1-13). James tried breaking down these branches, as God tries to make his people whole.
Christians still face the same problem nowadays, especially with the growing tendency of some Christians to downplay social justice to highlight personal morality. Jesus censored this in the Pharisees: “”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices”mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law”justice, mercy and faithfulness”” (Matt. 23:23).
Let’s explain now the Buddhism and punishment. Buddhism is fundamentally based in the cycle of birth and re-birth (Samsara). It teaches that if someone must be killed for a crime he has committed, it will have big effects on the souls of both the person who committed the crime and the punisher in future incarnations.
But Buddhism doesn’t only punish people in future incarnations, it also punishes them in their current lifetime. Here is their point of view:
Treating an offender in an inhumane way doesn’t solve their misbehavior or those of humanity in general (killing someone before they are punished in this world is not accepted). The best way to treat an offender is reformatory rather than punitive. People should be punished in the right way, making the offender make amends. Getting him to rehabilitate into society should be of maximum importance. If someone punished the offender in a very cruel way, it will injure the offender’s mind and the punisher’s as well. It seems almost impossible to severely punish someone with compassion. If this committed crime is extremely serious, the person must leave the community within he leaves, like his village, city, or country.
Now that we know how the punishment works in Buddhism, let’s talk about Christian’s point of view. From the Bible,
Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed Genesis 9:6
I will approach this topic from the two angles Christianity has given to punishment: Taken from the Old testament and the New Testament.
The death penalty is introduced in the Old Testament Biblical and tells us that, in fact, God himself created the death penalty. Many Christians don’t think that Death penalty should be a convincing argument The Old testament describes 34 capital penalties other than Idolatry, magic blasphemy and murder described in the Old Testament. Since these are not capital penalties anymore, Christians insist in getting rid of all the other capital offences and leave murder as the only one considered as a capital crime.
In Matthew 7:2 we can see “”Whatever measure you deal out to others will be dealt back to you””, although, it is not clear who deals with it: God or the state. By the other hand, Jesus said “”He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die”” (Matt 15:4)
When Pilate had to decide if Jesus should be crucified, Jesus himself told him that there was no choice to make, that this decision has been given to him by God. (John 19:11).
It seems like Paul has his own idea of death penalty. From his scriptures we can see that the magistrate holds the authority “”does not bear the sword in vain; for he is the servant of God to execute His wrath on the wrongdoer”” (Romans 13:4).
Capital punishment takes the commandment ‘thou shalt not kill’ the literal way, affirming how serious the crime of murder is. This is based on taking this argument by its meaning, which could be interpreted as “”thou shalt not murder””, but some Christians believe that ‘Thou shalt not kill’ commandment should be a complete prohibition of killing, no matter the situation.
In conclusion, we can say that these religions differ in some respects. For example, in Buddhism they prefer reformation of the person rather than punitive actions, while Christianity accepts punishment, but does not accept death penalty (depending on the Testament) unless it’s for murder. Buddhists believe that Justice comes from Karma (good things will happen to those who do good actions and bad things to those who misbehave in society), and Christians take justice the literal way it is given in the Testaments, but at the same time, justice must be applied comprehensively, being more understanding with poor people and more strict with those who have everything in life.
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