The song “Killing in the Name of” is a popular protest tune that has inspired many people to take direct action against institutionalized oppression. The song’s message has been a powerful call to arms for social change, and its lyrics have become an anthem for various political movements throughout history. But what does the phrase “killing in the name of” really mean?
To kill in the name of something means to do it as a representative of that thing. For example, if someone murders another person because they are black or white, it’s called killing in the name of racism. It’s a reference to the fact that these actions are done in the name of the oppressive system, and that is why they are so wrong.
One of the Mosaic commandments prohibits the killing of a person (Exodus 20:13). The reason is that people are created in God’s image, and this implies an inherent value of human life. To kill another person violates this concept, regardless of whether they refused to repay a loan or hurled an insult.
Other words to describe the act of intentionally killing a person include assassination, slaughter or mass murder, and even genocide. These are usually carried out by the government for a specific purpose, such as to eliminate actual or perceived opposition and create fear of enemies in order to control the population. They may also be carried out for social prophylaxis, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn described Stalin’s country-wide extermination of undesirables.