Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Better Us than Them

I was thinking today about politics. I know I've gone over this before. Politics is not the same as government or elections. Politics is the way we interact with the people around us - sometimes we do that through voting and government programs. Sometimes its appropriate to do things that way. More often than not, though, our politics should be more focused on our way of life, the way we treat the people with whom we interact on a day to day basis. It seems far too many people have allowed our electoral process to rob them of real politics.

You hear it all the time, "Obama is really screwing with ___________," or "The GOP Congress can't get ___________ right." Both of those statements very well may be true (or completely ridiculous, you know), but what really sort of breaks my heart is how people let those kinds of perspectives shape their outlook on life. They're soul crushing perspectives, sometimes, and as much as we want to blame evil entity x or y, it's a self-inflicted soul crushing.

An elected leader can make your life easier or more difficult. That's it. I mean, I suppose in an extreme sense they could kill you, but that's a pretty slim minority of my typical readers. The only thing a politicians can do to you or for you is make like a little easier or a little more difficult. And even that ability is dwarfed by the same ability possessed by those around you - family, neighbors, friends, coworkers, fellow commuters. No politicians can touch the ability those people have to make our lives a little tougher or a little easier.

Anything they might do to us beyond that, well, it's something we let them do.

We control how we're going to face the day, the attitude we'll have towards people and the actions we take. Yes, some people and situations are more trying than others and we're all going to fall short of our own expectations of ourselves from time to time, but in the end, our lives are our own and we don't have to give others (especially virtual strangers elected to positions far, far away) any say over those lives. No law tells us what we can or cannot do - they simply tell us the possible consequences of doing those things. It's up to us to decide whether the action is still worth doing.

I'll admit, I get entitled. I fell important and deserving of specific treatment. That's when this sort of self-inflicted harm happens easiest. We feel we have a right to something and someone else is taking that away. I'm not always good at dealing with those situations, but I'm trying and I hope I'm getting better.

For me, the bottom line is suffering. I don't like it. I'd love for the world to work in such a way that my life is as easy as it could possibly be. Of course I also sort of know that such a world would not be good for me. It would not make me into the kind of person I was created to be. Suffering sucks, but it's also really important.

Now no one should be forced to suffer, that's for sure (I think they call that torture or something), although it certainly happens everyday. At the same time, for people who attempt to follow in the way of Christ, suffering is part of the gig. Suffering comes with the territory. In fact, sometimes we're called to suffer even when we don't have to, specifically because "better us than them." I know lots of people say that the other way - better them than us - but Christian are a mixed up lot. We do things different.

If the only reason you're upset is because your life is inconvenienced - well, it's alright be upset, it really is - but we also need to work hard so that upset-ness isn't what influences our actions.

Yes, people can make our lives difficult, but our response to that matters. For followers of Christ, when faced with the choice between fighting and suffering, we chose, at least for ourselves, suffering. It's what we do.

It's not always fun, but, you know, embracing that reality actually helps you feel a little more in-control of your life, which is never a bad thing.

PS - I don't really know what that picture is, but it's kinda cool.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

One More Time.

I'm not sure when we'll figure this out, but I'm about ready to give up. I try not to repeat things over and over again here (at least not too often), but this business in Indiana just makes me sad. They've now got a law on the books allowing people to deny service for "religious reasons," which, in practicality, just means gay people. I'm sure it's already law in other places as well. It's just sad.

It used to make me mad. I used to get upset, frustrated. And I suppose, if I wanted to, I could work up that anger again. I'm just not sure what the point would be. The people I should be angry at are my own people; it's evangelical Christians spurring this sort of thing. It's not as though the general public looks at a law like this and goes, "Makes sense to me;" it's widely derided. People recognize the logical holes in an argument like this. They recognize the broad swaths of humanity who can now be legally and publicly discriminated against (what if my faith forbids tattoos or your clothes are too revealing for my moral liking).

It's an issue of people, my people, being afraid and confused and it makes me sad.

It's not about homosexuality or whatever your faith believes on such things. People think it's about that, but for Christians that's not a concern. We're called to love no matter what - to treat everyone as better than ourselves - to embrace and celebrate the humanity in everyone, no matter who they are, what they look like or what they do. Our call is to love people even when they hurt us or kill us or do us harm. The Christian call is one of suffering.

This sort of thing is the exact opposite of what we're called to do. It's a shame and an embarrassment and a violation of the name of Christ. Plain and simple.

Lots of organizations who use Indianapolis for conventions are talking about changing venues. Indy's a pretty popular spot for big conventions. They do it well. One part of me wishes my own denomination would make such a statement (although we're so hopelessly intertwined with Republican politics and self-righteous legalism, we're likely to celebrate this kind of thing). But I'm not sure a boycott would be any better than the law itself. It's the same response - shunning someone you disagree with.

It would be great for someone like The Church of the Nazarene, a conservative evangelical denomination, with a very traditional stance on marriage and sex, to denounce this law, express regret, and urge more compassion from the lawmakers in Indiana. Then hold the event anyway, because boycotts just aren't the way of Christ.

But, when measured against reality, that notion seems even sillier and more far-fetched than a law like this getting passed in the first place. I could never see it happening.

We care too much about reputation and power and influence and money.

There's no one right way to be human - it's a lesson the evangelical community has a hard time learning. There are certainly a lot of wrong ways to be human, though - and we're real good about picking those out everywhere but in the mirror.

This stinks. I'm sad.

Do better.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Grand Paradox by Ken Wytsma

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book for the purpose of review. My integrity is not for sale. Those who know me well are aware I would relish the chance to give a bad review in exchange for a free book. If I've failed to do so, it has nothing to do with the source of the material and only with the material itself.

There comes a time in the life of a Christian - more often for those who've been raised in faith, but certainly applicable for anyone - when the box constructed to hold one's system of belief becomes unstable. The walls shake; the contradictions become too much. We're faced with the reality that life (and faith) is not something so easily contained. In those moments, if faith is to endure, we must be willing to knock down the walls and expand the box.

The Grand Paradox by Ken Wystma is a book designed for faith-box expansion. The very title clues the reader to his premise - that life (and faith) don't always make the kind of sense we'd like them to make. He explores some of the various problems we encounter - problems that TV preachers or shallow teachers might like to gloss over or ignore - and presents some ways in which these problems can be addressed without losing faith entirely.

I chose this book for the latest edition of the book review because I'd read Wytsma's previous work, Pursuing Justice, and found it pretty good. I wasn't drawn to this book in the same way. To me, the chapters read more like loosely (or barely) connected essays. There wasn't a great narrative flow. They also varied greatly in passion and excitement, some soaring with possibility and others feeling rote and required.

The other element that didn't quite work for me was simply Wytsma's habit of replacing those faith-box walls with others farther out. I imagine this book would be good news and great comfort to many in a particular part of their journey, which is why I can't give it a bad review. At the same time, I found his pushing back of the walls falling short of the questions I still ask. If we're reconstructing a faith box based on this book, in many chapters, I'd be left on the outside.

I've come to know a God for whom a box is not necessary, a faith that exists well beyond whatever wall we might construct or tear down, a God roaming wild in the open of life, faith, doubt, and belief. You get a glimpse of this God when Ken writes on Love and Justice - those two chapters separate themselves from the rest of the book. I suspect this is why I found his earlier work so much more pleasing - it is closer to his real passion. The other chapters felt more obligatory - as if a book from a Christian publisher must be sure to define the parameters of acceptable faith and felt unable to leave some thing open-ended.

This isn't an incorrect approach necessarily, but it's one that, at least for me, leaves something to be desired. There's real value here. I'm not going to dump this in the recycling bin or anything. At the same time, if any of you wants my copy, you're welcome to have it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Prophetic Voice of Evangelical America

In the preface to his revised edition of The Prophetic Imagination (circa 2000), Walter Brueggemann sets out four prerequisites for a prophetic community. These are the elements he believes necessary for a community to produce a prophet or a prophetic voice: a long memory that is available and accessible to the community, a sense of real communal pain, an active practice of hope, and an effective mode of discourse. As I was reading, I couldn't help but realize our present Evangelical America, at least in the form we allow to speak for us, lacks all of these.

We tend to have a short memory. Our traditions stretch back 100 years, if we're lucky - less than 5% of Christian history. We've all-consumingly bought in to the immediacy of the consumer culture in which we're enmeshed. This shows up in our consumer and entrepreneurial approaches to corporate worship and purpose. We want to be the biggest, flashiest, most impressive thing; we want to be new. We have no memory and, even if we did, no means by which to access it. Conservative may be fine for us, traditional, even (in our own strange definition of traditional), but they must be packaged as new or next. We recycle fads and remain oblivious to context because we have to memory and no way to relive or interpret those memories which might be accessible.

Evangelical America is so thoroughly embedded in the dominant culture there is no possibility of pain. We are largely affluent and white. We are used to controlling the levers of power, be they political or economic. The fact that this may no longer be as true as it once way brings on a sense of false pain. This is not the kind of pain Brueggemann speaks about, a dehumanizing sort of identity loss that can speak for itself to all humanity. This contrived pain, in the form of "religious persecution," is manipulative and self-justifying, an obvious smoke-screen to the outside world. We have no pain, save that to our ego.

We have words of hope (heaven, escape), but those translate into a practice of fear and mourning. This hatred of the world is utterly hopeless. We cannot simply say, "things are bad, but one day we'll escape." This is not prophetic, it's a socially-accepted version of the doomsday cult. We cannot isolate ourselves from the world in expectation of an imminent cosmic evacuation. We see the world around us through a divisive lens, in which we're locked in a battle with "them" for control of our souls. There is no hope here. Even if we claim confidence in a bright future someday, it manifests itself in fear and uncertainty this day.

The way we speak leaves no room for error. The world is entirely black and white, right and wrong, with no room for overlap, no consideration of bias. Our communication is irrelational and depersonalizing, labeling challengers as enemies, worthy of nothing more than vitriol and marginalization. For us, the end justifies the means.

Evangelical America doesn't call the world to an alternative reality, quite the contrary, Evangelical America wants to eliminate the possibility of alternative reality. In this, you can replace "Evangelical America" with "totalitarian power," "unfettered capitalism," "socialism" or "militant Islam." The role of power, whatever kind of power (and saying these forces are after the same thing does not make them equal in value, simply in purpose), is to maintain power. A prophetic voice, a voice of true alternative, cannot speak from a position of power. It can't arise from power or be nurtured through power. It's simply not possible.

Evangelical America, along with the other examples - and many more, represent attempt to control the dominant narrative, not attempts to write a new one. They are not challenges to power, but attempts to co-opt power with a specific set of underlying morals. This will not produce real change, only superficial. The underlying problems remain; the dominant narrative continues.

Brueggemann's contention, then, is that until God's people (or any people) see the world and live in the world in fundamentally different ways it is not possible to live differently or speak prophetically.

If Evangelical America is to ever have a truly prophetic voice (and I'm still a believer that it can), we must build a community capable of nurturing a prophetic voice.

We have to reclaim our memory, both the good and the bad, and not just cling to a convenient narrative we've created to simplify our lives and allow us to fit in. We have to act in hope, re-membering with our lives and actions that all people are God's people, that there is no "us and them," that God loves this world and calls it good, that redemption is our future, not escape. Thus we must also speak redemptively, as if we really believe we're all in this together and peaceful coexistence is possible. We must seek to understand, listen, and love.

We must also embrace pain. I'm a relatively affluent white male. I'm not going to encounter real pain, even if I am entirely committed to living alternatively in the midst of the world (and I'm clearly not always committed). It's essential Evangelical America to stand with those who suffer pain. Even if it challenges our moral perspective, our comfort level, or our "common sense." We have to suffer with those who suffer, those who are left out of the system we've tried to hard to control. This means more than starting charities and volunteering with organizations (although that's a start). Our community must embrace what it means to suffer, we must move into the neighborhood, make ourselves dependent on those who suffer so it becomes our suffering.

Too often we take only those risks we can unwind. I am more than guilty of this. For us to truly have a prophetic voice, pain is essential. It is from pain that hope and a better vision for the future arises. Prisoners, addicts, women, racial minorities, the LGBT community - those who encounter difficulty and marginalization. Those stories must be our stories. That pain must be ours - again, not as tourists, but as people.

The world around us is comprised of people - all good, all broken - engaged in a variety of activities, helpful and hurtful, unifying and isolating, honoring and embarrassing, loving and neglectful. These people are no different than us. But until that sentiment is more than words, until it is backed up with a concrete reality, there will be no prophetic voice for Evangelical America.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick

I really don't like doing things that everyone else is doing. I'm am not someone who ever felt pressure to fit in. If anything, I felt the opposite. If everyone is doing it or there's some cultural expectation of conformity, you can pretty much count me out. It takes some real discipline and an activity of unimpeachable importance for me to just "go along." That's just one of the joys of knowing me, I guess (full sarcasm in effect).

Which brings me to St. Patrick's Day. There are a lot of those "Real Saint Patrick" videos circulating on the internets today, so I'm not sure I need to go into any real detail about how the celebration of this day in the US has almost nothing to do with the man himself. I actually have a ton of respect for St. Patrick. He gave up his life to serve people who treated him badly. He responded to hatred with love. Plus he (and his legacy) managed to maintain a mystical and authentic alternative Christianity alive throughout the corruption and capitulation of the Roman and Medieval periods of European History.

The dude was pretty cool.

But I'm not Irish (although my ancestors did manage a brief decade or two stopover on the way from Scotland to Canada) and I'm not a big drinker. I have developed a love of green clothes recently, but I'm not pulling them out today. Conformity is the last thing Patrick would have endorsed. He spent his life doing the opposite of everyone around him precisely because he thought there was a better way. I like to be the guy with the alternative script, the different perspective, the "yeah... but." I've never gotten the whole, "I'll exercise my freedom by looking and acting like everyone else," thing. It's just not me.

As much as that's true, however, there is still a part of me that is contrary just to be contrary. I mean I like the notion of reminding people that difference perspectives exist. I think it's helpful to the world to challenge commonly-held assumptions and perspectives. There's another part of me that just wants to be different.

Maybe it's because I often feel invisible or forgettable; maybe I'm just a jerk.

I do wish everyone a happy Saint Patrick's Day. I like green food and mint chocolate cupcakes. I fully endorse parades and celebration. I just don't want anyone telling me how I should dress or what I should do.

(And as for this pinching thing, I think it meets the basic definition of misdemeanor battery, so think it through.)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Scary Close by Donald Miller

I've read a lot of Donald Miller's books. I read Blue Like Jazz when it got popular, along with every other Christian College student at the time. I needed to read it. It met me where I was. It was really helpful. Miller is a wonderful writer, supremely talented. He's witty and funny and, as he says in Scary Close, he works incredibly hard to make his prose seem casual and effortless. I went back to read Blue Like Jazz a year or so ago. It's not where I am anymore. It doesn't resonate with me the same way it did, but it's still damn good writing. I read To Own a Dragon, his book on growing up without a father. I have a father - a pretty good one - Miller's book was still fantastic. I have never laughed harder or more often reading a book (and that's a good thing, despite the subject matter).

So when the BookLook program offered Miller's new book, I was pretty happy.* I was less happy when I saw it was only available for review as an ebook. I've never had an ebook before. I had to download a program on my laptop even to read one. I like his writing enough and wanted to read this book enough, I did all of that. I read the whole thing on my computer today. It was ok. What wasn't ok was that thirty pages in I wanted to share it with my wife and my therapist and a million other people who all struggle or walk with people through troubles in relationships and intimacy... but I couldn't, because it's an ebook.

Scary Close is real. It's honest on a level that one wouldn't expect from another human being - even one, like Miller, known for being honest. He uses personal stories from friends (semi-famous friends) and uses their real names (presumably with permission). In its very honesty, it is a scary challenge for the reader to embrace honesty.

It's a beautiful book. The writing is superb, as always, and, as the book discusses, it doesn't feel like Miller is writing "in character" or with the mask that subtly seems to fuel his other work. Halfway through I had to stop and look up "behind the scenes" info on Miller - since this book is so blatantly up front about life. I ran across this short interview that helps as a companion to the reader.

It's tough to say this book is "life changing" since I only finished reading it 27 minutes ago, but I saw enough of myself here - scratch that, I saw myself on nearly every page, in such honest and loving and difficult ways, I'm not sure there's any response but to use it in my life. I, and hopefully everyone reading this, am always desirous to improve my relationships. I've been married ten years now and it's often tough. Even when it's good and right and awesome it's tough. I think there are a lot of tools, stories, ideas, honesty, whatever, in Scary Close, to help anyone along that journey towards health and growth and wholeness (or as close as we're ever going to get to those things).

I found myself saying, "yeah, but" to a lot of stuff and Miller certainly does come off a little bit as the "Self-help" character the interview I liked to above halfheartedly claims him to be - at the same time, the familiarity I see and feel between the words on the page and the reality of my life rings far more true than the reputation of Donald Miller could ever hope to present. It's easy to resonate with something because it's presented well and comes from a familiar source; I found a deeper resonance here.

This may be largely emotion talking and I'll be more sane and less gushing in the morning. Who knows? I hope not. I do think it's a well written book with a courageous amount of honesty that could really help all of us think through the important relationships in our lives. I won't say "everyone should read it," because that comes off less than genuine. I do think, however, that absolutely everyone could benefit from reading it. Do with that what you will.

I'll even let you borrow it... oh wait, it's an ebook.

*I didn't put my typical disclaimer on this post mostly because it doesn't feel like a typical post. Yes, I was given this book in exchange for a review. No, the publisher did not influence my review in any way. At the same time it doesn't feel like every other review I've done. This was a profound and personal experience and one I didn't want to cheapen with the standard disclaimer.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ummmm... Really?

For the record, I could care less about who uses what email and when they use them and what they might've said. To me this is all a giant waste of time. But, this whole Hillary Clinton email thing has brought up some interesting points of fact that might otherwise be overlooked. The very fact that it was "routine" for high level government officials to use private email accounts for their jobs? Really? This was happening through 2010? Were Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney planning Iraq strategy via AOL accounts? I mean, I get that someone joins an organization from the outside, they're used to one system, they want to keep it. But this isn't McCarthy & Sons Funeral Home, she was the Secretary of State!

In a way, I like it. The fact that government officials weren't using secure email at the same time Justin Beiber was cute-famous and not yet creepy famous just goes to show us all that things aren't as perfect as we imagine. Our government isn't any more high tech or on the ball than the place you work. We're all just people - even those people who pretend to be the most important people in the world.

Speaking of them. Lindsey Graham comes out commenting on this whole thing by admitting he's never sent an email!! He also said he doesn't have an email address. I'm pretty sure that's a lie - he might not know what it is or who answers it, but he's got one - unless of course the government's IT department is woefully behind the times... oh, right... Hillary Clinton was sending top secret emails through a server in the basement of her Westchester home. Awesome. Maybe Lindsey really doesn't have an email address.

Still, bragging about it doesn't seem to be any better. With email, even a strange, unsecure, private email, there's a record of conversations. Lindsey might have some sort of paper trail, but likely everything he's doing is out loud and in person, what kind of historical record is that? Also, this guy is one of the more powerful Senators in the US. Shouldn't his job require some measure of access to that's become a life necessity even for the Bushmen of the Kalahari? Maybe?

The odd think-tanker and occasional sports commentator Gregg Easterbrook used to go on and on about CEOs and minor political officials traveling with huge security details to make themselves look and feel important. Perhaps we've got the same thing going on in Congress? "No, I don't need to use email, I have ipads and things I keep track of stuff on and people I tell to do things for me." They don't write (or read) their own bills, they don't have to actual fillibuster anything anymore (just tell someone they're thinking about it and the wheels of the greatest representative democracy in the history of the earth come to a screeching halt), they don't even have to walk on the street like normal people (looking at you, private underground congressional monorail). Perhaps this is a sign of being just a little bit out of touch?

People get into politics to reinforce their sense of self-importance, I get that, at the same time, you'd think they might be a little better at hiding that ego from the general public? Then again, maybe the machines of money, gerrymandering, and ad-men really have made elections obsolete and Lindsey is laughing his way to the bank (because he still has to go to the bank, you know, since he doesn't do email).

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Cages and Expectations

So, I saw this interesting story about the inmates on Riker's Island (the NY City prison) who broke into a locked room to prevent a fellow inmate from raping a female guard. I read coverage of the story on site after site. What seemed so peculiar about each of them was the angle taken. Now this isn't true of every story out there, but many of them reacted with sort of surprise or astonishment that prisoners would help a guard out in this way.

That's pretty sad.

It's sad, but it's sadly reflective of the way our society views prisoners. Honestly, it's pretty reflective of the way many prisons function. Society looks at prison as the place to put bad people. We want those who can't get along away from everyone else. It just naturally leads us to assume prisoners are bad people. We characterize them as "bad" and thus any behavior that looks remotely human is surprising.

Our prison system tends to set things up as "us vs them." Of course that's not true everywhere - not by a long shot. Many correctional facilities work against this model, but for many, prison is a place to dehumanize people. We send the bad people off to be treated like animals and then expect them miraculously to act human again when they get out.

If you read through the story you notice this incident was never going to be reported at all. Officers had to organize a makeshift strike, refusing to work until superiors named it a sexual assault, complaining that too many assaults by prisoners get covered up in the process.

The dichotomy is striking.

I'm not saying prisons are useless. We live in an involuntary society - no matter how much help, grace, assistance, and education we offer people, they may still choose not to participate in society fairly. Prison is sort of a necessary evil. But does it have to be so evil? We send tons of people to prison because its simply easier than dealing with them - or bringing to light the root causes of many of these crimes. It's a complex issue, with lots of unfair parts. Prison is used for people who aren't really a danger to anyone - it's just easier to lump people in together.

But people are people. It's good of these inmates to remind us of that. People are also different. Different problems require different solutions, yet we continue to operate under a "one size fits all" banner. It's not even a good one. We spend tens of thousands of dollars to keep people locked up, most of whom are worse off when they return to ordinary life. We're generally ok with it because these inmates generally come from small pockets of communities and don't affect the lives of most people.

One of John Wesley's early commitments (Wesley was an anglican priest in the 1700's, who founded Methodism and gave rise to the particular stream of theology from which I come) was to visit prisoners. It was on the "to do" list for all of his followers, along with giving to the poor and caring for the sick.

Our society makes it very difficult to even visit people - just part of the systemic means of dehumanization that occurs. I don't know what to do about it, really. Even as a minister, when its easier to gain access to prisons, it's pretty difficult to meet people you don't know ahead of time. The very people who most need connection to people outside the prison bubble.

This is sort of a failed blog post, since I have no neat conclusion. I'm happy some people have recognized prisoners as people. I wish we'd do it more often. Prison reform will likely not happen, since it effects the lives of so few voters and a few people make a whole lot of money keeping other people locked up.

It's not fair. It really sucks. We should be able to do better.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

A Bad Execution?

I've seen some of the press lately around the planned execution of a woman in Georgia. She's been getting press, especially in my circles, because of her jailhouse conversion. She's become a theologian and become friends with some pretty prestigious ones. I found out yesterday, as her execution was postponed, that one of her theology teachers is a former classmate of mine. It at least led me to look into the story a little more.

I tend to avoid these things in specifics (other than signing petitions and such) because I am conflicted by the way we handle stories like this one. By we, I mean the larger Christian subculture. This woman's story is resonating beyond the typical religious radical or mainstream death penalty opponent for a number of reasons - it's a woman and a mother and we don't typically kill those kinds of people, even in this often bloodthirsty country. Her case also highlights some of the problems in our justice system - one more focused on numbers than actual justice of any kind - Kelly Gissendaner is on death row for hiring someone to kill her husband - the guy who actually did it will be up for parole in eight years, a gift for testifying against her.

I'm not an advocate for letting people off the hook. I believe we all need to face the consequences of our actions. I don't believe, though, that we are the sum total of our actions. Even if they're very, very bad, we're still human and human life is precious.

I don't think anyone should be killed and I don't think anyone should kill. I may make some personal, practical exceptions to that in real life, but I won't defend those exceptions as right or good. Killing is wrong. I don't believe we stop killing by killing killers. I just don't. Even the most despicable acts imaginable are not worthy of death. That's an insult to humanity in general, even as much as it might feel good in the moment.

That's what troubles me so much. Christians seem to have jumped into the narrative of the general culture on this one. We say she's a reformed person. God has changed her life. Hallelujah and Praise the Lord. I agree. This is wonderful. But that great transformation is no particularly Christian reason to stop an execution. In fact, as Christians, we're called to love those people who hate us and do us harm. We're called to love and care for those who do wicked awful things.

I want this execution cancelled permanently. I'm glad lots of other people want it, too. I don't want to make the case that it should be cancelled because Kelly Gissendaner is a good person. I want to make the case that it should be cancelled because she's a human being and because killing people, no matter how we justify it, is bad for us, them, and the world at large.

I have trouble joining the throngs because their message is just part of the truth. Good people surely don't deserve to die, but neither do bad people. We, the people of this country and all people on Earth, deserve better than this. It might cost us something. It might take sacrifice, but we can do better. Let us not continue to add to the death toll.

There's no such thing as a good execution, so we should stop arguing this is a bad one. They're all bad.

That's all I have to say this morning.