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.

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