Today I was reading this story:
Condemned Utah Killer Will Face Firing Squad
I am not sure why I clicked on it… I am guessing that it has something to do with how bizarre it sounds to still have people facing firing squads. As I was reading the article, two things struck me that I wanted to flesh out somewhere.
The article says
…despite Utah’s strong religious roots â€” it’s the home of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints â€” most here support the use of the death penalty.
“I think in Utah, when it suits their purposes, they go back to the Old Testament and the ‘eye for an eye’ kind of thing,” Kalish said. “These people may be the worst of the worst, but if the best we can do is repeat the same thing, it’s so obviously wrong.”
I am always amazed that the “religious right” is also associated with the death penalty. It just seems so ridiculous. Let me preface by saying that this is a difficult subject for me. I have friends who have had family members murdered, and part of me feels uncomfortable telling them what should happen to someone who destroyed their family. At the same time, I don’t see any way that you can justify it as the “Christian” thing to do. I don’t think that anyone should have a right to have someone else killed just because they did the same. As the quote above says, ‘if the best we can do is the same thing, it’s so obviously wrong.’
As Shane Claiborne says in Jesus for President,
Violence kills the image of God in us… Violence goes against everything we are created for — to love and be loved — so it inevitably ends in misery and suicide, either literal or metaphorical.
When people succumb to violence, it infects them like a disease or poison that leads to their own death. Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus with a violent kiss, ended his life by hanging himself… Columbine, the 2006 Amish school shooting, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Virginia Tech massacre — each ended with suicide.
It’s in moments like these violent times that grace looks so magnificent. It’s in the shadow of violence that a victim’s grace to a muderer’s family shines so brightly, as in the aftermath of the Amish school shooting. It’s even more scandalous to think of killing someone who kills, for they, more than anyone in the world, need to hear that they are created for something better than that.
The second thing that stood out to me in the article was the fact that the man who was killed was also a pacifist.
“Michael would not be happy at all. Michael would have fought against the death penalty. That’s who he was,” said Temu, 62, a Salt Lake City-area funeral director who knew Burdell through their membership in the Summum church.
A pacifist who was drafted into the U.S. Army, Burdell served inÂ Vietnam but vowed to never use a weapon on another person, Temu said.
To me, this makes it even more heartbreaking. The man who was killed would not have wanted his murderer’s life demanded in return. It is sad that the cycle of violence will continue on, and yet we know that redemptive violence is a myth. You cannot bring peace through violence. This act will ripple on as more are impacted through this execution.
Part of me wants to say that I don’t know what the answer is, but I truly believe that we Christians can see the answer by looking to the Bible. Why is it that the church has politically aligned ourselves with an idea that is so far from the concept of grace?
Lorelei Ortega says
Thank you so much for this thoughtful analysis. I am actually a member of your tolabor group and checked you out because of your website name. I especially love the fact that you don’t completely roast the entire belief system. So often, as a progressive Christian, I feel like I’m the only one who thinks the way I do. It’s nice to know someone else is out there : )