Thursday, June 27, 2013

500 too many

Do you suppose government officials in Texas are proud today? Their state has just completed its 500th execution. Kimberly McCarthy, a woman of color, was 52.

I caught myself wondering why I was feeling so somber yesterday, and then it dawned on me that Dr. David Schuringa of Crossroad Bible Institute had sent out a press release that one of their graduates was being executed. Why, you may ask, does that hit me so hard?

Well, a little background is in order here. In 2006 a prisoner with whom I had established correspondence on death row in Texas asked me if I would be his spiritual adviser at the time of his execution. It wasn't high on my list of priorities, but I agreed to do it.

Until you go to death row, hear the horror stories, watch the way the inmates are treated, see the indifference among staff, feel the pain of family and friends, and experience the feeling of total helplessness...not until then should you express strong opinions about the death penalty.

To the shame of my own denomination, the Christian Reformed Church, its leaders this month refused to revisit an outdated position on capitol punishment. At the other end of the spectrum, sit in any bar and you'll hear bravado talk from those claiming they would be willing to pull the switch on a criminal in the death chamber.

You can't talk about the death penalty in committee meeting rooms and taverns with any meaningful contribution.

Wait until you stand in the polished hallway of the notorious Walls unit in Huntsville. Wait until you witness guards on the roof with rifles as you and your little band of supporters go to the viewing room. Wait until you watch your friend take the first dose of a lethal injection as the warden looks straight ahead. Wait until the loud lock springs open allowing you to leave after death has been pronounced. Wait until you hear the shriek of the steam whistle signaling that the execution is completed and prison lock-down is over.

Perhaps you'll then agree that this barbaric practice has no place in a civilized society.

As someone said, it's the most premeditated of all murders.

May God have mercy.

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