All writing is a form of prayer - John Keats

Saturday, October 27, 2018

On Christians and punishment

In this pre-election period we’re hearing a lot of political mumbo-jumbo.

My friend was telling me of a politician who, in a town hall meeting, vowed that he was staying with what he described as “core values,” saying he was OK with some voters not liking him because he is “too Christian.” The problem is, those of us with hearts for the downtrodden don’t think his voting record is all that Christian sometimes.

Readers of this column know that I’m especially sensitive on this topic.

Sister Helen Prejean, whom I describe as a national treasure and a national hero, is renowned for her battle against the death penalty. While discussing that topic with a person of faith recently, however, my friend stated, “I generally can oppose the death penalty, until I think of someone who might have raped and murdered a member of my family. Then I think I could pull the switch.”

And that’s the dilemma, isn’t it? There are segments of the Christian community who favor the death penalty, and who also think that prisoners get what they deserve.

That’s where I struggle.

Says Sister Helen: “If we believe that murder is wrong and not admissible in our society, then it has to be wrong for everyone, not just individuals but governments as well.”

To help make her case to believers, she adds: “The movement to abolish the death penalty needs the religious community because the heart of religion is about compassion, human rights, and the indivisible dignity of each human person made in the image of God.”

It seems that no amount of talking by those of us showing care and compassion for those behind bars can convince some religious folks that what we are trying to do is model Jesus, “preaching the gospel every day, using words when necessary.”

The politician that I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, and others of his ilk, can claim to be “too Christian” for some voters, but their thoughts and actions toward the marginalized in our society tell a different story.

I like Father Greg Boyle’s position:

“Compassion isn't just about feeling the pain of others; it's about bringing them in toward yourself. If we love what God loves, then, in compassion, margins get erased. 'Be compassionate as God is compassionate,' means the dismantling of barriers that exclude.” 

I could vote for a politician with that platform!

1 comment:

Cindy Anderson said...

Thanks for this, Doug. You always say what I am thinking but can't put into words.