It saddens me to report that federal executions are set to resume this coming week, after a 17-year hiatus. Three executions are scheduled over a five-day span Monday through Friday, July 13-17. A fourth execution is scheduled to follow in August.
As a person who personally witnessed the execution of a friend on death row in Texas, I’m flabbergasted on two fronts. First and foremost, I can’t believe that our Justice Department is doing this at such a critical time in American history. My second point of frustration is that, with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church, the Christian community remains rather silent on the whole issue.
Granted, 1,000 leaders from all faiths signed a statement asking for an end to federal executions. But, again, I point out that this movement was orchestrated by the Catholic Church.
The National Association of Evangelicals dropped their pro-death penalty position a few years ago. I don’t hear them raising hell this weekend.
Numerous Christian denominations with long-held anti-death penalty beliefs continue to fight for an end to capital punishment in America once and for all, but their silence is deafening at this hour. My own denomination, from the Dutch Calvinist tradition, is stubbornly mum.
Where are the Franklin Grahams, the Jerry Falwell, Juniors, and the “mega-preachers” who love to make headlines on other issues? Isn’t this pro-life?
Says Shane Claiborne, Sojourners Magazine: The charge to keep the death penalty alive is being led, almost exclusively, by leaders who claim to be Christians. It must break the heart of the God who said, “Mercy triumphs over judgment” and “Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.”
To be fair, I must admit that there’s a long line of Christian saints who have been outspoken on this topic, including Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., and now Pope Francis. I love the contention of Cyprian, early Christian theologian, who allowed that “when an individual kills another individual we call it evil, but when the State kills another individual we sanctify it and call it justice.”
Anyway, I want to point out to Christian readers of this column, that you can participate in prayer vigils, sponsored by Catholic Mobilizing Network, on the three days of the scheduled up-coming executions. Participation will be via Zoom. Information is available on their web site. The vigils will run from 2-3 PM Eastern on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, focusing specifically on the name of the person to be killed that evening.
I’m saddened by this whole mess.
Quoting from the Sojourners piece again:
It is heartbreaking to hear the news that the Trump administration will attempt to resume federal executions. In a world with so much violence, why would we want to add more? Violence is the problem, not the solution.
Amen and Amen.