on the death penalty

I try to keep this blog fairly light. Sometimes, however, I need to write about things that are not pleasant, but which are on my mind. This blog is, among other things, my form of prayer, as I recently discussed here. As Malcolm Boyd in his original edition of Are You Running with Me Jesus? talked to God is a casual, personal, and conversational style, so here I am often talking to God in a casual, conversational manner just as much as I am sharing with you, Good Reader.

Yesterday I read in the newspaper that the state of Ohio changed their drug mix for executions on account of a botched execution last year. You are no doubt painfully aware of the execution yesterday in Oklahoma that went terribly wrong.

The issue of the death penalty has been on my mind for years, and it is very much past time that I wrote about it.

As a society, we do not want to take responsibility for executions. Just as Pontius Pilate is portrayed in the Matthew account, we want to wash our hands of the act and not own it.

The electric chair replaced hanging because it was thought to be more humane. The gas chamber replaced the electric chair for the same reason. And the same logic applied when lethal injection replaced the gas chamber. But how many terribly, seriously, horrendously botched lethal injection executions have we seen?

If you believe in the death penalty, which I don’t, what is wrong with the firing squad? Simple. Effective. Quick. Final. But that means someone is actually killing someone. Someone is picking up a gun and pulling a trigger. We can’t have that. We want to distance ourselves from the act. Which is where the tradition came from that one of the shooters always had a blank in his rifle. That way each shooter could believe that he was the one with the blank and not responsible for the convict’s death.

The fact that we have to go through such convolutions suggests to me that maybe the death penalty is just a really, really bad idea.

Are you there God? It’s me, Mike.



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