Every so often, I get riled up over some political issue. I read an article or hear something on the radio, then I get so upset that I send a snarky letter to my state or federal representatives. It’s usually about guns (I saw a lot of shot up kids at Children’s Hospital in Dallas), environmental issues (there’s a new coal plant outside of Waco), or the death penalty.
There was quite a bit of buzz around the execution of Troy Davis by the state of Georgia. But hey, while we’re at it, let’s call a spade a spade – the state of Georgia murdered Troy Davis. I am not saying this because there were large clouds of doubt over his guilt. I only say that capital punishment is murder carried out by state governments because that’s exactly what it is, even if the person being killed is guilty or not.
Two things always strike me about conversations concerning the death penalty. One is about justice. That word, “justice,” gets tossed around as freely as an offering plate at a church revival. But what is justice, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth? How does the one murder make up for another? It doesn’t. It only contributes to the endless cycles of violence that we so blithely support. That’s not justice, that’s vengeance. If it’s vengeance you want, just say so. At least that way we know that it’s you who is actually out for blood. Remember well our Lord’s words to us, “Do not resist an evildoer” (Matthew 5:39).
A couple of years ago, after I sent one of these snarky letters about the death penalty, I actually received a call back from somebody in my representative’s office. Whoa! I suppose that letter somehow made it past the deep-six gauntlet. I had done a little research about my representative and discovered, ironically, that he received a Pro-Life award some years back. Yet all the while he supported state sponsored murder. So I asked this poor intern who called me how it was that my representative could say that he was pro-life when in fact he supported the state of Texas in the murder of its citizens. After an awkward pause and the shuffling of some papers on the other end, this intern gave me a great politicians’ line: “Well, Representative So-and-So and you don’t see eye to eye on this issue.”
Exactly. He doesn’t see eye to eye, because he wants an eye for an eye.