While corporations are now considered people- religious people- under the law (I hope all corporations start tithing now), prisoners on death row continue to be deemed less than creatures under the law.
They can be killed.
To teach us that killing is wrong (let’s hope they were guilty).
For profit entities that bring you cheap wicker baskets made possible by child labor (not to mention population-control policies which incentivize abortion) are now more of a ‘person’ than the flesh-and-blood people behind bars, the former eliciting more of our empathy and moral outrage than the latter.
“I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was
in prisona morally afflicted CEO and you came to visit me.”
You wouldn’t know- at all– from the media coverage, but while SCOTUS handed down the Hobby Lobby decision activists, Christians and clergy gathered this week on the front steps of the Court to protest the death penalty.
Chances are you’ve heard plenty about the Green family who owns Hobby Lobby and how they’ve been praised for taking a principled stand for Christ.
Chances are you haven’t heard anything about this Christian quietly walking across Texas to show his solidarity with those his state plans to kill in the coming months and years.
That you might have only heard about the protest here speaks volumes about the holes in our Christ-centered compassion.
Christian culture is sex-obsessed, singling out a few discrete issues around which to hoist the banner of ‘life.’
Protestants would do well to learn from our Catholic friends who insist that disparate issues like abortion, poverty , healthcare and executions all belong to a single ‘seamless garment’ of life.
My own United Methodist tradition nears schism fighting over our official language labeling homosexuality as ‘incompatible with Christian teaching.’
Little commented upon is the fact that our Discipline also views the death penalty as black-and-white at odds with the Gospel, for the death penalty
“denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore and transform all human beings.”
In the death penalty we stop God from doing what God wants to do in people.
That half of all United Methodists and many of its clergy support state-sanctioned killing in violation of our Discipline receives not one iota of the indignant moral outrage these days reserved for clergy presiding at same-sex unions.
Pastors aren’t brought up on charges for supporting the death penalty in the face of church teaching.
Sex is just sexier.
Plus, it requires less of us where Jesus’ requisites are concerned: that we love sinners.
Or at least begrudgingly admit that Jesus loves them.
On the front steps of the Court today you’ll find people who hold many moral and legal reasons they oppose the death penalty:
There is no way to remedy mistakes.
There is discrimination in the application of the death penalty.
Application of the death penalty tends to be arbitrary
The death penalty involves medical doctors, who are sworn to preserve life, in the act of killing.
Executions have a corrupting effect on the public.
The death penalty is an expression/confession of the absolute power of the State.
Even the guilty have a right to life.
It’s a view, I would argue, that cuts closer to the quick of the Gospel than do the drivers behind the other competing issues which preoccupy Church and Culture:
The New Testament teaching that we do not put sinners to death because Christ has already been put to death for every act of human sinfulness.
It is in the face of Christ that we see the full extent of how God’s mercy meets God’s righteousness.
God says in the Old Testament that vengeance belongs to him.
Only in the New Testament do we see how literal God meant it.
For in Jesus Christ God bears the full penalty of our rebellion against God and neighbor on the cross.
Here’s my sermon interview with a friend and death penalty attorney, in case you missed it: