Thursday, September 08, 2011

Sickened by Unseemliness in Simi

I saw and heard something last night that made me sick to my stomach. It was during the Republican Candidates Debate from the Reagan Library. It wasn't the sniping at each other or Obama or Bernacke or climate change or social security or Hilary Clinton or any of the other bugaboos that these men and woman are always undertaking that made me sick. No. It was an outburst of almost riotous self-righteous applause when NBC's Brian Williams mentioned the 234 executions in Texas under Rick Perry's governorship.

The crowd, literally, broke out in a roar that smacked of blood lust.

I was disgusted. And ashamed.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. As H. L. Mencken famously said, "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people."

But it wasn't the lack of intelligence that made me sick. Rather it was the lack of compassion.

Off and on throughout the evening, various candidates scored applause points by mentioning how they were people of compassion and their party was the true party of compassion.

And then the audience cheers the deaths of other human beings. That is beyond me.

I am not raising here the debate about the role of capital punishment in the United States (though I will say I find it personally abhorrent and inconsistent with my understanding of anything close to the Christian gospel). What I found disgusting was applauding the state-mandated deaths of other humans.

Even if you believe that capital punishment is called for, does that mean you cheer when someone is executed? Do you roar approval at the mention of how many the state has put death -- whether you think their deaths were warranted or not? I would hope not. I would hope that we would rather be sobered by any man or woman's execution. That we would mourn that a life came to an end that way.

This is not to equate our mourning for them with our mourning and respect of the executed's victim(s). Rather, we should mourn because, as John Donne says, "any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind..."

Those of us especially who call ourselves Christians (and I imagine a fair number of the applauders at Simi Valley last night would call themselves Christians) should especially refrain from such displays of behavior that are contrary to our Lord's gospel. Do we who follow Christ seriously believe that Jesus rejoices when a man or woman is executed? Do we who claim to be compassionate in the name of God think that our God is smiling and applauding when one of his creatures is put to death?

The applause for executions made my stomach churn, my face redden in embarrassment, and my heart as a Christian hurt.

-- Brent


CJ said...

Amen, old friend. I felt the same nausea as I watched. Cheering the loss of something as sacred as human life should make us all a bit sick to our stomachs. Thanks for sharing.

C. Graham said...

It says something incredibly disturbing when people find a reason to cheer state sanctioned violence against the human person. Thanks for posting this.

Brad Ogilvie/The William Penn House/The Mosaic Initiative said...

I had the same reaction. It showed how people can be whipped to a frenzy (we Quakers are not immune to this, either). Now, the question is, how do we try and promote a serious dialog that, no matter where we stand on the death penalty, it needs to be a weighty issue that impacts and reflects our society's sense of justice, not a spectator sport.

Robin Anderson said...

Amen, brother.

During every one of those executions, members of our Meeting have stood in protest in front of the Capitol building in Austin (along with members of some other churches). Sometimes we get obscene yells, but equally or more we get support from the passing traffic.

Tracy Fitzgerald said...

Seems to me that these people are the spiritual heirs of those who screamed "Crucify him! Crucify him!" I wonder if Jesus words as recorded in Luke 23:34 apply here? Forgiveness, yes ... but I think the time for ignorance is long past.

Jeremy Mott, said...

Brent, I agree with you. I stopped watching the debate at this point and did not return to the TV.
The audience must have been mostly
right-wing extremists. Think of
states that have eliminated the death penalty in the last few years:
New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, and (earlier this year) Illinois.
In all of these states, Friends were among those who worked for this result. And Friends are working to abolish the death penalty several other states as well, notably Connecticut, Alabama,Virginia, Nebraska, and Kansas. Ohio and Indiana have a great many Friends. Why not have some Quakerly opposition to the death penalty in those states too?
Jeremy Mott

sta┼Ťa said...

Blessed be.