It is interesting to note what is said between the lines considering headlines are generally carry only one line. Tennessee set to kill. Tennessee set to execute. Whether good or evil intentions are ascribed and to whom they are ascribed says more of the principles or political leanings of the writer and whether it says anything of truth or importance to the people is questionable. Often the purpose is merely to use a situation to brainwash or push the reader in the direction of the writer’s choice.
Here is a man, 59 years old, three years younger than me, about to be executed. Should we pity him? He has had a life 52 years longer than his apparent victim. He was found guilty of raping and murdering a little girl, and this makes him among the most despicable human beings in our eyes, so much so that many would want to call him an animal or worse for the crime he was convicted of.
Did he really commit this crime? Are criminals really punished for their crimes? Or are they punished because they got caught? Are only the guilty convicted, or are the innocent often convicted instead of the guilty? Do the wealthy spend more money on legal fees for a reason? Or do they do it for charity to support the interest of an honorable legal profession that works only for the greatest interest of integrity and justice and not for personal financial gain?
Is there a reason the wealthy pay for a legal defense? Are those who are poor and must depend on a public defender more likely to be convicted? If there is no difference, then why would the wealthy pay? And if there is a difference, are criminals punished for their crime? Or are they punished for failing to have enough money? Or does this create an opportunity for extortion where the legal defense team would be motivated to try to prove to the public that there really is a benefit in paying extra for extra defense?
Some would say where money talks justice and truth are silenced.
So, then is this man being executed for his crime?
If he really committed this heinous crime, and in all probability, he did, then it would be hard to say he would not deserve to be executed. It would be hard to say this date has been far too long, insanely too long in coming, that he should have been executed decades ago. Furthermore, how many heinous murders have been committed in those years in which nobody was executed for their crimes? Why is this man singled out from the rest? If the death penalty is to be a real deterrent, then why is it so rare that it actually gets applied? Doesn’t this send a message to would-be murderers that the chances of being executed for this crime are extremely slim?
Furthermore, what about this concern that the three drug solution might be cruel and unusual? Is it not cowardly for anyone to cry out over an execution that is in truth most likely far less cruel and unusual than the one the criminal was willing to force upon his or her victims? Wouldn’t it seem more fair and just and honorable for the law to state that the punishment should not be more painful and more unusual than the summation of the crimes committed? Wouldn’t that provide additional incentive protecting the general population from a criminal who has nothing to lose? For instance, if he had shot his victim, he might expect to be shot, but not drawn and quartered or forced to endure strangulation. But if he had burned 20 people alive to avoid getting caught, shouldn’t it be painfully laughable that his attorney should participate in such unmanly cowardice as to say, “Oh, the needle is cruel and unusual punishment” when in fact, he would likely just go to sleep and not wake up?
But what do people get convicted for? Are they convicted for the prosecutor’s skills? For having money? For having no money? For having a prosecutor with such convincing words and convincing eye poses and pauses in his speech, with skill in crafting leading questions that non-evidence looks like evidence and so that the jury hangs onto his or her every word?
Or are they punished for their crimes?
Have we prostituted justice?
If this man is being punished for his crime, I have no problem with him being punished appropriately, and I believe it would be in the greatest interest of the public for him to do so. But he is apparently fighting for his life. Why? Obviously because he wants to live. But why else? Is it because he believes his chance of survival are better if he fights? Is he fighting for justice? Or is he fighting for selfishness? If he were selfish, would his chances of survival be greater or would they be reduced? If he were richer, would he be more likely to survive or be executed?
I cannot pity a man who has raped and murdered a little girl. Most of us cannot. We’d rather see him fry or boil in oil than get a merciful needle and go to sleep. That is not the question.
But then as we judge him, we have to ask if we really believe judging is wrong. It is interesting what we learn about ourselves and our legal system. We can say it’s not perfect, but it’s the best thing available. But does that justify a refusal to make it better? Does it justify saying, “America, love it or leave it”? Is it America we are loving in that situation or the convenience of an injustice that satisfies our desires, an injustice we would want to defend?
We all know how helpless every person is to change the past. We know this man had to be a scoundrel to do what he did. Do we know whether he is still a scoundrel? Are we ready to say no person has any power to change for the better? Are we quick to add the words “without God’s grace” to that? If so, are people to be punished for their inability to change the past, or is the act to be punished as a deterrent so that by committing a crime, one has a debt to be paid.
If we claim to believe as Christians that we have a debt to Jesus who paid for our sins, do we not owe Him a debt? Are there people who are not saved? He has called us to make disciples. If we have lived carelessly of our own salvation or the salvation of others, have we not committed a crime far worse than rape and murder? And yet it would seem impossible for a rapist or murderer to have a sincere concern for anyone’s salvation either.
Whatever guilt we have, are we to be punished for our crimes? What was covered by Christ’s death on the cross? What was paid for? Our freedom from sin? Our freedom from hell? Our freedom from death or disease? What would be too cruel and unusual of a punishment for someone who cared little or nothing of the salvation of others, who said little or nothing, who loved nobody in this way?
Perhaps had someone cared for this man’s salvation, a little girl would have avoided being raped and would have grown to be a great blessing to the world as a woman. And maybe this guy’s life would have been different. And yet he, and he alone must be held accountable for his choice to rape and murder this child. He had a choice, and he made a bad choice.
While we judge him, and we should, should we not also question our own motives and our own faithfulness, and our own love for others?
Most of us will have no say or influence over whether this man is executed or not. We will merely observe in the news what happens and comment on it.
But can we pray for people? Can we pray for grace to trust and obey God and do what’s in the greatest interest of all?
This man’s opportunity to do exactly that is perhaps a few hours longer.
How much time do you have?
How much time do I have?
If our time were as short as his, what would we do?
Would we pray? Then perhaps we should pray.