Death Penalty

My friend, The Rev. Dr. Rodney Kennedy wrote the following in his “E-Pistle” today, December 12, 2014:

A grisly headline greets me in the Dayton Daily News: “Restart of executions nearer.”  The Ohio Senate voted 20-10 in favor of a bill that will hide the identity of pharmacists, pharmacies, and drug makers that provide the drugs used in executions.  Why hide those who aid and abet in the sanctioned murders of the state?  Publish all the names including the executioner.  Tell us who the killers are. 

Here we go again.  Just when we think there’s progress in preventing capital punishment, our legislature backtracks.  Why the lust for vengeance has no limits among those who love Jesus is, as religious people like to say, “a mystery to me.”    

Will Campbell was once asked to debate the death penalty with a well-known scholar.  He gave a lengthy and learned statement on why he favored it.  Will had no prepared remarks so he stood up and said, “I just think it’s tacky.”  That led to a debate as to just what “tacky” meant.  Later Will defined “tacky”:  Ugly, no style, no class. 

I like what Will said about the debate: “I didn’t win the debate, but I do believe America has too much class, and too much style to go on sinking to the crude level of death practiced in executions.  So for the sake of our own soul, let’s just cut it out.” 

Rod Kennedy and I are on the same page.

As one of the legislators stated the “problem,” the drugs formerly used for lethal injection in Ohio were made in Europe. The Europeans will no longer sell them, because in order to be a member state in the European Union, the death penalty must be banned and the drugs for lethal injection cannot be sold. The Ohio legislator I heard speaking on NPR during my morning commute said, “We have to stand up to this European cartel!” The bill that passed allows American pharmacies to make the drugs, sell them to the state in secret to protect them from embarrassment.

We are always hearing about how Europe is post-Christian. And how the United States is the most Christian nation in the world. Jesus was executed by the state in an act of capital punishment. One might think that we who claim to follow the Prince of Peace might have enough “style and class” to put state-sponsored vengeance behind us. Why is it that the Europeans ban the practice because it’s immoral and inhumane (or in Will Campbell’s word, “tacky’), but Ohio and many other states continue it? One might well ask who is really following Jesus?

Well, at least the drug-makers will be saved any embarrassment.