Applauding Executions Might be American, but it is not Christian

[photo: alphadesigner]

I must admit I rarely comment in this manner about things that I did not see or hear firsthand, but like so many who might not have watched the GOP debate last night, my interest was piqued when I began to see tweets about the applause Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) received for his answer about Texas executions. Apparently when talking about the number of people who were executed in Texas under his watch, the audience expressed great approval in the form of applause and cheering.

Surely this could not be true.

To find out if it really happened, I posted a status update on FB asking if it was true. Now unless all the folks who responded watched a different debate or there was a serious conspiracy in play, the response was an overwhelming and consistent, “Yep, it happened.”  Yes indeed, the crowd gathered in Simi Valley for the GOP presidential primary debate applauded for the number of executions that have taken place in Texas during Perry’s time in office.

From Politico [ht: Leslie] – Rick Perry, who received tremendous applause from the in-house debate crowd at the mention by Brian Williams of the 234 people executed on his watch in Texas, defended his record:

“I never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful a very clear process in place,” he said, describing why he’s never second-guessed the guilt of any of the people executed on his watch.

“If you come into our state and you kill one of our children (or a police officer)….you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas and that is you will be executed.”

Asked about the applause, he said, “I think Americans understand justice.”

Not sure what emotion I feel most: anger, sadness, disappointment . . .

I have never taken on the topic of capitol punishment, but as most would expect, I am not in favor of it. But this is not really about the issue itself or even about Governor Perry, but about the applause and reaction. I simply believe that no matter the circumstance, it is never justified to applaud at the death of another human being. Period.

Granted, maybe I wouldn’t be so judgmental if the crowd was made up of murder victim families – though I know that not all families will/do respond with joy at the execution of even one who murdered a loved one – and while I would still disagree with the reaction, I could understand. But, unless someone forgot to tell the rest of the world, those who applauded were not such families, but people who were genuinely happy that 200+ convicted criminals were put to death in Texas.

One question that keeps swirling around in my head is, “What about those who burst into applause and also profess a Christian faith?” I can’t speak for other faith traditions, but I would be hard pressed to see where Jesus creates a gray area for this one. Even towards our deepest enemies, we are to show love. In fact, it is in the very act of being different than those who would commit evil in the world that we express the purest form of our faith and our understanding of community.

Now I rarely do it, but but let me drop a little scripture: one of my favorites . . . and one of the most difficult to live.

Romans 12: 9-21 (Today’s New International Version)

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not think you are superior.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Back to the applauders.

Again . . . anger, sadness and disappointment.

I guess this incident wouldn’t bother me so much if the Christian faith was not being so interwoven into the GOP primary race with a particular set of Christian values taking such a prominent place in today’s political discourse. But it is, and some of us need to keep telling a different story of faith. Revenge, payback and ultimate justice may work for the movies and it may indeed fall right in line with “American” triumphalism, but these are not Christian values. In fact, in the Romans passage above and in others, ultimate judgment lies with God and we must do all that we can to avoid giving into the emotionally and physically violent ways of the world.  What makes this all the more difficult is that we are not merely called to avoid revenge and repaying evil with evil, but we are challenged to go even further and show compassion and care for those who we believe do not even deserve it . . . our enemies.

Regardless of where you may stand on the issue of the death penalty, politics and faith, if you call yourself a Christian and this bothered you, let this be a reminder that we must keep telling a different story and we must  live a different life.  It would certainly be easier to give in to deep yearnings for revenge, to applaud at the death of our enemies and to think that our faith justifies both, but it does not.  In the face of evil we must not respond with revenge, judgement and more evil, but with hospitality, goodness and love. This way of life is not easy for anyone, nor is it a politically prudent stance to take, but I believe at the core of my soul, this way of life is a faithful one and one we must all try to live.


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  • Heartfout

     Not unless the man was unusually large, even by my standards. I’m not trained with guns, so if I had one I’d have a very high risk of hitting the girl instead, particularly if I’m so far away I cannot physically intervene myself. Furthermore, I would not attempt to kill him, but instead incapicate him long enough for the police and paramedics to arrive to arrest him and help the girl respectively.

  • jean

    I understand that you are not approving celebrating death of others…I agree.  However, I’m not clear about where you stand on death penalty or war?  can you give clear and better understanding? thank you.

  • Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Thank you for taking the time to comment, but do you know my history with the murder of family members? I get why this is a hypothetical to use, but even if I did give you a “yes” to what one would do. My point is actually not about the death penalty , but our reaction to the death of another human being.  EVEN in self-defense or in a situation as you describe, Christians should not rejoice.

  • Elder Alden

    Not Christian to execute chid killers? Be real.   If you had a gun and saw a man stabbing a little girl to death would you shoot him?  I certainly would and I have a feeling a lot of people would do the same….Oh yes and  people who are Christians. 
    PS  what if it were your son or daughter?

  • Todd

    Thank you for bringing this to my attention.  I signed it and passed it on to my pastors to sign the clergy letter.

  • Emily L. Hauser/ellaesther

    Thank you so much! The whole case just fills me with such horror.

  • Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Thanks for this. I signed the petition yesterday and hope other will follow suit.

  • Emily L. Hauser/ellaesther

    As a Jew, I feel like this is a somewhat private conversation and so I won’t join in directly. But I do want to leave you this information:

    Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis is set to be executed on Sept 21 for a crime he almost certainly didn’t commit.

    There’s no physical evidence linking him to the crime, 7 out of 9
    eyewitnesses have recanted, one of the remaining witnesses has been implicated as the shooter, the State itself has withdrawn evidence – it goes on and on and on, frankly. (Here’s a great 60 second video on the case:
    It opens with a juror saying “If I knew then what I know now Troy Davis would not be on death row”).

    Yet Mr. Davis has exhausted the appeals process, and his only hope now is that he will be granted clemency by the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles.Whatever one’s thoughts on the death penalty, surely we can agree that it should only be used in ironclad cases. This is not one of those cases.

    If you’d like to help Mr. Davis in his bid for clemency, I’ve rounded up some background information and ways to help:

    This is especially important if you are a member of the legal professions — Amnesty is in particular looking for more people to join their sign-on letter. Here’s a list of prominent members of the legal community (including former state Supreme Court Justices) who have already come out in support of Mr. Davis:

    Please act, and please spread the word! To me, this feels like what Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel used to call “praying with our feet.”

  • Randy Branson

    As one who repudiates the death penalty for all the reasons you mentioned and more, I, too, was appalled at the applause and cheering for the Texas record on executions.  As a Texan by adoption, I cringe every time this statistic is mentioned.  I appreciate what you have said about the faith response to state sponsored murder disguised as “justice.”  At the same time, reasoned response has little effect on those who would cheer and applaud as the audience did at the GOP debate.  I am developing a different response – listening, listening to understand rather than argue.  I cannot simply dismiss them in the way they might dismiss me and you.  I must apply Romans 12 to my response to them.  I want to know what would motivate someone of faith to respond like that.  I sense an enormous rage among our population and in our churches.  Where does that come from?  What is the fear, guilt, shame or brokenness that fuels such desires for revenge and vengeance?  I want to know and show love to those I don’t understnd.  I don’t know if this will work, but all the reasoning, quoting scripture and protests don’t seem to be very effective. 

  • Robert

    What you’re describing isn’t anything recognisable as Christianity, and more than Nazi-era ‘German Christianity’ was. It’s culture-Christianity raising its head again.

  • Anonymous

    While I’m against capital punishment for both Biblical and practical reasons (room for error, and the inability to apply it blindly in an imperfect world – a man is far more likely to be executed if he is convicted of murder than if a woman is convicted of the same), it is not this difference of opinion that bothered me about the reaction at the Reagan Library.

    I would hope that even a Christian in support of capital punishment would at the least not be hateful about it. It’s hard to imagine a Christian who supports capital punishment, who nonetheless is involved in prison ministry on death row, who would then applaud such a statement. It’s one thing to be compassionate and say, “In this world the state has laws, and you are being made to pay your earthly debt to society. May the Lord have mercy on your soul.” It’s an entirely different matter to say “Burn in hell!” and clap for joy.

    I registered with Selective Service as a conscientious objector. I was a complete pacifist. Now I do think that some killing is justified, but I think this: If you are morally justified in killing someone, you shouldn’t need to hate him to do it. If someone is hurting my family I’m likely going to kill him, but after the fact I’m going to wish we could’ve met under different circumstances, that it hadn’t had to be that way. I won’t regret killing him instead of merely injuring him (though I would if I could), because I’ll be happy enough with myself for saving my family and wouldn’t want to risk not stopping him. 

    There are terrorists who do need to be and should be killed. But it should be a practical matter – they’re killing us, and we need to kill some of them in the process of dealing with that. I think those who are hateful about it (“die you godless towelheads!” etc) and therefore take joy in killing them are actually displaying considerable weakness, because it is probably easier to kill someone you hate than to kill someone you love, even if you love him by God’s command. Beware the commander who encourages you to hate the other side; he might be trying to get you to kill without moral justification.

  • Jan

    Glad to see someone wrote about this.  It was the most memorable moment of the debate.  Memorable and horrifying.

  • TChavez

    I totally agree with you. It disgusted me actually and made me sad, very sad. As you noted, who could possibly be praising a man that is proud of all of the killings he accomplished? Ugh. I also was in shock when Osama Bin Laden was said to be killed and people were out in the streets having a party because we Americans killed a man. Yes, I understand that Bin Laden was a bad man with crazy thoughts to kill Americans, BUT, he was a human being, created by God. I was saddened so much over all the celebrations going on about his death. Is this really what the people have become? Where is compassion?

  • Frank

    Actually Bruce the easy path is to be hypocritical. The hard, moral, ethical, Christian response is to protect innocent life, no exceptions.

  • Frank

    Hey Jonathan! 

    1. Well original sin is something that we inherit and it is the inevitability of sinful choices. So even a baby needs Jesus. John MacArthur explains it well here:

    2. I am not sure what you are asking here. Are you asking is it better for everyone to never be born at all and simply go straight to heaven? Clearly not as humanity would not exist yet it does. God must have a purpose for humanity. Are you saying that if babies go to heaven when they are aborted that gives someone the right to abort them?

    3. God granted us life and therefore God ultimately is the only one who has the right to take it away. So I should have phrased that differently. I should say that if someone does something that they know puts their life at risk they should have no expectations of keeping their life. So in regards to the death penalty if murder is punished by death and this is known and someone still chooses to commit murder they should have zero expectation of keeping their life. I am not saying that their life should be taken just that if you know the consequences of your actions and do them anyways, you have no excuse.

  • Jonathanhochan

    Several things.. 

    1. How does original sin play a role in the innocence of a baby? Does it? 
    2. If they are “the only truly innocent life” wouldn’t abortion be doing them a favor by sending them to heaven? 
    3. “Right to life”? Who really has the “right” to live? How does one “forfeit” their right to life? 

    I’m not advocating for any specific position on these. I’m just wondering about consistency in what you stated. 

  • Frank

    Good question Bruce. I think we should protect all life when possible. As an adult we make choices and it’s possible for someone to make a choice that forfeits their right to life. After all once a person has the ability to consciously make choices they cease to be innocent.

    An unborn child cannot make any choice. They did not choose to be conceived nor did they did not participate in the pleasure of the sexual act. Once conceived they are at the mercy of the woman who made her choice regarding the sexual act that produced the child. (obviously in the case of rape the woman had no choice.)

    Therefore the only truly innocent life is the unborn child. It should be a no-brainer to protect that life.

    It gets more complicated in the case of the adult life however it’s always better to err on the side of protecting even the guilty life. I was disturbed by the applause, though I understand it. Perhaps if we raised the value of all life, including the unborn, we would have the credibility to say the death penalty is wrong under all circumstances.

  • Bruce Reyes-Chow

    So Frank I do ask this in all honesty because I think this would be helpful to know. Should we protect and respect all life or only life deemed as innocent? 

  • Frank

    Heather see my response to Bruce above.

    Honestly I am confused by your position. If you are not sure when life begins how can you in good conscience support abortion? I have more respect for those who believe that a fetus is not a human life that support abortion. At least they don’t think they are killing a human.

  • Heather

    Unless you think like I do that it is clear that someone on death row is a person who has rights while it is not clear, and never has been, that a fetus is. Since I don’t know when life begins, but I can know that a 40-year-old man is a person in the agreed-upon sense, I’d have a very hard time denying a woman the right to proceed with her own body as she sees fit while I would have a pretty easy time dealing with the rights of the 40-year-old man.

  • Frank

    Actually Bruce what’s easy is to criticize from the sidelines and be hypocritical. The hard, right, Christian choice is to stand up for innocent life, no exceptions.

  • Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Frank . . . a common dig between groups and I think far too easy.  The same is said about conservative who are “pro-life” and “pro-death penalty.” I am not really talking about nuanced positions about these very important topics, but rather that i do not think you have to be anti-death penalty in order to still respect life: enemy, friend or family.  To deny someones humanity no matter they have done should be troublesome for Christians.  

  • Frank

    So I am assuming those that have a problem with the death penalty will be vocal against abortion as well? How about against the celebrations of pro-choice victories?

  • Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Thanks Jeremy.

  • Jeremy Crowder

    I support the Death Penalty but agree that applause is improper and sad. It’s a sad thing to take a life no matter the circumstances. It’s not about an eye for an eye as much as it’s about sending a message that life is so important that taking it forfeits your own. I think Texas has way too many executions and it’s sad that they are so known for executions. We in the South need to stop having pride in the wrong things.

  • Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Wow . . . thank you. Very well said and great food for thought.

  • Morgan Guyton

    The deeper theological question at play is whether Christians believe that Christ’s sacrifice on behalf of our sins is our liberation from the terms of retributive justice or an affirmation of the fundamental necessity of retributive justice.

    Based on what I read in Jesus and Paul’s exhortations of how we are to live, the closer we grow to Christ in our walk, the less enthusiasm we should feel about retributive justice and the more we should want for sinners to be healed and reconciled rather than just punished lex talionis style. It’s the sign of a very immature Christian to applaud punishment, because what you’re applauding is the worldly “eye for an eye” way of doing things, not the way we do things when we’re covered by the blood of the Lamb.

  • Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Thanks for that.

  • Adam L

    You can watch a video of the crowd’s reaction mentioned here:

  • Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Thanks for lifting up other possibilities and offering a generosity of spirit to the conversation. I do hope you are right.

  • Bob Taylor

    Bruce, although I think the death penalty is wrong based
    both on my faith as a Christian and on the belief that we can be tougher on crime without it, I don’t have the same disgusted reaction that you do to the applause. 
    While some applauding may well be people happy to see the
    deaths of humans they judge as unworthy of life, I suspect that the visceral reaction of most reflected an attitude towards a criminal justice tool that the people in the audience naively, but sincerely, believe helps reduce crime and makes them safer.  Although I believe them wrong, for so many Americans, death penalty = tough on crime, anti-death penalty = soft on crime, and they are applauding not the deaths of those executed, but being “tough on crime.” 

    In some ways, this seems similar to me to being appalled at those who rejoiced at the death of Osama bin Laden.  How could they rejoice at the death of a human being, no matter how much evil he may have brought to the world?  The majority of people I know who rejoiced were happy that he was removed as an active threat, not that he was killed, even though his death was the manner in which he was removed as a threat.

    While I don’t like to think of myself as one of them, there are many faithful Christians who believe that there are circumstances where people need to be killed, not out of hatred, not out of revenge, but out of love for their fellow man, to protect fellow humans and make the world a better place.  They can be happy for a death out of love for their fellow man, not hatred for the person who died.

    I don’t, however, think this was the attitude of most of those applauding, I suspect their thinking was less deep than that, they were simply applauding being tough on crime, as opposed to applauding the killing of people.

  • Rich

    If you are going to use Romans 12 as your basis, then you should include Romans 13:4 – “For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid,
    for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an
    agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” In other words, sometimes God uses government to avenge and repay. Should we applaud Texas for being the servant of God in this way? Well, that’s the real question. But based on Romans 13, this section of Romans 12 cannot be directly applied to the government.

  • Mark Baker-Wright

    It’s a bit late to expect a response, but I’m not sure I see the important difference.  They’re applauding that all these executions are happening, are they not?  (As opposed, if I hear you right, the governor boasting about it) The criticism for the applause seems justified all the same. Am I missing something? (that’s an honest question)

  • MaryAnn

    That’s not entirely accurate. The audience began applauding *during the question*, which quoted the 234 statistic and said it was “higher than any other governor” (paraphrased). They were applauding before Perry even began speaking. 

  • Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Thanks. That’s helpful, but it does seems that many heard it as applause to his stance and the executions.  Someone just passed this on to me as well from a more conservative post:

  • MoodaSZ

    Watching the debate on I could  read the twitter comments from msnbc journalists simultaneously. When I read one tweet regarding the applause I wondered, “Did we watch the same broadcast?” I believe the applause was in response to Perry’s comment about justice and the American people understanding justice, especially when a Texan child or police officer is brutally murdered. I could be wrong but don’t take the audience’s response out of context. 

  • Robert Julian Braxton

    especially anyone who has read the book “Picking Cotton” by a distant relative, happened in NC, Alamance County

  • Aggiemom74

    Thank you.

  • Megory

    I was actually downtown in San Francisco once when a young man was on a ledge. The noontime crowd DID start chanting for him to jump. It was horrifying.

  • MaryAnn

    I read just the other day that when a distraught person is on the ledge of a building about to commit suicide, police will clear the area of onlookers. I always thought this was for safety reasons, but actually, a shocking number of people will start to chant for the person to jump.

    Nothing surprises me any more about human nature.

  • Bruce Reyes-Chow

    *sigh* Interesting. Kind of a “gut” reaction is often what we truly feel. I have to think that some of the folks who applauded are feeling a little queasy this morning.

  • Shawn Coons

    It wasn’t just the applause it was the immediacy of the applause, as if it was an emotional, non-thinking response. I keep getting Gladiator flashbacks.  Another line that got this immediate emotional applause was Newt’s comment about making English the official language. 

  • Thomas Dummermuth

    Thanks, Bruce, for the clear words!

  • Jcsizoo

    My father was a Christian and a police officer.  He certainly agonized about many things related to being a police officer, and prayed about his ability to live out his faith through his work.

    After many years of defending capital punishment, he later decided that he was against it (this was NOT a sign of his becoming more liberal, I can assure you.)  He believed that capital punishment did nothing to deter crime, that it was more expensive than keeping people in prison, and that as a Christian, he believed that even murderers should ultimately have the opportunity to come to faith.

    Part of the problem with last night was the lack of reflection, and the assurance that it was impossible for an innocent man to be executed in Texas, which is simply untrue.

  • Mary Swan

    As I understood the question, it wasn’t about whether or not the death penalty was right or wrong, but about whether or not Rick Perry might have some discomfort at the thought that even one of those convicted might actually be innocent.  It is appalling to think that he has no concern even for that possibility!

  • Bruce Reyes-Chow

    This is a common argument, but as you know there are many people impacted by the murder of a family member – myself included – who even in our deepest pain do not believe that the death penalty serves anyone . . . and should the murdered be put to death there will be no rejoicing in our home.

  • Dennis Madden

    You need to have one move in your house with you. Then I am sure you would have a different opinion. Let me know how you feel about this when you have one praying on your kids everyday for the rest of their lives. 

  • Janette S

    Yes, all of us who call ourselves Christian will have areas in which we miss the mark – it is part of being human. Capitol punishment may be the “gutsy” thing to do, but is it Christian? Where in Jesus’ teachings is this encouraged? Since Christians claim to follow the teaching of Christ, this is the standard to reach for. Frankly, for me, it is harder & more gutsy to love violent criminals – as Jesus commanded when he said “I tell you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” How to live out that love while not jeopardizing innocent lives is the challenge. Much prayer is needed.

  • Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Thanks for joining in on the conversation. I do think that there is something about American culture that does enjoy the act of revenge and a “take no prisoners” attitude.  My point tho is not whether that is right or wrong in general, but is this a Christian way of being?  For a person who follows Christ to say that he also never looses sleep over ending the life of another human being should be troublesome. Tough decisions certainly must be made as MaryAnn notes above, but disregard life in such a way is troublesome, even the life of one who has done so much evil.

  • Dennis Madden

    They were applauding the man that didn’t back down to the few public that show up and cry and wail at the executions.  

  • MaryAnn

    I served a church that had *many* military folks in it. Very few, if any, would have engaged in uproarious applause over the taking of life. Yes, it is sometimes part of the job, strategically necessary, and perhaps even morally right under certain circumstances. But applaud it? No. The most conservative man in our church (also former military), no pacifist, once told me, “We will all to have to answer to God for making war. It is a sin. It is a sign of our fallen creation, not God’s will.” I respected him for viewing the taking of life with the gravity and nuance it deserved, rather than a source for cheap hurrahs.

    It’s the gleeful applause that Bruce is commenting on here, more than the act itself.

  • Dennis Madden

    Hummmmm I believe there are Christians in our military. I believe there are Christians on our police force. I believe that many killers call themselves Christians. The applause was for having the guts to pull the plug on a animal that takes away a son, daughter, mother, father, etc. and shows no emotion for doing so. This is a open society yet and you have to take irresponsibility for your actions. Penning them up in a do nothing life is not the answer. Cure the problem right away is the answer.   

  • Mark Baker-Wright

    Just coming back to this after a while away.  I was trying to figure out a way to give an alternative, since I don’t think “right to an abortion” (given the differences of opinion in whether it’s even killing a human being or not) is quite equivalent to executions, but definitely “having” an abortion (even given those differences of opinion) would indeed be much closer.  I don’t think announcing multiples (as per your example) is necessary, but you’ve definitely articulated what I was thinking much better than I was able to last week.  Thank you.

  • Jcsizoo

    Except I wonder, Shawn, if it would be more like last night if people applauded someone who got up and proudly said, “I’ve had 12 abortions!” or something like that.  It wasn’t defending the possibility of the death penalty, it was the number of them, and of having no second thoughts, no inclination that Texas has ever executed an innocent person.

  • Bruce Reyes-Chow

    I am just going to go with @twitter-15348846:disqus and say ditto.

  • MurphyJ

    Always the iconoclast. I read your comment before I realized who had written it.

  • Eric Ledermann

    Hi Shawn,

    There is something to crafting and attempting to live by a “consistent ethic of life”, which is most certainly promoted in most, if not all, the world’s largest religions.  What might a consistent ethic of life look like?  Some thoughts might be:

    1) Killing anyone, whether in rage or war is wrong (or, at minimum, not the “preferred” or “celebrated” action).  Sometimes, though, it may be necessary in self-defense (hard to define sometimes).

    2) Abortion: tricky subject.  I, my self, am not “pro-abortion”, but I share a “pro-choice” perspective, though any taking of life makes me sad.  I have walked down this road with enough women in difficult situations and watched as their sadness at a seemingly impossible decision is made and acted upon is carried for years.  What was it that Bill Clinton said: “Abortion should be safe, legal, and … rare.”  Amen!  (I don’t know anyone who is “pro-abortion”…necessary evil?)

    3) Death Penalty: It has never been proven beyond any doubt to actually deter criminal behavior.  Some have even said that in more occasions than not involving murder of some sort, involved is some sort of mental disorder (I do not have the expertise to qualify this statement, but it might be worth taking a look at).  And to say the “state” is doing it, not any individual, is a farce and an abdication of responsibility, for the “state” is us.  There would be no “state” if not for the “people.”  Therefore, WE are killing these people, whether in Texas or any other state.

    4) Anger: When someone cuts me off on the freeway and I scream and yell at them through my windshield, what might a “consistent ethic of life” look like?  When my neighbor consistently mows their lawn, which is connected to mine, shorter than I prefer and consistently mows 2-3 feet into my yard, what might a consistent ethic of life look like?  When I allow anyone to hook me with behavior I don’t like, how might one with a “consistent ethic of life” act or respond?

    It is a question, I think, raised in the subtext of Bruce’s comments as well in most of the world’s religious or sacred texts. If it were easy or clear, I’m not sure we would be having this conversation.  I know I struggle with this every day–I’ve been told I can be a hot head! (Don’t tell my wife I said that!)

  • Shawn Coons

    I was immediately and equally shocked and disgusted, and expressed these feelings on Twitter right away. In fact, I was fairly snarky and partisan during the whole debate.  Since then, my obvious liberal bias has been bothering me, and so I’ve been thinking about this and trying to see “the other side.”

    Two quick thoughts:

    1) I don’t see any strong argument to be made for cheering executions. Even if you believe it a necessary evil, it should not be cheered.

    2) I wonder if the liberal equivalent would be a crowd that cheers for a pro-choice statement. Maybe something like, “We live in a country that lets women have control over their bodies through protecting a women’s right to abortion!” If I was a conservative, pro-life type and I heard enthusiastic cheering to this sort of statement it would probably shock and disgust me. Whether we believe abortion should be legal or not or whether we believe it is killing or not, I still think that we can agree that abortion is not something to be cheered or celebrated.

    I’m interested to know what others think of the parallels between cheering executions and cheering abortion.

  • David Williams

    Amen, Bruce.  

  • Joanna Caldwell

    I agree and share your concerns that too many decidedly unChristian attitudes and behaviors are being attached to supposedly Christian political ideologies.  You are right to speak out. You are right that we must keep telling a different story and living a different life.  Thank you for speaking. 

  • Nancy Janisch

    Sad, sad, sad that people would applaud the death of anyone. I wonder why? Do we just want the world to be simple and linear, crime->guilty person -> punishment? And/or are we very unclear about what “justice” actually is? In common usage, justice seems to mean punishment. In Christian terms, justice is much more than that. 

  • Bruce Reyes-Chow

    As a Californian who had to keep answer for “Arnold” I would make no such assumptions about all of Texas. Thanks for commenting!

  • CLD

    It’s painful, isn’t it? Perry like to say things that imply that every Texan agrees with him, but there are a whole lot of us, and we don’t all agree about the death penalty. And even the people who are ok with it aren’t gleeful about it. That applause was tacky. In the old-school Southern sense of the word, I think most Texans *would* agree that the applause was very, very tacky. (For those of you who are Yankees, “very tacky” means “appalling”.)

  • Abbie Watters

    You hit the nail on the head. This is symptomatic of everything that’s wrong with this particular brand of “Christianity” that has been co-opted by the religious right, and particularly Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry. I am more and more ashamed every day that I live in Texas, among a majority of people who think and behave this way. We’re NOT all like this, but I despair of being able to make any changes in the rest of the population.