When I lived in Texas for a brief stint in the 90’s, locals commonly referred to their state as “God’s Country”. I can understand the nickname when I think of the many beautiful spots I’ve seen in Texas, but not when I think about the laws in Texas.
Or America, for that matter.
News from Texas this last week reminds me that in America, we repeatedly place a value on property, money, individual rights, and a host of other things, over people.
In 2009, Ezekiel Gilbert shot and killed 23 year old Lenora Frago with an AK-47. This week, he was found not-guilty of her murder. Apparently, Mr. Gilbert hired Ms. Frago, an escort, via Craigslist. Gilbert paid her $150, assuming he was purchasing sex. When Frago refused to have sex with him, and walked out with the $150, Gilbert grabbed an AK-47 and riddled her car with his assault weapon.
Frago was hit in the neck, and died months later after her family made the difficult decision to remove her life support.
Why was Gilbert found not-guilty you ask? Because in Texas, the law permits an individual to use deadly force to recover stolen property if the theft occurs at night. The jury held that Mr. Gilbert was within his legal right to shoot and kill Frago when she refused to perform the sex he purchased, since the “theft” occurred at nighttime.
This story reminds me of the blatant disregard we tend to have for human life. In this case, $150 was more valuable than a human life– not just to Gilbert, but to the State of Texas.
And, neither do we. It’s not just Texas who has insinuated they are God’s country– we, as a nation, have often misused God’s name when we falsely claim that we are a “Christian nation”.
But, be assured, as long as our laws place a higher value on personal property than the value of human life, we are not God’s country or a “Christian” nation.
As long as our laws value corporations, the rights of the rich, and the rights of the influential over and above the rights of the poor, the vulnerable, the ignored… we are not God’s country.
As long as we cling to a worldly concept of “individual rights” instead of sacrificially treating others as more important than ourselves… we are not God’s country.
As long as we build fences to oppress the alien, enact policies which hinder the fatherless, and quietly allow the widow to suffer in our midst… we are not God’s country.
And, as long as we make weapons of war and use violence in conflict resolution- whether corporately in war, or privately as citizens who feel justified in using our AK-47’s, or our 9mm’s… we are not God’s country.
If this were God’s country, we’d pound our swords into plowshares, and would stop our legal and moral justification of the use of violence in the face of the God who forbids all violence.
You can read the original news story, here.