Michael Bane: Death Row Feminist
Truth. What is it? How does it work? When does it happen? Truth can be so difficult to grasp. Often, we walk through life so skeptical. I know I do. Sometimes it’s necessary. Think about how many times people have lied to you. Then again, think about how many times people have told you the truth. I guess there is something that happens at the juxtaposition of truth and lies…life. So, who do you trust? The nature of the spiritual life is knowing truth as something so much more than what we can figure out. Truth is not something that can be dissected and put together in the proper way…it is something that we are. Defined by love, truth is something that we are created to be. When we meet love, we meet truth. This is a story of love. This is a story of truth.
In November of 1988, Royce Frazier was found dead in a bathtub full of water near Memphis, Tennessee. Frazier was brutally tortured, beaten and robbed. In the many months that followed, Michael Bane was charged, convicted and sentenced to death for his supposed role in the murder of Frazier. Though there seems to be considerable evidence that Bane had nothing to do with the crime, this is not an attempt to prove what is the truth about his case. This is about a higher truth…the truth of love.
When we spoke the other day, Michael Bane told me all about his case. I’d heard so much of it before. Death rows around the country are full of people who have strong cases for innocence. I never know how to respond to such claims. The truth is that I will never completely know the truth…and probably never will. I can only know what I experience…what I know. In talking to Michael, it’s very clear that he has met the source of all truth, love. In fact, Michael has been changed by a very special group of women that he met through a class hosted by Vanderbilt Divinity School.
The class was about bringing people of various backgrounds together to talk about their lives and the ever-evolving nature of spirituality. In these moments, Michael Bane learned how to love and be loved for the first time. He learned that pain was holding the truth in and love was about letting the truth go. In time, Michael has slowly learned to embody the words of the Apostle Paul, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” Together, Michael has grown with these amazing women…and they have become his primary advocates. I’ve been incredibly impressed. Never before have I been reached out to as passionately as I have by this group of women who have become such strong advocates for Michael. I would have never even known who he was. Now, I’ve been given a front row seat to the love that these woman have for Michael. I found it to be true. Let there be no doubt, love is truth. It shouldn’t be that complicated…but it is. I guess it’s because we make it so complicated. We don’t have to. We can just love each. We can just support each other. We can just be true.
These women have changed Michael Bane. Throughout our conversations, Michael sounds as much like a feminist as anyone I’ve ever known. Who would have ever thought that a guy who has been on death row for nearly three decades, could be changed so dramatically based on his interactions with a bunch of theology students? Interaction is a powerful antidote to injustice. Equality doesn’t have to be dramatic…it just must be true. The love…the truth…that these women have shown Michael Bane has freed his spirit…and if these women have anything to do with it…such love…such truth…will free his body as well.
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