Kelly Gissendaner almost died for the sins of Christians. When word came in that Kelly’s execution was postponed, I knew why she was almost executed beyond a shadow of a doubt. Having grown up in Georgia and now living in Texas, one grows familiar with these execution processes. Though there was much publicity around Kelly’s case, most people are executed with little public resistance and scant media attention. If you look back a week to the night before Kelly was originally supposed to be executed, there was little attention being paid to the case. Then something spiritual happened. Christians in Georgia started to wake up.
The orchestrated effort to save Kelly’s life was incredibly impressive. Post after post tagged #kellyonmymind filled social media. Popular Christian writers and bloggers offered their words of encouragement and resistance. The traditional media was full of stories about the changes that occurred in Kelly’s life over the last few years. Professors, students, former inmates and others created films that were incredibly compelling. The pictures that came out of the efforts of the last few days were unbelievable. With all of this unbelievable effort and attention, Kelly was only saved by cloudy drugs not public pressure. Now, we are left to wonder how we ever let her get so close?
When I say that Kelly almost died for the sins of Christians, I am being quite literal. The last death penalty case to get this type of attention was Troy Davis. I stood across the street from the prison in Jackson and watched the hundreds of people demand that the State of Georgia spare his life. I remember thinking that if we could keep up this moment then we could abolish the death penalty all over the country. There have been five executions since the execution of Troy Davis. Most people could not name one name of the executed let alone two. If Christians had been as excited and energized about these last five executions as they were about Kelly, I don’t think there would have been a death penalty to even talk about in this case. The lack of engagement from Christians around the country is what causes the heinous practice of executions to continue. Kelly almost died for the sins of Christians or the lack of engagement in the previous cases and efforts that could have saved the lives of everyone on death row. Will we now rest until they try to go through with the execution of Kelly or will we stand with the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people on death rows all over the nation facing execution?
After some of these cases garner tremendous public attention, I go back to my work as an abolitionist. I always pray that everyone will stay engaged and we can together abolish the death penalty. With seven executions scheduled here in Texas before the end of May, the lives of Kelly Gissendaner and Brian Terrell still on the line and numerous executions scheduled across the country in coming days, abolitionists could sure use the help. #kellyonmymind must become #deathrowonmymind if we are going to end this heinous practice once and for all. Though I want to have hope, I always have to be realistic and tell myself that most of these Christians will probably just go back to doing what they were doing and not care about the wider sickness that is the death penalty. I pray that I am wrong.