Punish, kill, revenge, get back at someone are the rules of the ancient times. Twenty seven states still have death penalty while twenty three states have already abolished death penalty. Are we still in the prison of hatred? Is death penalty a just law? Are we getting what we deserve as a society from our lawmakers?
United States of America, a land of freedom, and yet a land of imprisonment. We are imprisoned by complacency, by indifference, by revenge to get back at someone because for some old practice that is called justice. Is it really justice? People get punished using the rule "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." If I get killed, somebody will get killed. And we say that we are not at war but at peace? We look at the people in Gaza, praying that God will have mercy on Israelites and Palestinians especially the civilians and that the war will be put to an end. We have our own interior war in United States. One life, a life of a nation, is a life at stake. We cannot put a price on any one's life. Ending one's life or ending a whole town's life is a wound that penetrates throughout generations.
In the history of United States, death penalty has been in existence since the Colonial times. In Biblical history, there was once a punishment as death penalty where murder is to be judge with death (Leviticus 24:19-20).
Is this the justice of God? If we look at the book of Numbers 35, a compassion for a person who committed murder through the city of refuge is given. The city of refuge is a place where people who accidentally killed someone can go to. There is a required two witnesses before anybody can be condemned to death. There is a year of freedom once the high-priest passed away. Did this rule last in the land of the chosen ones?
God protected Cain from revenge when Cain murdered Abel. Moses murdered the Egyptians, he was guilty, run away from the Egyptians. God revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush. David fell in love with Bathsheba put Uriah in a risky and life-threatening position where he, the husband of Bathsheba, died. None of these chosen ones died. Who are the chosen ones? Christ made all of us God's chosen ones. He died not selectively but the Messiah died for all. The Word made flesh came for His love to be manifested for every single person who has ever lived and who is yet to live so that we can be with God for all eternity.
Fast forward, here in United States of America, we are watching the war in Gaza by Israelites and Palestinians who are using the old rule of justice, an "eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" while this country is the number one producer of weapons of mass destructions, gun violence kills most people, we have a "silent" war that has been happening over the millennium. Death penalty is a silent killer. As a society, we punish people to die. Unless we abolish this law to kill people who commit heinous crime, some were proven innocent, we are guilty of murder as well through our complacency and directly through our taxes. According to Amnesty International, the cost to put the people in death penalty along with its litigation and follow-up representation can go up to $237 million a year compared to a non-death penalty maximum life imprisonment can only cost over $11 million a year (https://www.amnestyusa.org/issues/death-penalty/death-penalty-facts/death-penalty-cost/).
It is time that as a nation, we can have more peaceful society where healing is cultivated rather than revenge, hatred, punishment, and cruelty. Jesus ended a cruel punitive behavior of the society on the cross. "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they were doing." We certainly do not know what we are doing after two millennia as we are still in this unresolved punitive behavior that is brought by the colonial times and some interpretations that have existed in the Old Testament. There is an inconsistency between upholding what the country whose foundation is built upon what is life-giving i.e. pursuit for life, liberty, and happiness.
Last October 10, the University of Incarnate Word commemorated the World Day Against Death Penalty. It was a date when UIW, Catholic Mobilizing Network, Texas Coalition Against Death Penalty, and Texas Pax Christi sponsored a symposium to talk about abolishment of Death Penalty through panel of experts in this topic: Monique Coleman, the sister of Ryan Matthews who was exonerated from death row, Mitesh Patel, who advocated for clemency for the man who killed his father, and Dr. Doshie Piper, an Associate Professor in Criminal Justice.
October 10, 2023 is another date when we as a nation executed another person on death row. This time, it was Mr. Jedidah Murphy. His execution in Texas proves our continued support for this system of hate and revenge. We are responsible as a society for this life executed. Another person in death row, William Speer, who is originally scheduled for execution on October 26 received a stay on execution. Speer was forgiven by the brother of a person he killed more than 26 years ago, when he was merely 16 years old. His completed education that time was 8th grade. Living in prison, he committed murder of his fellow inmate. He was remorseful for what he did. A converted man, a baptized Christian in 2021, he is becoming an instrument of healing among the prisoners which is a source of light for the victims' family. His appeal for clemency was unanimously denied on October 24, 2023.
There is a silent war among every US Citizens, especially the legislators who have been entrusted to uphold laws that are good for their constituents. It is a war crying out loud in the deepest core of our being for a change. If we are not going to talk about this, we agree to continue to uphold this undignified ancient practice, and putting people who are normally victims of poverty, lack of education, sexual, mental and physical abuse into capital punishment. We need a government and society that upholds program that builds good and moral behavior, education, and life-sustaining skills. We all have voices. Are the voices that need to be heard getting heard? Have we used our voices to make long lasting justice and peace possible for the future generations to thrive? Are we sustaining practices that we can be proud of? Are we grateful for what we are upholding in the present?
It is a call to revisit our participation in the justice and peace system of this country. Call on your legislators to abolish the Death Penalty Laws. We are wasting tax-payers money and ignoring the opportunities that we can take to make way for true peace. We can truly promote life, liberty, and happiness by true peace in our hearts with action in our legislative system.
Make true peace a reality by supporting various organizations that are working hard to abolish this inhumane practice:
- Texas Coalition Against Death Penalty
- Catholic Mobilizing Network
- National Coalition To Abolish The Death Penalty (NCADP)
- Equal Justice USA
- Journey of Hope
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
- Equal Justice Initiative (EJI)
- Witness to Innocence
- International Commission Against Death Penalty
- Amnesty International