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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Helen Prejean in Nampa at NNU

I faced an odd choice this week. Sister Helen Prejean (Dead Man Walking) was in town tonight, speaking at 7PM. President Obama was giving the State of the Union Address at the same time.

It was never really much of a choice. I could read the speech later.

I saw the movie, "Dead Man Walking" about 15 years ago. I wished I could tell you that the movie changed my thought process. It did not. At that time- I was fully immersed in this idea of justice. As a cop, I saw the execution of murderers as just and fair. I worked on behalf of victims. And because I was so resolute in my belief system, I doubt I would have wavered even under the most persuasive argument. That was the party line for people involved in law enforcement. I was also spiritually challenged- although in 1995- I didn't have a clue what that was.

That all changed for me. It changed in 2008.

My opinion changed as a result of two experiences. One of those experiences was an intensely personal and tragic moment that occurred to me while I was in New Orleans. (Sister Helen's town) That experience led to another experience- the idea of spirituality. That is the item I want to focus on here.

What I am going to say here is my opinion. No agreement is necessary. I simply don't believe that you can be spiritually correct and believe in killing people. This is not political opinion. Or religious opinion. Spirituality and those beliefs are mutually exclusive. Please allow me to explain.

First let me pose a question. Why would you hurt someone else to make yourself feel better? A rational, sane, and spiritually correct person does not do that. A rational, sane, and spiritually correct person would not stoop to the level of killing someone else to make themselves feel better.

So what is it about the human ego, that ego that fears, that thinks it's justifiable to kill someone? I am not talking about killing in defense of human life. I am talking about the cold and calculated, state sanctioned, and premeditated murder of killers. Is that supposed to make us whole? Are we supposed to feel better because we have killed someone? That perhaps killing someone is cost effective and frees the prison bed up for another murderer? Just where did that idea originate? Perhaps it originated in the beliefs of fearful and fallible human beings trying to rationalize, justify, and unify other fear driven men.

Now I have another opinion which is a belief. I believe that God, in the form of Jesus, actually lived. I do not believe he was an enlightened human or that his presence here was a myth. Like Genghis Khan, or Napoleon, I accept that Jesus Christ walked the earth. And in as much as I can verify, but admittedly never personally met, Christ, Khan, or Napoleon; I believe that all three men existed.

What kind of a man, having been sentenced to death for doing nothing wrong, accepts that fate with grace? And what man, having been nailed to a cross, lacerated and thus dying a horrible and painful death, asks his father for forgiveness for those men carrying out that unjust sentence?

A man not of earthly origin. A man completely devoid of human ego and fear. An unconditional and loving man not held captive by an angry and hate filled ego. And because he sent that message of unconditional love that day, in a way we could never understand, he is spiritually correct. He was not an ego driven and hate filled emotional hostage. He was who he said he was. The son of God. Just as those killers and conquerors, Khan and Napoleon, were who they said they were. Or do you choose to believe that they also- did not exist? Or do we pick and choose?

Killing people for no other reason than justifying and rationalizing that it is fair or just, is insane. It is the ego-driven and fear driven belief system of men, passed down through the centuries, that tells us that killing people is necessary when we deem it appropriate. Stalin and Hitler deemed killing appropriate. Timothy McVeigh deemed it appropriate. Osama Bin Laden deemed it appropriate. They all justified and persuaded others with their ideas. Are these men spiritually correct?

Man thinks that he is lord of this jungle. Devoid of spirituality, suffering no immediate or adverse consequences, we go on about this idea of picking and choosing who lives and who dies. We have the arrogance of deciding who we will spare and who we will not. Perhaps there is a nagging doubt that maybe, just maybe, we might get held accountable for our selfish actions. And so it is, that the idea of God becomes inconvenient to us. We don't like that idea of being held accountable for our actions, do we? Finding the path, the spiritual and emotionally free path, does not require us to force our opinions or beliefs on anyone else. About the best any of us can do, is question some of these archaic belief systems and jettison them if they are not spiritually correct. Old beliefs can be primitive beliefs and perhaps it's time to re-think them. To evaluate them without emotion and ego.

I hope that I never have to feel the pain of a victims' family and that if I do, I hope I can find the strength to accept that killing the offender will not make me feel any better. People like Sister Helen Prejean make me think that it's possible.


  1. God: 'Honor your father and your mother,' and 'Whoever curses father or mother must certainly be put to death.' Matthew 15:4

    Jesus: "So Pilate said to (Jesus), "Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?" Jesus answered (him), "You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above." John 19:10-11

    Jesus: Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us." The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." (Jesus) replied to him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Luke 23: 39-43

    Jesus: "You have heard the ancients were told, ˜YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER" and "Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court". But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, "Raca", shall be guilty before the supreme court and whoever shall say, "You fool", shall be guilty enough to go into fiery hell." Matthew 5:17-22.

    The Holy Spirit: God, through the power and justice of the Holy Spirit, executed both Ananias and his wife, Saphira. Their crime? Lying to the Holy Spirit - to God - through Peter. Acts 5:1-11.

    The Word of God: Numbers 35:16-21. Note the words "shall" and "surely". What do you think they mean?
    ‘But if he struck him down with an iron object, so that he died, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. ‘If he struck him down with a stone in the hand, by which he will die, and as a result he died, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. ‘Or if he struck him with a wooden object in the hand, by which he might die, and as a result he died, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. ‘The blood avenger himself shall put the murderer to death; he shall put him to death when he meets him. ‘If he pushed him of hatred, or threw something at him lying in wait and as a result he died, or if he struck him down with his hand in enmity, and as a result he died, the one who struck him shall surely be put to death, he is a murderer; the blood avenger shall put the murderer to death when he meets him.
    Here is the full context

  2. Saint Paul, in his hearing before Festus, states: "if then I am a wrong doer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die." Acts 25:11.

    St. Augustine: "The same divine law which forbids the killing of a human being allows certain exceptions. Since the agent of authority is but a sword in the hand, and is not responsible for the killing, it is in no way contrary to the commandment "Thou shalt not kill", for the representative of the State's authority to put criminals to death, according to the Law or the rule of rational justice." The City of God, Book 1, Chapter 21

    St. Thomas Aquinas finds all biblical interpretations against executions "frivolous", citing Exodus 22:18, "wrongdoers thou shalt not suffer to live". Unequivocally, he states," The civil rulers execute, justly and sinlessly, pestiferous men in order to protect the peace of the state." (Summa Contra Gentiles, III, 146

    St. Thomas Aquinas: "The fact that the evil, as long as they live, can be corrected from their errors does not prohibit the fact that they may be justly executed, for the danger which threatens from their way of life is greater and more certain than the good which may be expected from their improvement. They also have at that critical point of death the opportunity to be converted to God through repentance. And if they are so stubborn that even at the point of death their heart does not draw back from evil, it is possible to make a highly probable judgement that they would never come away from evil to the right use of their powers." Summa Contra Gentiles, Book III, 146.

    Saints Thomas Aquinas and Augustine. In addition to the required punishment for murder and the deterrence standards, both Saints find that executing murderers is also an act of charity and mercy. Saint Augustine confirms that " . . . inflicting capital punishment . . . protects those who are undergoing capital punishment from the harm they may suffer . . . through increased sinning which might continue if their life went on." (On the Lord's Sermon, 1.20.63-64.)

    Saint Thomas Aquinas finds that " . . . the death inflicted by the judge profits the sinner, if he be converted, unto the expiation of his crime; and, if he be not converted, it profits so as to put an end to the sin, because the sinner is thus deprived of the power to sin anymore." (Summa Theologica, II-II, 25, 6 ad 2.)

  3. St. Thomas Aquinas: "If a man is a danger to the community, threatening it with disintegration by some wrongdoing of his, then his execution for the healing and preservation of the common good is to be commended. Only the public authority, not private persons, may licitly execute malefactors by public judgement. Men shall be sentenced to death for crimes of irreparable harm or which are particularly perverted." Summa Theologica, 11; 65-2; 66-6.

    "St. Thomas Aquinas quotes a gloss of St. Jerome on Matthew 27: "As Christ became accursed of the cross for us, for our salvation He was crucified as a guilty one among the guilty." As Prof. Michael Pakaluk writes: "If no crime deserves the death penalty, then it is hard to see why it was fitting that Christ be put to death for our sins and crucified among thieves." " That Christ be put to death as a guilty person, presupposes that death is a fitting punishment for those who are guilty." The Death Penalty: An Opposing Viewpoints Series Book, Greenhaven Press, (hereafter TDP:OVS), 1991

    Saint (& Pope) Pius V, "The just use of (executions), far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this (Fifth) Commandment which prohibits murder." "The Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent" (1566).

    Pope Pius XII: "When it is a question of the execution of a man condemned to death it is then reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned of the benefit of life, in expiation of his fault, when already, by his fault, he has dispossessed himself of the right to live." 9/14/52.

    Christians who speak out against capital punishment in deserving cases " . . . tend to subordinate the justice of God to the love of God. . . . Peter, by cutting off Malchu’s ear,. . . was most likely trying to kill the soldier (John 18:10)", prompting " . . . Christ’s statement that those who kill by the sword are subject to die by the sword (Matthew 26:51-52)." This " implicitly recognizes the government’s right to exercise the death penalty." Dr. Carl F.H.Henry, "A Matter of Life and Death", p 52 Christianity Today, 8/4/95.

  4. Dudley Sharp;

    Thank you. I read everything you posted.

    Men are critical, fallible, opinionated beings. What I'm about to say here is an opinion. My proof is prima facia. I'm about to say that every man that has walked the face of the earth, including the writers of the bible are critical, fallible, opinionated, fearful, and ego driven men. Sinners. All of them. They impart their spin and interpretation and then write. Does this make what they say fact, or opinion?

    The justice of God's is God's. Not ours. Just as the love of God is God's, not ours. There is no transfer. God did not knight anyone to determine his will. And no man has ever been given that authority. Nor have we been anointed judges. But we do it anyway, call it the will of God, and use scripture to back our play. Scripture written by self centered men.

    Not one thing mentioned above "implicitly" makes it ok to kill. Or God would have made those exceptions. I didn't catch those exceptions in the commandments.

    It gets as simple as this. Would Christ himself administer the lethal injection? Because if he couldn't, then no man that has ever walked the earth could. That includes, Pope Pius, St. Thomas, or St. Jerome (and his fallible opinion or supposition) or the rule of rational justice which I find quite irrational. The qualifications to kill don't exist. They were never conferred. Ever.

    To obtain the spiritually correct answer, is to cast out biblical verse and the failings of all men.

    As long as men are running the show, they will find any number of rationalizations, justifications, biblical verses, and pretzel logic to get what they want. All I want is protection for society. We have that. Its called prisons. I'll let God sort it out after that.

    On a personal level, I take a very jaundiced view of all MANipulated religion. It is the product and the invention of fearful and fallible men. Therefore it is an opinion. Thus everything you have written are simply opinions. Philosophy. Hardly the sort of thing I want to base the murder of a human being on- state sanctioned or otherwise. It is simply not spiritually correct.

    Please read Plato's allegory of the cave. It is one of my first blogs on this site. Think of these "opinions" as shadows on the cave wall. Then you will understand what I think of this.

    Thanks again. You caused much reflection and a page turn or two.

  5. Brian:

    My first 6 quotes were those of God, not men.

    There is no where any hint or suggestion that man must be perfect or infallible to enforce justice, inclusive of the death penalty.

    Death Penalty: Innocence and Deterrence
    Dudley Sharp, contact below

    The 130 (now 139) death row "innocents" scam

    "The Innocent Executed: Deception & Death Penalty Opponents"

    "The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents"

    "Cameron Todd Willingham: Another Media Meltdown", A Collection of Articles

    "Sister Helen Prejean & the death penalty: A Critical Review"

    "At the Death House Door" Can Rev. Carroll Pickett be trusted?"

    "The Exonerated: Are Any Actually Innocent?"

    "A Death Penalty Red Herring: The Inanity and Hypocrisy of Perfection", Lester Jackson Ph.D.,

    23 recent deterrence studies finding for deterrence, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation,

    "Deterrence and the Death Penalty: A Reply to Radelet and Lacock"

    "Death Penalty, Deterrence & Murder Rates: Let's be clear"


  6. You may be wrongly alluding to John 8

    John 8 and the death penalty: The Woman Caught in Adultery
    Dudley Sharp

    1) Even anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean, often inaccurate, gets this right:

    "It is abundantly clear that the Bible depicts murder as a capital crime for which death is considered the appropriate punishment, and one is hard pressed to find a biblical proof text in either the Hebrew Testament or the New Testament which unequivocally refutes this."

    "Even Jesus' admonition 'Let him without sin cast the first stone', when He was asked the appropriate punishment for an adulteress (John 8:7) - the Mosaic Law prescribed death - should be read in its proper context. This passage is an entrapment story, which sought to show Jesus' wisdom in besting His adversaries. It is not an ethical pronouncement about capital punishment. " Sister Helen Prejean, Dead Man Walking.

    2) Also see - Misuse and misunderstanding of John 8:7 is quite common. See Forgery in the Gospel of John

    3) What about the woman caught in adultery? From “Why I Support Capital Punishment”, by Andrew Tallman, sections 7-11 biblical review, sections 1-6 secular review

    In John 8:1-11, the Pharisees bring Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery to see if He will authorize her execution. After He famously says, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her,” they all depart, and Jesus sends the woman on her way, saying, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way; from now on sin no more.” Of all passages in the Bible, this one most clearly shows that Jesus opposed capital punishment.

    First, we should note that this passage is textually dubious. The best manuscripts don’t include it, and both its placement and style controvert its authenticity.

    Even so, the Christian community has long considered this an iconic story of Jesus’s mercy. So, to merely throw it out would be inappropriate. Besides, it may well be a legitimate story, just not one included in the John autoscript. Hence, an interpretation would be more helpful than a dismissal.

    The trouble is that most people wildly misunderstand this story. The Pharisees’ only reason for bringing this woman to Jesus was to put Him in a dilemma. On the one hand, He couldn’t call for her execution since Roman law prohibited anyone other than a Roman court from doing this. The Pharisees proved they knew this when they later brought Jesus to Pilate rather than killing Him themselves. On the other hand, He couldn’t oppose her execution because this would have proven He was a false prophet for contradicting God’s Law. The passage even explains this in verse 6, “they were saying this, testing Him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him.”

    So, the Pharisees wanted to make Jesus a heretic for opposing capital punishment, but He evaded their trap. The tremendous irony is that now, two thousand years later, people who claim to love Jesus teach that He was precisely the heretic His enemies wanted to paint Him as. If Jesus was in fact repudiating capital punishment in this story, then He was neither the Divine Son of God nor even a true prophet. As I’m apparently more reluctant than others to embrace this conclusion, I can’t interpret

    Jesus as rejecting the Old Testament here. Had He been, His enemies would have left jubilant rather than ashamed. There are many theories on the meaning of this story, but the one thing we must not do is use it to say Jesus overturned God’s Word as His enemies intended.

    Do a GOOGLE search for entrapment “John 8:7" and read the results.

    Here are a couple, below.

    4) John 6-23 The woman Caught in Adultery


    5) Sanctity of Life & the Death Penalty: Flip sides of the same “Divine” coin

  7. Brian:

    Don't misinterpret what I am doing.

    I, personally, don't need or use biblical instrution to provide my support for the death penalty.

    My support is based upon the santion being just and appropriate, for the crime committed, the same basis of support for all sanctions.

    I provide the biblical and theological support to counter the inaccurate notion that there is not biblical support for the death penalty.

  8. Dudley;

    Matthew, John, Luke? Were they men?

    I understand. You are missing my point. I don't care what the Bible says. At all. Really. In fact I don't require a single line from any book, manuscript, saint or philosopher.

    Having mercy or love is intuitive. It is spiritually correct. There are no penalties for showing mercy. None. The government won't lock you up, you have broken no law or commandment. You can sleep at night. I need no scripture, or God, or man to tell me what is spiritually correct. Love and mercy are God's way, or if they are not God's way, then this God is no God of mine. And I'm ok with that. I have an excellent defense.

    So no Dudley, man doesn't get it both ways. You can't kill people and be spiritually correct. It's simply not possible. Killing and mercy/love are mutually exclusive. No amount of rhetoric can change that intuitive belief.

    And best of all, I don't have to quote one single source. I am not selling death and executions, emotional pain and further grieving. I don't have to. Mercy needs no sources, no sales men, no facilitators. Mercy is a symptom of love, executions are the symptoms of hate.

    I also accept that I cannot change your mind. I am ok with that.

    I am emotionally free, Dudley. I let people be just as crazy and insane as they want to be. To launch attacks, to diminish others. People are free to believe anything they want. They are free to kill, sell dope, steal from each other and call it business. I accept all of that. I can't change it. And I am ok with all of that. All I can do- is be the best person that I am capable of being. And doing that means that I cannot involve myself with the collective or ego driven insanity of men.

  9. You wrongly believe that execution has a foundation in hate. It does not. It has a foundation in justice, which is akin to mercy, particulalry in the realm of the eternal.

    You can have no mercy without justice and no justice without mercy.

  10. Thank you for your comments.

    You may find these of interest:

    Chapter V:The Sanctity of Life, "Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics" By John Murray, 1991 (first published 1957) by Wm. B. Eerdmans

    "Amerio on capital punishment ", Chapter XXVI, 187. The death penalty, from the book Iota Unum, May 25, 2007 ,

  11. Dudley;

    I think justice is simply a man made word. A label. A justification and rationalization for fear driven, emotional, conduct.

    I am trying to make the justice/mercy connection. Interesting. Gonna mull that over...

  12. Brian, everything you and I write or think is man driven, so it has the same problems.

    Some think more clearly than others, though.

    One man's ceiling may be another man's floor, but that doesn't matter as much as which perception has the most solid foundation.

  13. Dudley;

    I googled 'ya and read the blog. Wow. You and I are fully entrenched in our beliefs and now I see what I am up against here.

    I originally started this blog as a quest for unconditional love. Man practices unconditional hatred. We are practicing hatred now in the desert. And when we get done hating and killing those foes, we will find new enemies to hate and kill. We are good at hating and finding new enemies. We justify that- we are the world police. I too was a cop, a chief for 25 years. I was once on your side. I challenged my strong and ego-ic beliefs and as I evolved out of ego, I asked what would God do? WWGD? I posed that question at every poignant moment or decision in my life. God would not have me kill anyone nor would I except in the defense of my life or yours.

    Dudley, the egos of men will always find new hatred, new enemies, new people to kill. We've been killing each other since time began. History has been pretty convincing. And about the time France was guillotining every one in sight...I am sure there were plenty of people like you who supported that.

    The best you and I can do is respect each other and have a civil discourse. I've been where you are now, I believed in the death penalty once. In fact, I once held an application for the firing squad when Idaho still did that. I quoted and said the same things you do now. I could no longer cling to those beliefs. But I am in a different place, I wonder Dudley...does it bother you at all to think that you might be wrong? Does that ever cross your mind?


  14. Went back to your site. Clipped this.

    Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.

    A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally

    Perhaps justice matters. Tell that to the 100 or so people who very nearly died and were released from death row. Please answer this Dudley. Is one wrongful death worth the death penalty?

  15. Brian:

    Fact checking in this debate is requires, as in:

    The 130 (now 139) death row "innocents" scam

    Wrongful deaths would be higher without the death penalty. So I reverse the question to you.

    "The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents"

    23 recent deterrence studies finding for deterrence, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation,

  16. *Waves white flag, to and fro. Thanks.