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.