I hate the death penalty

I hate the death penalty.

I think it’s one of the things I despise most about America.

I love America, and I’m thankful for the freedoms we have here. I’m grateful for the many that have sacrificed to allow for these freedoms.

But, we have a long way to go.

I lament the fact that we today, in 2017, we still execute humans with finality. There’s absolutely no reason for this.

We haven’t always executed the right people, and we can’t go back and make those situations right again.

And even when the person DID do the crime, it sends a message to the rest of humanity that some people, if they do enough bad, can actually get to a place where their life isn’t worth anything anymore; that they are beyond redemption. You cannot tell me that is the Gospel.

We lose part of our humanity when we sign off on this. Every Christ-follower needs to take a hard look at this because it’s not really about the policy and legislation, it’s about how you view the image of God, redemption, and ultimately the Good News that Jesus unveiled.

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Ultimately I Serve Another King

The values I hold are in stark difference to the values of #45. His rhetoric and language disgusts me. His words hurt people that I love. And his policies further oppress the poor. But I also understand this: he is my president. I will still pay my taxes at the end of this year, and I will continue to honor the office he holds. Truthfully, in the last year I have done a sucky job praying for him. In fact, I’ve spent more time hoping he would somehow be removed from office than actually praying for him and his well-being. But that’s not the way of Jesus and it pains me today to admit that.

The truth of the matter is, my faith and trust in Jesus has only strengthened since the election. It’s lifted my eyes from a false security in the empire to a more sure footing on the security found only in my Savior.

While these may seem merely random thoughts, they could be loosely tied together with the lyrics of this song.

Ultimately I serve another King, the only King that lasts forever. The King that was never created and will never go away, the King that cannot be elected and will never be impeached.

May we go to church this weekend exalting our King higher than our flag, our Jesus greater than our Pledge, and the Spirit more fully than our freedoms.

And just as importantly, may we love and respect those worshipping on either side of us with very different viewpoints.

The exterior

I’ve become more and more aware that the truly hurting people in our world aren’t always the ones that look like it. They’re just as often the ones who look quite put together. The exterior is a well-manicured façade, and until someone steps into true, biblical community where they feel genuinely safe, that mask will never go away.

100 years later

I’ve heard enough people in my circles say we live in a post-racial world. And I just want to give a little perspective. Why? Because when we say things like that today, people get hurt. It angers them, and for good reason. People made in the image of God… our brothers and sisters.

Not discounting the certain fact that progress in many areas has been made, we ought not think we’ve finished the race. I love how Deidra Riggs put it earlier today: “…if we were all running a marathon together (and we are) we wouldn’t stop at the one mile marker, look back toward the starting line and say, ‘Wow! Look at how much progress we’ve made! We’ve come so far! Let’s go do something else now.'”

For me, these 2 images when placed together are quite profound.

The first one is from July 2, 1917: a peaceful march in New York City, following a horrific event of injustice in St. Louis earlier that week that should never be forgotten. I unpacked that event more here.
silent-march-nyc-1917

The other one is from about an hour ago – June 16, 2017, nearly 100 years later. Another peaceful march, this time in Minnesota, following the announcement of the verdict in Officer Yanez’ trial. I didn’t sit on the jury, and I can’t know all the intricacies that went into the reaching of that verdict. But we all saw the Facebook live video. And given the (enormous) track record of oppression from law-enforcement on people of color, the smell of bs here is strong.
Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 10.28.06 PM

My heart aches for everyone directly involved (including Officer Yanez), and my heart aches for the millions of people who feel the pain of this moment from afar – pain that in many ways I will never be able to feel. I believe we need to pray for those in law enforcement like never before, and I believe we need to pray for minorities just as much.

Can we stand with one without hating the other? I believe we can.

But in the process, may the Lord help us never ever stop asking these gut-wrenching “Why” questions until the stubborn stench of injustice is burnt out of our nostrils for good.

Humility

“If you’re modest and have an awareness of the limits of your own knowledge you know that you need the people who disagree with you to correct for your own errors. [However] if you think you have the truth 100% then the people who disagree with you are just in the way.”

-David Brooks, NY Times

bench

The Drowning Man Trial

Everyone who loses somebody wants revenge on someone, on God if they can’t find anyone else. But in Africa, in Matobo, the Ku believe that the only way to end grief is to save a life. If someone is murdered, a year of mourning ends with a ritual that we call the Drowning Man Trial. There’s an all-night party beside a river. At dawn, the killer is put in a boat. He’s taken out on the water and he’s dropped. He’s bound so that he can’t swim. The family of the dead then has to make a choice. They can let him drown or they can swim out and save him. The Ku believe that if the family lets the killer drown, they’ll have justice but spend the rest of their lives in mourning. But if they save him, if they admit that life isn’t always just… that very act can take away their sorrow. Vengeance is a lazy form of grief.

The immensely profound paragraph above comes from The Interpreter, one of my favorite movies. You can find the clip here.

A lot of people have been thinking more about the death penalty these days, (thanks in large part to the disgusting nature of all that’s going on in Arkansas this month) and I’m certainly in that crowd. Though I last saw this movie over 6 years ago, this scene has continued to come to my mind as I’ve pondered, searched, and sought out the morality of capital punishment. Not because I plan to directly influence legislation (though I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea some day) but because I believe to my toes it matters how we think about other people. Even, (especially) the people we despise the most. A person’s thoughts on the death penalty draw that out like few other issues being discussed around dinner tables today.

However, in these discussions, the grieving process of the victim’s family often don’t get talked about enough, or at least not talked about well.

If you’re still reading, my question for you today is this:
Does taking the life of a loved one’s killer truly bring the family the closure they’ve been promised?

drowning man trial

The one thing that can unify a church

“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)

Nice idea.

Would love to watch that Kirk Cameron movie.

But how IN THE WORLD is that ever supposed to become reality in the Church today?

  • How is that supposed to happen within the global collection of Christians from all around the world, speaking different languages, practicing different customs and traditions?
  • How is it supposed to happen among several hundred or several thousand members within a local expression of the church?
  • How is it even reality to think church leaders in the same church, who come from a variety of backgrounds and faith experiences, can be ‘perfectly united in mind and thought’?

Especially in a cultural moment like ours right now, where every post and idea and thought quickly polarizes, offends, and antagonizes?

If I’m just being honest (which I’m really trying to be), to me today – this all definitely feels like wishful thinking. Frankly, this verse was pretty frustrating to look at this morning.

But then I found something that started to put the pieces together for me…

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Segregation & White Evangelicals

Over the course of the last year, a “holy discontent” has risen within me at a greater rate than ever before as it relates to the important issues of racial equality and true reconciliation. If you read on, this post will give a little more understanding of why I feel it’s a conversation we (as Christian leaders especially) need to openly and honestly engage in and why we should be leading the way forward. Especially for us as white evangelicals, we’ve been afraid to step into this space for fear of personal risk, being misunderstood, and I think, because we haven’t had to “feel” in ourselves the tension our brothers and sisters of color are certainly well acquainted with.

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Redlining

You have heard about RedLining, right? This is one of the things I don’t remember ever being taught in my history classes, but it has profoundly shaped the racialization of our culture and why still today there is such a divide between our cities and our suburbs. #WeBuiltAWall #OurHistory 

On Dylann Roof, the Charleston Shooting, and the Death Penalty

when the subject comes up, people know i’m very much against the death penalty.

which puts me in a precarious place: the default line for people of faith is overwhelmingly FOR death.

death-penalty

i used to be there too, but then i read this book. it’s brought me to a complete 180. it gave me a total knockout-to-the-face, as the hypocrisy and double standards of my beliefs were showcased before my very eyes.

book

to those of us in the Church, i’m convinced this is front-and-center to an arena we’ve chosen to not think well about, to our own detriment. we have lost our humanity along the way, using the bible to defend a position we’ve known deep down inside is just wrong.

we often look at the crimes that have been committed and in our understandable desire for “justice”, the words of the victims’ families are often silenced. the media will seldom pick them up, and there’s usually an attorney general or prosecutor on the other end wanting to be voted back into office.

which is why i’m so excited for this piece ran by the NY Times 3 days ago.

seriously, read it!

the families of the victims in the Charleston Shooting have been vocally AGAINST the death penalty for Dylann Roof, and it’s profound to see. i wish i could get to know these beautiful people… i wish their spirituality could rub off on me more.

church

hearing their words – not just their extensions of forgiveness shortly after that horrific night – but now 17 months later, pleading for mercy… there’s just something very Jesus-like about their actions.

i think we’re witnessing here a version of Christianity profoundly close to the heart of God.