Friday, June 26, 2015

They Led By Example

Most days, I never listen to a news broadcast.  I haven't witnessed a lot of objective news reporting in recent years, and I sometimes get my news updates online, or I get them from my husband.  I know that probably sounds lazy, but it's not meant to be.  My husband and I think alike on most issues, and our opinions are more often than not, in sync with one another.  I like that we can disagree on some of the issues without it turning into a major shouting match.

Last week when he came home to tell me about the shootings in the Charleston church, I experienced a feeling of dread.  I feel that racial issues are dividing our country so badly over the last several years.  When we got home after dinner, I went to the computer to look up the stories of the Charleston incident, and I watched videos of interviews with one young woman in particular, whose mother had survived this incident.  Later, maybe the next day, I told my husband that I felt this young man deserved the death penalty.  Period.

In some ways, it bothered me that I had said this.  It didn't seem like a Christian pronouncement, knowing only a small amount about the defendant.  What I did know was that these people welcomed him with kindness and love to their Bible-study session; the minister had the young man sit next to him.  He sat there with these people for an hour, and then cold-bloodedly shot and killed almost all of them.  The church is supposed to be sanctuary.

So why not life in prison as opposed to the death penalty?  Wouldn't that be a more Christian sentence for this young man, who is obviously mentally disturbed?  We had a young man who went on a killing spree in our town in 1988.  He was 24 years old at the time; he was white and he shot nine passersby with a .22-caliber rifle (four died, including a 16 year-old high school girl).  He stood at the side of the road next to a stop sign, and when people stopped their car, he walked up and shot them point-blank in the face. These were not racially motivated killings, because if memory serves me correctly all the victims were white.  This young man had a history of drug abuse and some questionable behavior.  At his trial, he was found "Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity."  Instead of going to prison for life, he was sent to a state mental institution.  In 2010, the killer was released with conditions (I guess this is the same thing as probation), and in 2012, he was considered to be completely free with no conditions.  The psychiatrists treating him had pronounced him cured.  Hmmm.

I told my husband that this precedent was the reason I believed that Dylann Roof should receive the death penalty.  Then I read, and listened to the statements of forgiveness made by the family members of the Charleston shooting victims.  This, more than anything else, convinced me that these people who died in their church that evening lived and led by example.  How else to explain the amazing attitudes of their family members?  Could I be that forgiving of someone who had caused me such horrific pain?  I hope and pray I never have to find out.



  1. It seems as if each new day brings a new horror. I have waffled over the death sentence. The appeals are way too many and sometimes the wrong person has been executed. But my opinion is changing again...when it is crystal clear that the charged is guilty, execution seems right. The killer has more time to prepare for his demise than he gave to his victim/s. I smiled that you are married to a likeminded. I could not do the Mary Matalin/James Carville kind of marriage. LOL!

  2. The death sentence is something I've wrestled with over the years. Here in Canada we abolished it years ago, and I'm glad. Too many people were executed wrongly. I disagree with letting killers out after someone pronounces them "cured" but I do believe in restorative justice. It's so hard to know. Forgiveness, such as the Charleston people have shown, is a great example of God's grace in the midst of grief and anger.

  3. Hi Denise, great thought provoking post. I, too, hope that I would never have to find out, but in my mind right now, I could never be forgiving of that person. There is too much hatred in this world and while some issues are being set right, race is not one of them. What that person thinks he stands for is just plain wrong and when it is so cut and dried then I wonder sometimes where common sense comes into play. The death penalty is the right action for a crime like his and without any of the appeals that usually come with it..This was a lot for me to say as I usually don't put out there my political and religious beliefs but it was so horrendous that this had to happen. I feel for the families of all concerned..Judy

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Denise. This event has affected so many of us, causing us to think deeply about values and beliefs such as forgiveness. Only now do I realize that by forgiving so quickly, the families averted a crisis in the larger community, and maybe the country. They led by example and now many prominent leaders are calling for the confederate flag to be removed. Maybe a soft answer doth turn away wrath, as the Bible says, and put people on a different path. Here in Canada, our Aboriginal nations keep showing us a great example of forgiveness and reconciliation but many of us don't think we have anything to learn from them, which is a terrible shame.



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