Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner

In a few hours, the state of Utah will be executing Ronnie Lee Gardner for the crime of murder.  I am an adopted son of Utah, and have been very happy with my family's move out here six years ago. However,  I believe our beautiful state is about to commit a shameful act.

I know that most of my ethic on this issue is driven by a belief that Jesus Christ taught correctly and challenged us to be better than our most base selves.  A natural reaction to injury is to desire like for the perpatrator.  We want the scales to be balanced.  An eye for an eye.

It is on this topic that Jesus chose to contradict the laws that, many believe, were handed down by God.

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."

Later, in that same sermon, Jesus said:

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

It is wrong to murder.  A human life should not be taken.  It was wrong when Ronnie Lee Gardner did it 25 years ago.  It will be wrong when the state of Utah - when we - do it tonight.

God forgive us.


SSBenjamins said...

Hi there, I have thought a lot about this case as well as other's. I don't understand it in so many depths- I don't understand why SO much money - 3 million dollars is what they are saying has been spent on this case, I honestly do not know what the best answer is, I do know that I would NOT be able to be the one to pull the trigger- no matter how bad a person is. I respect what you are saying, thanks for sharing.

Bob said...

You said this very well.

Anonymous said...

I am actually not against the death penalty (per se) when it comes to convicted cold blooded murders. I have heard so many cases (on tv and in real life) of violent crime that sometimes a person who is committing such acts deserves the just punishment of 'life for life'.

I don't believe in murder - in that I don't even believe in violence as an answer. But just because I don't doesn't mean others think the same way throughout society. Society has to protect it's people and provide a level of justice that fits the crime (if only for the comfort of the family that lost their loved one for no good reason). If we consider all angles, the death penalty does make some sense.

I am personally non-violent but it is not hypocritical to expect the law to execute justice for the crimes committed (I also don't believe in vigilantiasm). The law was created to let people know what is acceptable behavior in society - and if one cannot accept that - they will accept the punishments that accompany such actions. If the death penalty is known and on the books - the indiviual is accepting that fate with their 'murderous actions'.

Andrew said...

Thanks SSB and Bob. Hard topic... I was kinda smart alecky when I started writing it initially (what caliber would Jesus choose) but then decided this topic was not appropriate for me to use humor with, even satire.

Society - I hear what you are saying, and it sounds like you are make a rational argument apart from the Christian ethic. Do you feel the death penalty can be acceptable within a Christian ethic?

Anonymous said...

"Do you feel the death penalty can be acceptable within a Christian ethic?" (Andrew)

Absolutely, my angle was based on biblical ideas...if one understands the Torah as law.

The idea one could have a just penalty, under the law, of life for life is about equality in punishment for one's actions. Since it is a law it does not mean it is enforced every single time because it is on the books, judges still must decide on what punishment fits what crimes (which is how Jewish law functions - thus judges in early Jewish history and Moses even serving as a judge).

It is clearly a biblical idea/standard to expect the state/country to execute a vicious criminal based on their crimes of 'taking lives' with no just reasoning whatsoever (and for murder there usually is no just reasoning). Obviously this would case by case if the punishment fit the crime.

However, we do not need to support the death penalty, we do have choice here, since we live in countries (or states) with laws that allow us not to believe in this idea of a 'death penalty' as punishment (since it is not in our lawbooks as something to be enforced).

This is based on the idea that one can freely choose to reject the idea of a death penalty based on the fact the Noahide allows Gentiles to follow the 'just' laws of their own govt's (and not neccesarily Jewish Law - which I think Paul was getting at in the NT letters). Thus, no law on the punishment of 'life for life' - no need to adhere it.

I personally can see the reasoning behind the idea of 'life for life' - in a court/judgment type scenario. When I read Jesus, as a teacher of the law, he is basically asking us to safegurad ourselves so we never committ actions that lead to a scenario where it could be 'life for life, tooth for tooth, etc' (on a personal level). This way we never end before the court answering for our violent non-violent.

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