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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Life and death in California:

A lengthy list of offenses punishable by death can be found in the Old Testament, (e.g. Exodus 21:12-32; 22:18-21; 35:2; Leviticus 20:1-7, 10, 27; 24:15-21; Deuteronomy 17:6-7, 12; 19:11-13, 20-21; 21:18-21; 22:22-24) but surely the execution of Stanley Williams sobers all sides of the capital punishment debate. The Bible does not delineate one clear position--the Catholic Church and others draw heavily from the New Testament in articulating longstanding opposition. Even if the Bible were clear, we would need to find a more lengthy list of secular reasons why to take the life of a man who wrote anti-gang children's books while awaiting his final breath than the California Governor's office offered in its clemency refusal statement. I ask all of you to join me in serious consideration of what it means to execute a black man who commited crimes while the member of a street gang born out of urban poverty. Lethal injection is not a deterrent for members of marginalized populations who inhabit a world of senseless violence, sub-par schools, and police corruption.


If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. They shall say to the elders of his town, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard." Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. So you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel will hear, and be afraid. (Deut. 21:18-21, NRSV)

Genesis 4:8, 13-15 -- Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him.... Cain said to the Lord, "My punishment is greater than I can bear! Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me." Then the Lord said to him, "Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a seven-fold vengeance." And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him.

Genesis 9:6 -- [God said to Noah] Whoever sheds the blood of a human by a human shall that person's blood be shed; for in his own image God made humankind.

Psalm 8:4-5 -- What are human beings that you art mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.

Exodus 20:13 -- You shall not murder.

Deuteronomy 5:17 -- You shall not murder.

Exodus 21:23-25 -- If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Leviticus 24:19-20 -- Anyone who maims another shall suffer the same injury in return: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; the injury inflicted is the injury to be suffered.

Deuteronomy 19:21 -- Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

Matthew 5:21-22 -- You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, "You shall not murder"; and "whoever murders shall be liable to judgement." But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, "You fool," you will be liable to the hell of fire.

Matthew 5:38-41 -- You have heard it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.

Luke 6:27, 37 -- Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.... Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

John 3:17 -- God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Romans 5:8 -- God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Romans 12:17-19, 21 -- Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." [Deut 32:35] ... Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

2 Corinthians 5:19 -- In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.

1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 -- ...admonish the idlers, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.

1 Peter 3:8-9 -- ...have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called -- that you might inherit a blessing.

Leviticus 19:18 -- [And the Lord said to Moses] You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Romans 13:8-10 -- Owe no one anything except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments ... are summed up in this word, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

See also Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:31, 33; Luke 10:27

Psalm 25:7, 11 -- Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness' sake, O Lord! ... For your name's sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.

Psalm 130:3-4 -- If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.

Ezekiel 33:11 -- As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways.

Matthew 18:21-22 -- Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times."

1 John 1:8-10 -- If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.


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