Day: July 25, 2008

Jesus on death row

Thursday night the commonwealth of Virginia executed Christopher Scott Emmett. Emmett was convicted in the 2001 bludgeoning murder of his co-worker Mr. Langley. Apparently Mr. Emmett was guilty. It took a jury less than an hour to convict him. Mr. Emmett killed for his victim’s wallet — so he could buy crack cocaine. One of those crimes that brings the phrase “senseless violence” to mind.

In an aside that reporters use to fill out a story when the editor needs more copy, the writer noted in the last paragraph of the article:

Virginia has executed 102 people since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, second only to Texas.

My state is the runner-up in capital punishment in the US. I’m not sure that’s a distinction we want to bear with pride. Then, there is the other global comparison that ranks the US fourth after China, Iran, and Viet Nam in numbers of prisoners executed. Again, not company we aspire to keep.

While I realize there is a lot of disagreement on the issue of capital punishment, it seems to me that followers of Christ would oppose capital punishment on the grounds that Jesus himself was an innocent victim of the Roman Empire’s capital punishment system. When we think of Jesus’ death, not as a theological doctrine, but as capital punishment gone wrong, it casts a different light on the subject.

Of course, Mr. Emmett does not appear to be an innocent victim. And to make matters worse, Emmett seemed rather flippant and unrepentant before his execution. But, I can’t help thinking of Jesus’ short stay on death row. Is this the best solution we have to society’s problems? What do you think? Have you addressed the issue of capital punishment with your congregation? What responses did your church members have to this issue? I’d be interested to know.