Calling for Blood

Screenshot 2017-04-24 10.08.30

In this season of Eastertide, the newspaper headlines cause me to remember that my Lord and Savior, the risen Christ, was the victim of capital punishment.  Jesus’ death came at the hands of the State and with the apparent approval of a great many.  Even though he had grave doubts about Jesus’ actual guilt, the Roman Governor Pilate gave assent to his execution.  Jesus’ death was cruel by any standard, but by the standard of the Roman Empire in the first century, it was not unusual.

The blood lust of “the crowd” is a major feature of the Passion story.  Governor Pilate offers to release Jesus, but the crowd insists, “Crucify him!”  On this all the Gospels agree.  Horrible as crucifixion was, it seems to have had the approval of the people Pilate listened to.  By the end of the day on Good Friday, it appeared that the people’s lust for blood had the final say.

I hear echoes of the Gospels in the way the State of Arkansas has attempted to set up a conveyor belt of death.  The Governor in that fair state attempted to kill eight prisoners in eleven days.  Apparently, he needed to fill  all eight coffins before the State’s supply of midazolam had reached its expiration date.  Governor Pilate had a similar propensity to execute people in batches.  That’s why there were three crosses on the hill called Golgotha.

I am thankful that the courts threw a monkey wrench into Governor Asa Hutchinson’s killing machine, but I take no solace in knowing that a majority of Arkansians probably support his effort.  True, a few are aghast, but crowds have not stormed the capitol demanding a return to something approaching sanity.

One wonders where the Christians are.

Nor do I find consolation in the fact that the same thing hasn’t happened (yet) in Florida.  Recently, Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced that she would not seek the death penalty in any case.  This is, of course, her prerogative under state law, and she has good reasons for her decision.  She’s dead right when she says that the death penalty serves neither the interests of the community or the cause of justice.  Would that Governor Pilate – or Governor Hutchison — had such insight and courage.

As for Florida’s Governor Scott, he has taken 23 capital murder cases away from Ms. Ayala, and turned them over to a prosecutor who does not share Ms. Ayla’s aversion to execution.  This is no surprise, coming from a Governor who has signed more death warrants than any of his predecessors since the death penalty came back into use in 1977.

In a recent online meditation, Richard Rohr writes about the death of Jesus, and how his death “takes away the sin of the world.”

Jesus takes away the sin of the world by dramatically exposing the real sin—ignorant hatred and violence, not the usual preoccupation with purity codes—and by refusing the usual pattern of vengeance, which keeps us inside of an insidious quid pro quo logic. In fact, he “returns their curses with blessings” (Luke 6:28), teaching us that we can “follow him” and not continue the spiral of violence. He unlocks our entrapment from within. (https://cac.org/)

It’s clear to me that we are indeed trapped in a pattern of vengeance.  As Easter people, we know in our hearts that there is a better way.

About Brant Copeland

I was born in Brownsville, Texas, grew up in San Antonio and in Lake Charles, Louisiana. I'm the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Tallahassee, Florida.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Calling for Blood

  1. John Gladney says:

    Thank you Brant. You find a way to tell me things I want to know and to share. >

  2. William G. Heck says:

    Thank you Brant. Well said. You speak for Paulette and me.
    Bill Heck

  3. Dale Tullier says:

    When a serial killer was being tried in Baton Rouge I was working at the judge’s house. I told him I would never be seated on a capital case jury because at the time I was leaning against the death penalty and would have to pray. He told me he would over rule the lawyers and seat me. This points out a major problem, jury stacking. Lawyers should not be able to ask how a juror will vote. The jury is supposed to be randomly picked and votes should be confidential.

  4. Such wonderful Christian sanity in an insane time. Thanks, Brant.

  5. j.s.martin@blueyonder.co.uk says:

    Dear Brant,

    Yes. Two things I find very shocking and very foreign about your country, one is the death sentence and the other the gun laws. Blessings, Jenny

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s