Dear folks, please make copies of this and send to as many people as possible. If you want to sign your own name, feel free to do so. Since this is directed at Christian leaders, those of you who are of different faiths can modify it as appropriate to fit your own faith. The purpose is to get it to as many religious leaders as possible.
David Atwood, President
Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
|As we approach Christmas, 1999, Texas will have executed 35 people in its lethal injection chamber in Huntsville during the year, far exceeding any other state in the USA. During January, 2000, seven more people are scheduled to die. We have executed almost 200 people since the death penalty was resumed in the state in 1982. All of these executions are being done in our names. All of them are unnecessary since society can be protected by long-term incarceration of criminals. All of them degrade us as human beings.|
Most mainline Christian denominations have official statements against capital punishment, believing that Jesus came to save, not destroy, life. He clearly rejected the concept of "an eye for an eye" which seems to dominate so much of the thinking in America today. However, few pastors speak out against capital punishment. To me, it is reminiscent of times in history when great crimes against humanity were occurring and the religious leaders were silent, eg. Germany during the Nazi regime, South Africa during apartheid and the United States during slavery. Why such silence? Fear of rejection by the people? Fear of loss of money? Fear of ???
What is genuine religion anyway? I am reminded of Frederick Douglass's words when he described the cruelty of his slave master after the master was supposedly converted to Christianity. Douglass explained that such cruelty shook his confidence in the power of "that kind of southern religion" to make men wiser or better. Can any of us say that we are genuinly converted if we are silent while human beings are being exterminated in our names???
To be against capital punishment doesn't mean that we don't have great sympathy for the victims of crime and their families. It doesn't mean that we aren't horrified by the terrible nature of these crimes. It doesn't mean that we don't think criminals should be punished. What it does mean is that, as people of faith, we believe that there is a more enlightened, civilized and humane approach to criminal justice than taking life for life. Such an enlightened approach reveres life by refusing to take life.
Please have the courage to speak out against the death penalty during this holiday season, and speak out loudly!
For further information contact:
P.O. Box 36, San Antonio, Texas 78291
(210) 224-HOPE or 224-4673 FAX (210) 222-1097