Grant and I have been talking quite a bit recently about Christian Pacifism. We have been discussing what it means to be anti-violence for a few years now but started reading more intensely after the Newtown school shootings and subsequent national gun control debate and legislation proposals. Then there was the stabbing incident at our local Target in March (read my thoughts on knife vs gun in this blog post). We aren't ready to label ourselves as anything, but are wrestling hard with the ideas behind our rights as citizens and Christians. And also our beliefs about what it means to bring in the kingdom of God with peace.
Grant and I are both anti-death penalty because we are convinced that it is not up to the government to decide when a person is beyond redemption. Despite the depravity or heinousness of the criminal act, we do not believe that humans have the right to decide when life should end. And certainly not carried out the way it is in our penal system. Interestingly, on the death certificate for an individual who has been killed by the death penalty, the cause of death is Homicide. And physicians are not legally permitted by the AMA to perform lethal injection because it violates the Hippocratic oath. Let those tumble around in your head for a bit...
I used to believe the only thing I would peacefully protest was abortion. I am pro-life across the board. I believe life begins at conception and there is no point in the development of a human being where the cells transition from non-person to person. (another interesting point in our penal system, if you kill a pregnant woman you are charged with a double homicide. That means two people died, even though one was in utero) I do not take this issue lightly and my opinion has been evolving for several years; I just believe in protecting human rights. Regardless of gender or age or utero status.
I am reading Sister Prejean's book Dead Man Walking after hearing her interviewed on NPR a few weeks ago and think I could peacefully protest the Death Penalty as well. The inconsistencies when it comes to the law, the actual carrying out of the sentence and the implications of how we as a society view human rights are just too much in conflict with my personal beliefs of right to life.
Grant and I were actually sitting on the front porch last night drinking High Life (sorry Gina) and discussing Sister Prejean's book when we noticed a peaceful protest going on right in front of us. A bird hopped up on our recycling bin and perched. We didn't think much about it until a guy rode by on this bike and stopped cold, yelling up at us "Did you see this bird?? He didn't move at all when I rode right by him- he is just sitting there! I thought he was dead but he is looking right at me, not afraid at all. Just sittin' there." The man then rode away, leaving Grant and I staring at this strange bird perched silently on our recycling. We both got as close as we dared (in case bird decided to dive bomb our curious faces), shook the bin a bit, tossed a can into the bin...nothing. The bird was unafraid and undeterred.
We took this as a beautiful example of peaceful protest in the natural world. No fear, no violence, but no backing down. We have no idea what this bird was actually doing there, but it sparked a discussion between Grant and I as we sat there and talked about the death penalty and what it would look like for Christians to take a stand against something we consider morally wrong. To exercise our rights as citizens and say that we do not believe the government should have the right to decide when life should end. Regardless of what that life/human has chosen to do.
The Peaceful Protest: