Execution Video, Part II

First off, thank you, Hutch, Jeana, and Eli for your thoughts on the previous post -- I appreciate your willingness to interact. Sorry this follow-up was so long in coming. Thanks too to Mike for your comment and for the excellent Shane Claiborne post I'm going to reference here.

For those interested in the details but not wanting to see the video, the BBC has a (very descriptive) article here, which was how I found out about the video.

As far as the video goes, I have very mixed thoughts.

Am I glad it was taken? Unquestionably yes. Events such as this should be recorded, *must* be recorded so that they can be reviewed and interpreted by history. Memories are fleeting even when used honestly to their fullest extent; when it comes to something like this, if it hadn't been taped, I have no doubt that there would be 15 conflicting reports of how things went down. At least this way we can all be talking about what we think *about* what happened rather than talking about what we think happened. As Eli said in his comment, "Importance doesn't mean everyone has to see it. It just has to exist." I fully agree. What troubles me about the cellphone recording is that the official recording stopped and that those in charge did not think it was worth continuing. In recording comes accountability.

Am I glad it was released? I'm honestly still not sure. Does it desensitize us to death, or does it sensitize us to the harshness of *real* death (as opposed to the fake stuff we see in the movies)? There is a big part of me that thinks that anyone who supports the death penalty ought to be willing to witness it being administered -- how but by seeing it can you know that you are really in favor of it?

On one level, Hussein's death definitely *feels* right to me. We all have an innate sense that when one person does ill toward another, that same ill should be foisted upon him. I can't say that I felt "dirty" (as Brian McLaren has). Yet, as Jon put it, I do not rejoice. More precisely, I should say that I feel that I cannot or should not rejoice, whether I feel like I want to or not. That is, the news is that of a sinner dying without repenting.

This is definitely part of my journey toward pacifism -- I used to be very ok with the idea of capital punishment. Two months ago I would have said I was ambivalent. Now I'm awful close to saying I'm against it. It comes down to the simple fact that the ending of a life is also the ending (as far as we know) of opportunity for a sinner to repent. How can this be ok? How can we claim to "know" that he had had enough chances? How can we claim to know God's timing? I know I've quoted this before, but as Derek Webb sings, "How can I kill the one I'm supposed to love?"

We serve and love a God who loves the un-lovable -- praise Him! He didn't wait for us to become lovable before dying for us! I am all for justice being pursued and upheld. But surely to end outright someone's opportunity for salvation is not to walk in the way of the One who died for us while we were yet sinners.

I'll end this with a quote from Shane Claiborne's post Communicating Through a Noose on the God's Politics blog. Go read the whole post, it's worthwhile. Then come back here and give me some more thoughts.

It is rather scandalous to think that we have a God who loves murderers and terrorists like Saul of Tarsus, Osama bin Laden, or Saddam Hussein – but that is the "good news" isn't it? ... The gospels tell the story of a group of people who have dragged forward an adulteress and are ready to stone her (this was the legal consequence). Jesus is asked for his support of this death penalty case. His response is this... "You are all adulterers. If you have looked at someone lustfully, you have committed adultery in your heart." And the people drop their stones and walk away with their heads bowed. We want to kill the murderers, and Jesus says to us: "You are all murderers. If you have called your neighbor 'Raca, Fool' you are guilty of murder in your heart." Again the stones drop. We are all murderers and adulterers and terrorists. And we are all precious.

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