William H. Thrasher, Ph.D.
Woodstock, AL 35188
The Honorable Governor Robert Bentley State Capitol N. 194 600 Dexter Avenue Montgomery, AL 36130-2751
Dear Governor Bentley:
In writing this letter, I realize that there are several approaches that I could take. I chose to approach you in what I hope is a different manner than most people approach you on this topic. Too, it is my concern that when you realize the topic of this letter that you will be tempted to discard it and not give this letter the attention and prayerful thought that it needs, or that your staffers will not present the letter to you for your own reading. In short, I am asking you to place a three year moratorium on the execution of anyone on Alabama’s death row.
While I know that others wrote you based upon humanitarian considerations, and probably several wrote you with a litany of Scriptures which they believe demand the cessation of the death penalty, please stay with me and this reading that I purport to come from a Christian doctrine view point.
First, what does Jesus say He came to do in regards to the Mosaic Law? Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (NIV). The question becomes, “what is meant by fulfilling the Law and the Prophets?” To answer this, I call upon you to remember what most Christians and denominations, including yours, believe to be the reasons the Jewish elders and leaders of Jesus’ time rejected him as the Messiah. In general, they expected their Messiah to establish an earthly kingdom upon his coming ... the first time. As you know, Jesus had no intention of doing this but rather in transporting his kingdom into the Spiritual Realm. He made his Kingdom one of the spirit. In this manner, he took all the principles of the physical law of Moses and the words of the prophets and placed those principles into the spiritual realm instead of the physical realm. What were physical laws became spiritual laws, and what were Godly words of the prophets Jesus carried their truth and impact into the spiritual realm.
Certainly those Christians who oppose the death penalty use the Scripture of the woman being caught in the capital crime of adultery (no longer punishable by death) located in John 7:3-11. Instead of condemning her to death, Jesus sent her away. There are several considerations not frequently addressed in this lesson. First, why was it so fortuitous for the woman to be caught by these men at the exact time of her infidelity? Could it have been, as were many other attempts to diminish Jesus and his ministry were, ‘a set up’? Then, why did not Jesus side with the Mosaic Law and condemn the woman? He was fulfilling the law where even capital offenses were forgiven for lighter sentences than death and elevating death penalty matters to God’s Throne Room, a spiritual realm. Also, did the woman go scott free? By all means no! Everyone in the community knew those events. Everyone knew this woman was an adulteress. Therefore, she suffered in the community. There were things that women did which she could no longer do. For example, the tradition was that at a certain time the upright women of the town, or their upright servant girls, went to the well to draw water. For the unrighteous women, especially for those with sexual sin, they could not meet with the ‘righteous’ women in fulfilling their accepted and expected duties. (We see this case with the Samaritan woman at the well found in John 4:7-18ff). This woman so fortuitously caught by these men at the exact moment of her sexual sin, did suffer punishment. There were a variety of social normalities from which she was excluded. Jesus, however, elevated her death penalty to the Spiritual Realm, into God’s Throne Room.
As Christians we all agree that in Jesus’s death, burial and resurrection we have forgiveness of our sins, as we confess them, and have a home in heaven by being Jesus’ disciples. Being Jesus’s disciples! That is quite a thought, is it not? As disciples of Jesus, we do things the way Jesus did (and does) things. We follow his example in behavior, belief, thought, word, action, deed, judgment, love, and forgiveness.
WWJD. What Would Jesus Do about the death penalty? It only follows that Jesus would act in a manner consistent in his biblical actions illustrated in this rather lengthy letter. As disciples of Jesus, what other behavior should we explore than that of Jesus himself?
Governor, as you know, some citizens are asking for a three year moratorium on the death penalty. You are well aware, I am sure, for the reasons of this request: they include the accuracy of the justice system not to make any errors; exactly how the method of execution acts upon and within the human body; AMA concerns; and other reasons. Some even ask that if the State is so certain of executing people, why not be more public regarding their execution including airing them on television, even on prime time. You are aware of arguments that reveal the increased cost of execution (one recent report put the increase at $200 million while stating that Alabama does not make this information available). You are aware of difficulties with the drugs used in execution and their increased difficulty to buy. Yet, while some or most of us would prefer to have Alabama lead the nation by not including the death penalty as a punitive action instead of in the number of executions, I ask you, upon our shared faith in Jesus Christ, to place a three year moratorium on the death penalty.
William H. Thrasher, Ph.D.
In essentials: Unity In non-essentials: Tolerance In all things: Love