Monday, November 07, 2005


A new intro to communities of faith

This weekend I was in Pulaski, Giles County. I spoke to a number of people and groups but with two in particular I began my talks with a new introduction, in part inspired by a speaker at the NCADP conference. I spoke to the men's group at a Methodist church and to about 25 members of the County's one Catholic church. I started out with a biblical quiz.
"Does anyone know what the fifth commandment says?"
as people glance around nervously and the minister/ deacon looks about knowingly, I give a little hint, "It's the first of the 'thou shalt not' commandments."
Fairly shortly, a member of the audience comes up with "Thou shalt not kill."
"Is that what everyone thinks? Is that what the commandment says?"
Heads slowly nod.
"You probably expect that I began with this because I'm going to tell you that right there, in His initial statement of law, God tells us that all killing is wrong. I believe that, but the problem is, that that isn't what the commandment says. Literally translated, it reads, 'thou shalt not murder' and I don't want to start off on false theological footing. The ten commandments don't forbid killing, they forbid murder."
Some heads nod in agreement, some people smile, happy to know that they are not about to receive a moral lecture.
"Does anyone know what the official cause of death is when a person is executed?"
Heads shake all around the room. This is hardly common knowledge, certainly not in church groups in rural Tennessee.
"It reads homicide. Murder."
I wish that I had a picture of the faces of people when they hear this fact. There is shock, there is a little disbelief (though mostly with the state and not with me). I think people feel that they've been lied to and suddenly they are really ready to listen and to hear. The fact that the state itself admits that what we are doing is murdering someone strikes right to the moral center of people. Even when we are prepared to execute a person, I think we are not ready to look at the ugly truth of it. It's why we paralyze a person with the first injection before pumping the poison into them. Seeing people's reaction to this fact reminds me that the vast majority of us, even those who "support" capital punishment, are shocked by violence and particularly by the act of killing. It's that understanding that makes me believe that eventually the death penalty will be abolished.
Comments :
that's really good, i like that lil' jesuit dude but make sure the word homicide and murder aren't used interchangeably - homicide is a killing of one human being by another while murder is the unlawful killing of one human being by another ... our goal is for them to have the same meaning...

I'd never read the "murder" version - so did a little searching....

Deuteronomy 5:6-21 (New King James Version)
You shall not murder

Deuteronomy 5:6-21 (King James Version)
Thou shalt not kill

Reminds me of the time I told my Head Start kids that the beautiful picture of the chicken on the wall was the animal we were eating. All of the kids (4 and 5 yr olds) in mass protest one-by-one got up and dumped their plates in the trash!! It was one of those moments.

Glad the blog is up. Looks great.

Looking good.


deborah chadwick

( Inside/Out and Parents in Prison)
Gee, Alex, I thought the best way to start any public speech was by stating your name and your delight on being able to speak with the audience:-)

But seriously, Alex and Randy give a great speakers' bureau training for anyone serious about speaking well about the death penalty. Give 'em a call if you're interested in receiving the training.
Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post :

Create a Link

<< Home