Tuesday, November 08, 2005


On the Road and On the Couch

This past one was a pretty exciting one for me and for TCASK. In part because I got to sleep on one of the most, if not the most, comfortable couches yet discovered by man. In another part, this weekend was exciting because the aforementioned couch was in the parish hall of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church which is in Giles County. What is so exciting about Giles County? one might ask. Giles County is the district of Assemblymember Joe Fowlkes, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. As if that wasn't important enough, Giles is also included in the district of Senator Doug Jackson, the vice-chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Suffice it to say, any bill dealing with the death penalty, such as the one we hope to introduce in January, will have to pass through Giles County. Which brings us back to my couch.

In my first week at TCASK, back in the end of August, Randy and I had set up an outreach program to make contacts in legislative districts that I target at the beginning of every week. And my very first outreach letters went to churches in Giles County. Now, two months later, those letters were finally bearing fruit. In my two and a half day tour I was able to speak to three different church groups, meet separately with four other ministers, and meet with the president and campus minister of Martin Methodist College, and with the publisher and editor of the local newspaper. Additionally, I spent Saturday afternoon walking around downtown Pulaski looking for small businesses that were open and wound up with 6 new moratorium petitions. So it was a great weekend.

There are a few particular highlights that I'd like to share. First of all, I was inspired on Sunday morning by the reception I received at Immaculate Conception. I was asked to address the Confirmation class before mass and then speak to a gathering of about 25 parishioners after mass. The response was overwhelming (see a previous post on speaking to faith communities). This incredible congregation on the spot formed a subcommittee of about a dozen people to work on the death penalty and has already formed concrete plans to pass a moratorium resolution in their parish in a month, so let's all give a shout out to Immaculate Conception. If we could get that kind of energy out of every church, we'd have this death penalty licked in no time. The congregation seems to have just been waiting for someone to come along and ask them to get involved. I'm sure that there are more congregations like this one all over Tennessee that are just waiting for one of us in the abolition movement to come up to them, provide them with inspiration, and ask them to be involved. Every poll done in the last fifty years has found that the South is the most church-going section of America. One of the things that I've noticed in my time here is how much more willing people in Tennessee are to invoke the Bible than people from up North. And all too often we view this Christian culture as an impediment to progressive movements. That is a mistake. The people who describe themselves as religious have an abiding belief in the sanctity of life and in God's power of judgment. They know that Jesus referred to caring for the poor more often than almost anything else. They know that their God is a God of justice, who clearly would oppose the executions of the innocent. It's time that we ask for their help, because we all have an awful lot to learn from one another. At least that's what I learned in meeting after meeting this weekend.
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