Tuesday, December 13, 2005

And so

And so he is dead. I have mixed emotions about capital punishment as I suspect many of you do. I believe that human life is sacred and that the intrinsic value of a human being is the highest value we can know on this Earth. And yet something in me urges that we cannot allow each other to so mistreat ourselves; to reduce the value of our lives to thirty or so years in prison.

And so I have been pulled in two directions lately. I understand the need for exacting revenge, or payment, or delivering punishment for someone’s misdeeds, but I am also pulled by the conviction that anytime a human being is killed we do violence to our values and our existence. I find myself somehow satisfied by this punishment and yet feel guilty about feeling satisfied.

And so, as I wrestle with these competing ideas and emotions, I come to this tension-filled conclusion. We highly value human life and that should give us pause before taking another one. However, it is precisely because we so highly value human life that we simultaneously reserve this punishment for the most callous of crimes, and require the life of the perpetrator in exchange for the lives that have been taken. It is fitting that one who would wantonly and malevolently take the life of another should have their life taken from them.

And so we collectively take the life of such a one not out of jubilation but out of an acknowledgement and acceptance of our responsibility to one another. A responsibility to protect the value and dignity of each of our lives. And to publicly and collectively reemphasize that value and dignity by punishing their violations with such a severe recompense.

And so I am resolved to live with this tension, this wishing for a better world and yet having to live in this one.

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