The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. Psalm 118:22-23 NRSV

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Certain Danger

This post is about the danger of certainty. It's about George Bush's little talk with the Lord that made him certain that our nation should preemptively strike Iraq. It's about Sarah Palin's inexplicable certainty that she is prepared to be the understudy to the most powerful person in the world. It's about religious zealots of all brands and their certainty that their interpretation of their God and his Word is infallible. Certainty is dangerous.

But there is a more immediate danger to certainty in a story that is unfolding in the state of Georgia and that has at its center a man named Troy Davis who is scheduled for execution on Tuesday, despite growing evidence of prosecutorial manipulation and witness tampering and without any physical evidence to link him with the crime for which he is being executed. Davis and his lawyers have done all that can be done to ask the legal system to consider that, given these new findings, perhaps they should reconsider the case before sending Davis to certain death. (See Bob Herbert's column in yesterday's NY Times.)

There is a danger in certainty, and it is the unwillingness to review critically our own actions and systems. Of course, we are all human and make mistakes. There is not necessarily any crime in that. To go to the death or worse to send someone else to his death in order to preserve the fallacy of our infallibility, on the other hand, is criminal. Ultimately, it endangers the best of human community and government.

Will there be a stay of execution for Troy Davis? I certainly pray so.

Read also this article on I read it after I had written this piece. It certainly is appropriate.


Moonbeam said...

While I did not follow your introductory comments regarding Bush and Palin (as a McCain/Palin supporter), I do agree with your message.

I do not agree in the death penalty for the exact reasons you state -- we can never be certain. Let me say, though, that I do not believe the death penalty is unconstitutional nor do I think it is fundamentally immoral. The Constitution does say that no one should be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process. The implication is that life can be deprived so long as due process is followed.

Also, I believe the Bible does make a very real distinction between "murder" and "killing" and does not necessarily condemn executions.

However, with that said, just because something is permissible, I believe, does not mean we ought to do it. If there is any moral prohibition, it is carrying out an execution that we should know is unjust. To use the Bible for justification to carry out an injustice is clearly wrong.

We don't today follow Biblical requirements in the old testament related to requiring witnesses to acts punishable by death, but yet many quote from those same scriptures to justify killing someone convicted on circumstantial evidence.

So, in a round about way, I have come to the say conclusion you have. Putting aside whether in a perfect world and in a perfect criminal system the death penalty is appropriate, we don't have either. I believe if there is any chance an innocent person will be put to death, we should not have the death penalty.

There are those cases, however, that come up from time to time, when the case is so horrendous and the perpetrator seems to be so dangerous, even to other prisons in prison, that you wonder which is worse -- death or life in solitary confinement.

But, in reality, if we were to have true "justice," it would seem as though we were allow those who were directly victimized by their behavior "pull the switch" so the speak -- or cast the first stone. But, we don't. That's called manslaughter.

Leslie D. Callahan said...

My comments about Bush and Palin have to do with certainty. Both of them display the tendency to be overly sure of themselves and of their decisions. We have a lot more evidence in Bush's case. But Palin shows signs of being the same sort (I didn't blink).

Also, having victims pull the switch is not justice; it's vengeance, and we know that the desire for the latter can sometimes distort the former.

Moonbeam said...

My point is not condoning vengence, but only that at least victims avenging their wrong would seem more justifiable than the state doing it. Admittedly, there is no legal or biblical justification for it, but the revenge would be sweeter and more immediate. Just my twisted opinion. But, I am not advocating that be done. It's the irony that if people did do that, it would be manslaughter, but when the state does it, it is justice.

Revvy Rev said...

You have a great blog. It is very creative and spiritual. I cannot read it without being inspired to write a sermon. Please continue to bless us with your thought.

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