In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Repentance & Forgiveness

Today I'm shaken by the execution of Stanley Tookie Williams. I've been following this story for some time. I was really interested in what would happen.

First off, let me state that I clearly do not know all the facts. I only know what I've heard on NPR and what I've read in the newspaper and on the internet.

That being said, I'm troubled by the fact that we (as a society) are so hell-bent on vengeance. I've looked at all that Tookie did since his time on death row. It seems to me he has certainly renounced the gang life he led (and founded). He wrote children's books to direct them away from gangs and violence. He negotiated between gangs, and helped to get people out of gangs.

There are some, the Governator included, who didn't see him as a repentant person. They stressed that he never admitted guilt to the particular crime he was convicted for. Other's want to lay the blame for all gang violence on him.

When do we accept repentance and offer forgiveness? Did we kill someone who had truly repented, or someone who never owned up to the hurt he caused? I'm generally against capital punishment. This seems like a case that a person was doing so much to try to undo his former crime. Did anyone forgive him?

In my head, I'm juxtaposing the news and editorials I heard these past few days with the news and editorials I heard last spring when Terri Schiavo. Do you think there were any of the same protesters at the two events? Or did those people who tried to break into the hospital with bread and water (which she couldn't have eaten anyway) stand in protest outside a prison to protect another form of sacred life? I doubt it. I have a hunch they were home, happy that another criminal was taken care of.

Of course, Terri Schiavo was not a criminal. She was a woman who died from a lack of brain activity, unable to make her body function. But does that make her life more sacred than Tookie's? I don't believe so. I think they were both children of God. Simul justus et peccator.

It is a part of our vocation as Christians to forgive. I am more convinced all the time that this is the hardest part of being a Christian. Not even the mega-Christians on TV are able to do it. I have not heard one of them forgive Tookie.

God, today I pray for Stanley Tookie Williams. Forgive him his sin. Welcome him into your fold. Love him like only you can. And God, I pray for use as well. Teach us radical forgiveness, not just seven time, but seventy times seven. Guide us. Amen.


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