Three oddly related news stories captivated me last week. While driving from Dallas to scenic Stillwater, Oklahoma I digested news reports about Roger Keith Coleman, William Harrison, and Samuel Alito. Only the last name may immediately register with you. My radio journey began with the Alito story.
I listened to Judge Samuel Alito being grilled about his views on abortion. Senator Dick Durbin incredibly and misleadingly said, ”I’m concerned that many people will leave this hearing with a question as to whether or not you could be the deciding vote that would eliminate the legality of abortion, that would make it illegal in this country.” Durbin knows that overruling Roe would return the decision to states, not make abortion illegal in this country. His comments were misleading at best, outright deceptive at worst. When they began to play clips of Senator Ted Kennedy lecturing Alito on his poor choices earlier in life (does he have a mirror in his house?) I became concerned about my blood pressure so I changed the station.
The next station was talking about the case of Roger Keith Coleman. Coleman was found guilty of the 1981 rape and murder of his sister-in-law and was executed by the state of Virginia in 1992. Doubt about Coleman’s guilt had caused the state to order DNA testing to see if the state had executed an innocent man. The reaction from the anti-death penalty crowd was swift.
“I think it would be the final straw for a lot of people who are on the fence on the death penalty,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.
CNN.com reported on January 12th that, “a finding of innocence would have been explosive news and almost certainly would have had a powerful effect on the public’s attitude toward capital punishment. Death penalty opponents have argued for years that the risk of a grave and irreversible mistake by the criminal justice system is too great to allow capital punishment.”
Having had enough of that I changed again (by the way, DNA testing did prove that Coleman was guilty)
Radio talk show host Laura Ingraham was discussing a “Nighltline” interview with the self proclaimed abortionist from Arkansas, Dr.William Harrison. Harrison, now 70 years old, says he has performed at least 10,000 abortions — and possibly double that amount.
“I consider the mother’s life to be much more important than that little blob of tissue, and that’s all it is at that time,” he said. The doctor had conceded that this little blob has a beating heart by the 29th day and by 40 days a brain that’s directing the functions of all the major organs. The doctor still made it clear that he is totally comfortable with killing this “notion” of life.
Elsewhere during the interview Harrison unbelievably (and obviously intentionally) stated that he believes the women whose fetuses he aborts are themselves “born again,” because young women who thought their lives were ruined by an unwanted pregnancy have regained control of their lives. “When you end what the woman considers a disastrous pregnancy, she has literally been given her life back,” he proudly stated.
Thanking the good Lord for iPods I turned the news reports off but I could not turn off my mind. I shared the deep concern about the possibility of ending the life of an innocent person with capital punishment. Later that evening I did some research on the perception of Christians who are pro-life and also support capital punishment. This article posted at beliefnet.com was typical.
“If Christian anti-abortion activists were consistent and truly “pro-life,” they’d demand an end to the soulless assembly line that shuttles the poor–innocent and guilty alike–to death row. It’s easy to fight for a cuddly baby you’ll never actually see, but what about a corn-rowed, gold-toothed homeboy, or a skinhead with Confederate flag tattoos? You can scream “murderer!” at a women entering an abortion clinic, get filmed for the nightly news, and still get to the office on time. It takes years and real sacrifice to keep “the meek” from getting the chair. Some Christian pity and compassion for these hard cases who may be guilty of lots of things but not of what they were convicted of would go a long way in convincing others to take seriously the beliefs that Christian activists claim to espouse.” (Debra Dickerson. Beliefnet February 28, 2000).
I will confess that I have struggled deeply with the issue of the state taking lives. However, I believe that the comparison of totally innocent babies and possibly innocent criminal defendants is truly comparing apples and oranges. But the question of consistency is important.
Writer James Wood wrote, “for the truth is that, when the state kills, it is not some murderous abstraction but actual human beings doing the killing. People design the chair or manufacture the chemicals, judges sentence, pro-life governors refuse appeals, and people press the switch. When the event is over, the hangman goes home to his bed. (James Wood New Republic Feb 21, 2000)
I would suggest that if I am inconsistent as a pro-life advocate then I can certainly reverse that argument to pro-choice supporters. If the concern is for innocent life on death row not to be ended then how can a baby who has done no wrong be killed? The only comfortable way is to call them a blob of tissue and convince yourself of that abstraction. I would also assert that abortion is likewise not some murderous abstraction but human beings ending the life of a baby.. And at the end of the day the doctor goes home to bed.
So many advocates argue that people like California gang founder Tookie Williams had too much to offer and should not have been executed. I am incredulous that the inconsistency of this argument goes unchallenged. We have no idea what the millions of aborted babies had to offer. I remember a political cartoon with a person on their knees crying out for God to send someone to find a cure for AIDS, cancer, and heart disease. The voice from heaven answers, “I did…but you aborted them.” Perhaps some feel that is a trite argument but we truly do not know what we have wrought in the name of our personal rights.
One of the strategies of anti-death penalty websites is to use Scripture gleaned from Christian sites to support their position. One common passage comes from Proverbs.
Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to death; don’t stand back and let them die. Don’t try to avoid responsibility by saying you didn’t know about it. For God knows all hearts, and he sees you. He keeps watch over your soul, and he knows you knew! And he will judge all people according to what they have done. (Proverbs 24 NLT)
I believe this passage addresses the children of God who don’t have a voice. It really is up to us as the body of Christ to be their voice. I agree that too many people on death row have not had a fair voice. God invites us in this passage and throughout the Bible to represent those around our neighborhood and around the world who do not have a voice. That could be the man or woman on death row. Or the victims of genocide in Sudan. Perhaps children suffering with AIDS in Africa. And for the unborn in America who are killed too often merely for convenience.
To those who are pro-choice I am prepared to make the following deal. I am willing to be consistent and truly “pro-life” in my views. I will accept that the death penalty should go away to make sure no innocent will die. Will you concede that abortion should stop for you to be consistent as well?