Its been a strange start to the day.
My morning reading has included an article on the Civil Rights Movement and another on the execution of Stanley Tookie Williams, the founder of the Crips gang in LA.
One of these was a force for good in the world. They united to stand up for equality and the right to be treated as human beings. They led a peaceful campaign to change the laws and people’s perceptions of what is and isn’t acceptable. They won part of the battle but the rest will be an ongoing struggle that will never end.
It is not in the nature of humans to treat people as equals all the time. Every human has perceptions of what category others should fall into and how they should be treated. No one is immune from this. It is a product of our upbringing and history.
We can deny it but never really overcome it. It can be forced down but will occasionally reimerge, usually when least wanted.
It does not effect colour alone but culture and social status. Some look down on others because of where and how they live. They may not own their home but are tarred a certain way because of the estate they live on.
There is no difference in the baseline of any human beings on earth. They all want the same things but may not have the same opportunities to obtain them. This is what breeds resentment more than anything else.
Then we have Tookie Williams. He was executed at 8:35 GMT this morning at St Quentin prision in California. He had been on death row for 17 years for the murder of 4 people. He’d always maintained that he was innocent of the crimes. He failed to get his appeal for a stay of excution backed throughout the legal system and so his sentence was finally carried out.
He had, since his imprisionment, turned his back on his former life and worked to try to negate the things that he had set in motion on the streets. He worked, and wrote, against the lifestyle hat he had followed and endorsed previously. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.
What struck me about this was not the finality of the sentence but what was said in the governor’s response to his appeal….
“After studying the evidence, searching the history, listening to the arguments and wrestling with the profiund consequences, I could find no justification for clemency. Stanley Williams insists he is innocent and should not apologise or otherwise atone for the murder of the four victims in this case. Without apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, there can be no redemption. Based on the cumulative weight of the evidence, there is no reason to second-guess the jury’s decision of guilt or raise significant doubts or serious reservations about Williams’ conviction and death sentence”.
Now I don’t know what evidence there was against him. I don’t know what else he had done in his life prior to his imprisonment, and don’t really care.
The only thing that astonishes me is that, if he was innocent, how could he atone or apologise? It is not us who offer redemption, no matter what some people may think. That is God’s sole preserve. We do not know what lies in a man’s heart. He could apologise and atone just to save his neck or admit his guilt. This man did neither.
However the “Governator” had the option to choose to commute the sentence to life without parole but chose not too. He had more facts than anyone else and the chance to review the evidence against Williams. Yet here is where man’s justice differs from God’s.
Williams had reversed his previous lifestyle choices and campaigned for peace and understanding. We do not know if this was sincere or not but assume it was. Yet this counted for nothing in Arnie’s decision. His “good” works did ot save him.
Yet God is now judging Williams’ life. He knows what happened and how sincere the turnaround has been. He will now make the decision that will either truly condemn or save him. Man’s judgements will always be fallible, not matter who you are or what position you hold.
That is where my objection to the death penalty lies. There is never 100% proof of guilt or innocence without a true confession. It is the same with sin. We are all guilty and only a true, heartfelt confession of guilt, remorse and a desire to change can save us.
The good thing is that the one who judges us has the power to see if we are being true to opurselves. He also has the mercy needed to commute our death sentence.