The Hypocrisy of the Death Penalty

Whether we have the will to resist becoming ever more splintered into opposing and factionalized groups may well determine the future of our republic. Between 1618 and 1648, Europe reeled as massive armies plundered cities, pillaged the countryside, and killed or displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

The opposing armies (one Protestant, and the other Catholic) were largely comprised of peasant soldiers that believed they were fighting for a noble and just cause. They believed that the war was being fought to preserve their respective faiths that the other side wanted to destroy. Few of them saw that the Thirty Years War was actually about preserving the temporal power and enrichment of the two most powerful dynasties of the day, the Bourbons and the Hapsburgs. Understandably, these noble houses knew that it would be a hard sell to ask poor peasant farmers to endanger their lives and those of their families simply to enrich the nobility even more, so they exploited the most prized possession these yeoman held: their faith.

Unfortunately, this tactic still continues to be employed to preserve political power to this day.  

A power structure that has promoted the comfort of the few over the needs of the many, an immigration policy that defies human decency; and incited racism and xenophobia must have one issue on which they attempt to claim a moral high ground, and that is the pro-life issue.

I applaud Bishop Anthony Taylor’s decision to boycott the “Rally for Life” because of the glaring contradiction of celebrating a keynote speaker, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. AG Rutledge will stand on the Capitol steps to speak about the sanctity of life after tirelessly working through her office to execute an unprecedented number of four men in ten days, many of whom were denied resources and processes that the Constitution guarantees, such as adequate mental evaluations.

For far too long, this event has been a celebration of the values of one single political party, which as the Bishop’s action demonstrates, can no longer claim to be the sole political mouthpiece for women and men of faith without being challenged. People of good will who want to fight for the vulnerable and voiceless must stand up to the hypocrisy of this double standard that can no longer be ignored.

Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  Although this is an issue that most politicians try to avoid, I cannot in good conscience look the other way in the face of the contradictions of a “pro-life” power structure that promotes wealth at the expense of commonwealth; hegemony at the expense of humanity; prideful power at the expense of the poor.

The power of the political exploitation of the pro-life issue has played a defining role in the last four decades of American politics. It has built media empires and realigned entire political parties and geographic areas of the country because of the inherent political power that this issue holds.

Our task today must be to separate the same power plays employed in the Middle Ages from the deeply held and valid beliefs of many of the American people. Whether we have the will to resist becoming ever more splintered into opposing and factionalized groups and to choose instead the more difficult path of love and understanding to find our common voice may well determine the future of our republic.