Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Sports and the Death Penalty
And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?
I should not listen to talk radio. There is something intrinsically toxic about it.
This morning, in the few minutes that it takes me to drive to work, I was listening to Sports talk. It should have been harmless enough. The Celtics won last night in Cleveland. It was the first time they had beaten the Cavaliers in Cleveland since who knows when? And the World Series begins tonight. Good stuff.
But instead, one of the hosts was talking about the news, reading what he said was an “uplifting” story in the morning paper. “This,” he said, “will lift your spirits!” And then he read the following story from the Associated Press:
The mastermind of the 2002 Washington, D.C.-area sniper attacks will die by lethal injection next month, Virginia officials said Tuesday.
John Allen Muhammad declined to choose between lethal injection and electrocution, so under state law the method defaults to lethal injection, Virginia Department of Corrections spokesman Larry Traylor said.
Talk radio is always about entertainment, so there is always an element of acting in the presentation, but he was clearly happy about the news. And he thought that the rest of us should also be happy. And really believed it was uplifting. A triumph of justice and righteousness.
I did not feel uplifted.
It is very difficult to study the teachings of Jesus with any seriousness and think that he would support the death penalty. Biblical support for the death penalty is problematic even if you don’t read beyond Malachi 4:6. Once you get to the Sermon on the Mount, only a highly selective reading of Scripture will yield support for a policy that puts people to death for their crimes.
In spite of the biblical evidence, Christians have debated the death penalty for ages. And history tells us that some (so called) Christians have even used the death penalty to enforce their theological doctrines. But it is impossible to have even a passing encounter with the biblical witness and think that the prospect of putting someone to death should “lift your spirits.”
Of course, the morning sports talk guys don’t advertise themselves as Christians, but my guess is that if asked, that would be their answer.
What troubles me most about he morning sports talkers making light of the death penalty is that it reveals (again) the vast gulf between the teachings of Jesus and our popular culture.