Sunday, September 5, 2021

A Moment of Providence


I've been struggling with feeling out of place the past couple of years, like I don't belong where I live. Just not feeling at home. I go through weeks or a month or two where all is well, but then that feeling that this isn't where I'm supposed to be returns. I'm in one of those valleys right now. I even Googled this morning "how can I be happier where I live?" Because Google is the ultimate advice giver.

One article I read stuck with me with its three pieces of advice:

1. Find your people. Well, I've already done that. I took a few minutes to write down a list of all of the amazing friends we have around us, from our neighborhood and church to my office to the kids' schools and sports teams. Our village is so amazing. I have learned more about friendship and generosity and selflessness in the past fifteen years since becoming a parent and making deliberate efforts to find community than I did in the previous thirty.

2. Get out in nature. I'm going to work on doing this more. Tennessee has so many beautiful lakes and hiking trails and waterfalls. I used to explore state parks or just take a blanket to the lake near my house on a regular basis, and I don't do that as much anymore. Today I pledged to myself to spend more time enveloped in the outdoors, even if that means grabbing a book and relaxing under the willow tree in my backyard. Instead of scrolling social media and reading what my state representative or governor said or did, inevitably raising my blood pressure, I'm going to take a walk.

3. Shop local. The article I read said there is something comforting when a barista at a local coffee shop knows your favorite drink or the owner of an independent bookstore sets aside a new release she thinks you will love. Those connections sound lovely. I don't have any of them. So, I'm going to make a list of ten local businesses that I pledge to visit by the end of the year. Places that require masks as an act of loving their neighbors, of course, because those are my people.

My morning of seeking peace where I am did not end with reading a few articles recommended by Google. I joined my Sunday school class through Zoom (or some similar technological contraption) and saw the faces of many of the people who made the list I mentioned earlier. One of my classmates said that she had been reading Jeremiah over the past week and was struck by the following passage, which was written to a group of people who were in exile:

"Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce . . . Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too shall prosper."

That was a profound moment - to have spent my morning up to that point studying and reflecting on how to be happier where I am, and then to hear words written to others who did not feel at home. It reiterated what I know to be true - I have the choice to seek and find peace and joy wherever I am. I should continue to plant gardens, be those literal or the relationships in which I invest. I should see my home as a place of laughter and community. I know it was no accident that a friend, who gets up early from her home in California to join our class every week, had those words on her heart to share this morning. I've quietly been repeating words of thanks for them all day.

Will I still move in a few years? Yes, because I am still in exile here. Which is OK. It's OK to admit that I miss the Capital Beltway and I-95 and more moderate politics and neighborhoods where you can hear many languages and see different religions being practiced. And I know that one person's exile is another person's homeland. Certain spots would get more crowded than they already are if we all felt called to be in the same place.

Right now, my plan is to leave when my son graduates from high school. I have lived in five states in my life (Virginia, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Tennessee) and by that time I will have lived in Tennessee for twenty-five years, longer than anywhere else. I'm not sure where I will go yet. Most likely back to the mid-Atlantic or New England. My parents will be in their early 80s by then. While I plan for them to be healthy and thriving, I want to live within a day's drive so I can see them more often. I want to hang out with my siblings and get to know my niece and nephew better. Also, my daughter is thinking about going to college in DC and it will drive her nuts to have me living nearby for her last year of school. Bonus.

But all that is six years from now. I'm not going to spend my time counting the days and wondering if I should be somewhere else. At least, I'm going to try my best not to slip into that bad habit. Instead, I will build my home and embrace my friendships and plant my gardens. I clipped a couple of flowers from my backyard and brought them to my kitchen table as a visual reminder to keep doing the things that make where I am home, and that will make my next place home, wherever that will be.

As Alanis Morissette so aptly sung in 1998, "Thank you, providence."


Thursday, September 2, 2021

Define Pro-Life for Me Again

In Texas, abortions are no longer allowed after six week's gestation, or approximately two weeks after a missed period (if regular) might even alert a woman to her pregnancy. Here's the twist - government officials are not going to enforce this new law themselves with criminal penalties. Instead, they are empowering private citizens and telling them to file civil lawsuits against women's health clinics or anyone else who assists in any way in the process of having an abortion after six weeks. You can sue the Uber driver who takes a woman to her doctor. Or you can sue the woman who in confidence encourages her tearful sister who was raped to speak with a medical professional about her options. And these lawsuits can be brought by anyone - by a parent, by a neighbor, by a disgruntled ex-boyfriend, by a stranger. Those who sue will be awarded at least $10,000 plus attorneys' costs if they win. 

Oh, if you aren't interested in the attention that would be brought by filing a lawsuit, that's OK. Texas Right to Life has set up a website (www.prolifewhistleblower.com) that you can visit and submit an anonymous tip about a clinic that may be performing abortions after six weeks. That's some next level creepy stuff right there. 

In the 1980s, the Kremlin printed out millions of cards and asked police to distribute them in neighborhoods. They read as follows: "We ask you to report, without mentioning your name, all cases known to you of violations of public order, and the rules of socialist communal life, of persons leading an antisocial way of life, failing to work or abusing alcoholic beverages, of problem families, and of adolescents who have given up their studies." People would right down names and phone numbers of alleged offenders as well as the supposed offenses, but would not be asked to write their own names as informants. 

Texas is pulling from the playbook of the commies over at the KGB. Cool. 

Super late last night, in a cowardly and unsigned statement, five justices of the United States Supreme Court declined to issue a preliminary injunction to stop this Texas law from taking effect, despite the fact that no such restrictions have been allowed under the Constitution in fifty years. They admitted there likely were legitimate concerns about the constitutionality of the Texas law (yep, just a smidge). But they stated that since there haven't been any private citizen lawsuits filed yet, there is no court case to appeal up the court system. The dissenting justices wrote that this late-night move by the majority was an act in defiance of the Constitution and the Court's precedents.

(Quick side bar - if you were mad that the Supreme Court refused to hear Trump's election fraud lawsuits because of procedural issues of standing but are cheering the Supreme Court today for its even more tenuous decision based on procedural issues of standing, you're a hypocrite.)

So, in Texas there is now financial gain to be had by harassing doctors and following women into offices, to eavesdrop on conversations and to interrogate your Lyft driver about the woman who just got out of her car. It's serious gestapo authoritarian stuff. And the women who primarily will be affected by this new law are those who are too poor to slide money under the table to get an abortion or to travel to another state where abortion is still legal. The wealthy Texans, including conservative politicians who get their girlfriends or mistresses pregnant, still will get abortions. Guaranteed. Abortions won't end in Texas. This just will end legal abortions for those who are least likely to have the financial means to care for a child. But the Texas legislature doesn't really care about their lives or the lives of their kids once they no longer reside in a uterus, so it's cool. 

And this will not stop in Texas. Groups in many other states are salivating and eager to replicate what is happening in Texas. I'm sure that Tennessee's own Republican Congressman Scott DesJarlais, who urged his ex-wife and his mistress to have abortions even though he publicly opposes any access to abortion, will be encouraging his like-minded legislators at the state level to move forward with this "snitch on a stranger for cash" scheme that Texas has devised. 

The pro-life groups in Texas are proclaiming a great victory, which highlighted once again for me the travesty that the tag "pro-life" is so inappropriately assigned.

The same legislators who passed the abortion ban are the ones who insisted on standalone, de-regulated infrastructure and utilities that resulted in hundreds of deaths during the ice storm last winter. Not pro-life.

The same governor who signed the abortion ban and declared it a great victory for life is standing in the way of every effort by local school districts to protect their communities during a pandemic. Not pro-life.

The same legislators who passed the abortion ban are the ones who also just changed the law so that in Texas you no longer need a background check, a license, or any training in order to carry a handgun wherever you please. Not pro-life. (You think this is fine, then please tell the kids' minister at your church that you don't think she needs to bother doing any more background checks on the people she hires to handle childcare of preschoolers during service. I'm sure they are all fine and pose no danger.)

The same churches in my area who stand outside women's health clinics (and I won't call them abortion clinics - I regularly used Planned Parenthood for my healthcare when I lived in Boston and never had an abortion) are the same ones who have ignored the pandemic that has killed nearly 650,000 people in our country. They gather into crowded sanctuaries without masks and without advocacy for vaccines, even when prominent members of their own congregation die from the virus (although no one will admit any in their congregation ever dies from the virus). Not pro-life.

OK, and yes, I did tell my children that churches in our area that gather together in large numbers in tight quarters with no mitigation efforts while our state ranks number one in the country for new cases of Covid (Tennessee would be number two in the whole world if we were our own country) do not care about them and do not exhibit Christ's call to love our neighbors and are most definitely not pro-life.

Is "pro-life" as it's generally understood in our country today really nothing more than "pro-making sure every conception in a woman's womb grows without impediment and exits the vaginal cavity or by Cesarean section but then that's it"?

Are you pro-life when you show up to school board meetings and scream about masks that could protect an unvaccinated child or a teacher who has asthma or finished cancer treatments last year?

Are you pro-life when you stand against a vaccine that is safe and proven to lower the community spread of a deadly virus, and in doing so endangering the lives of neighbors whom you are called to love?

Are you pro-life when you tell visitors who come to your church that they are not allowed to stay and worship with you if they wear masks? 

Are you pro-life when you silently plead for the light to turn green because the homeless mom standing outside your window asking for spare change makes you uncomfortable all while telling your kids in the backseat that the woman should have made better choices?

Are you pro-life when you weep for the women and children who are starving and abandoned and tortured in other countries but fight against the idea of welcoming them to the freedoms offered in our country?

Are you pro-life when you cut funding for education and preventative health clinics that give women the knowledge to avoid unwanted pregnancies?

Are you pro-life when you don't value the importance of quality childcare or job training programs or extended maternity leave or other resources that put parents in a better position to care for their kids?

Are you pro-life when you dismiss a presidential candidate's claims to kiss women whenever he wants without asking and his proclivity to grab them by the pussy as "locker room talk" or just an example of "boys will be boys" but then act surprised when a boy from your son's fraternity rapes another student and she ends up pregnant? He seemed like such a nice boy.

Advocate against legal abortion. Sure. That's your right in this country. I understand why you do it. I think abortion is heartbreaking and difficult and layered with so much history in economic and racial injustices. But for me, snitching on a scared neighbor like an amateur Dog the Bounty Hunter while ignoring or even mocking countless other opportunities to love your neighbors because those acts are inconvenient or because those acts don't align with the stance required by your political ideology doesn't earn you the label of "pro-life." 


Sunday, August 22, 2021

To My Fellow Christians During Covid: Some of You Have Me All Confused


\

"In humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself." - Philippians 2:3

If you look at the list of states with the lowest levels of vaccination or where school systems and local governments are opposing any mask mandates, you are going to find an almost complete overlap with areas that claim the highest percentage of residents who regularly attend church and check "Christian" on forms asking for one's religious affiliation. Conversely, areas like New England and New York have a large majority of their populations vaccinated and still employ other mitigation practices and also are considered to be much more "unchurched" than other areas of the country. 

Why does it appear that Christians are the most reluctant to take steps to extend love to one another and protect "the least of these" during a pandemic? It's a question that has bothered me for over a year now. 

Many Christians will tell you that their faith tells them not to live in fear - that hiding behind masks or staying away from at-risk family members and friends is not trusting God to protect them. They will say that God determines when we all live and die and if they go, they go. They state that their personal freedoms come from God and will not be curtailed by any public official. 

But, if I may speak in love and conviction to my brothers and sisters, I find all of these statements to be  selfish in our current environment. Because our decisions not to wear a mask or get vaccinated do not affect us alone. They affect every other person with whom we come into contact - the elderly, the cancer patient, the kidney recipient, the young child. We are not just making decisions about how to approach our own health or even our own earthly mortality, but forcing these decisions upon others who are at the mercy of whether we choose to protect them or not. 

There are two instructions that trump all others in the New Testament - 1. Love God. 2. Love your neighbor as yourself. Christ tells us in Mark that there are no other commandments greater than these. If you are a Christian, nothing comes ahead of loving God and loving others. Nothing.

Not your refusal to wear a mask. Not your insistence that your kid who sat next to a student who tested positive for Covid can stay in school because he feels fine. Not your self-righteous tirade against doctors at a school board meeting. Not your hesitancy to get a vaccine. Not the desire to pack hundreds into an auditorium to worship while telling those who worry about getting sick they just can stay home. None of these acts is offering witness to Jesus and to His call to love one another. In fact, they are the opposite. 

With this Delta variant spreading like wildfire across much of our country, beautiful Christian witness can and should take the form of wearing a mask to protect the six-year-old who is too young to be vaccinated and who may carry the virus home to a diabetic parent or elderly grandparent. It can and should take the form of getting a vaccine that was created through decades of research done by men and women who were given brilliant minds by God to develop this life-saving tool. The more people who are vaccinated in a community, the lower the viral load and therefore the threat of severe illness or death for everyone who lives there. That's some awesome and exponential loving of neighbors right there. 

It can and should tell people, "You matter to me. Your life matters to me. I love you and I want you to feel safe and protected because that is how Jesus makes me feel and if I am the hands and feet of Jesus here on earth, I offer the same to you."

"For you, brothers, were called to freedom. Only do not not turn your freedom into an opportunity to gratify your own flesh, but through love make it your habit to serve one another." - Galatians 5:13

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Watching 90210 as a Parent

I graduated with the gang from the Peach Pit. Brenda, Brandon, Kelly, Donna, Steve, Dylan, and me - all part of the Class of '93. The series was mandatory viewing for most of my high school friends. In fact, we taped the prom episode and graduation episode and promised not to watch until we all gathered together to experience these important moments together. Here is a photo of me with a few of my friends from that night of 90210 viewing (Julie wins for coolest outfit because she's wearing a Violent Femmes shirt, but I want some credit for my shortalls and my Class of 1993 button):


I've recently been re-watching the first season of 90210 on Hulu. So far, the episodes have addressed drinking and safe sex in the midst of the AIDS crisis and both the good and bad influence of friends and racial tensions and being embarrassed by your mom and wanting to look different and staying out past curfew and the pressure to do well in school. When I watched these episodes for the first time at age fifteen, every single one of these topics resonated with my friend group. We talked on the phone and in school about what the characters were experiencing, because they were feelings and fears that all of us teenagers were confronting, not not fictional rich kids in Beverly Hills. I think 90210 was one of the first shows to tackle teenage issues so directly and thoughtfully, and they did it well. 

My viewing of this show thirty years later also has led to a revelation. The show premiered the summer before my sophomore year in high school - the same age that my daughter is right now. So, it makes sense that this time around I'm nodding my head in agreement with Jim and Cindy! I am now the parent in these 90210 scenarios. But it's also helping me to remember that my daughter is a young woman who is tackling these same issues.

This summer is proving to be a difficult one of transition for me. Many of my daughter's friends are now driving. There are boys. There are opportunities to for her to make choices that were not on her radar just a couple of years ago. She wants to be out and be social all the time. And I'm struggling as a parent, particularly as a single parent, to decide how many boundaries to set and how much freedom to allow. (As she likes to say to me, "When you were my age, your parents didn't know where you were all the time. They couldn't call you or track you." And then I like to retort, "Hey, if you want to live 1990 style, we can do that. Hand over your phone." And then the conversation ends.)

But it's helped me to think back on my own high school days via this nostalgic trip down 90210 lane. The emotions and the confusion and the growing that I was doing during those years were very real and intense and serious to me. It did not seem like little kid stuff. I need to remember that my daughter is now in a period of her life where these same moments are very real and consequential to her. Just like I was three decades ago, she certainly is discussing the same topics with her friends that I did after watching them play out with the Walsh family on my TV screen. I did not feel too young to engage in those conversations, and neither is my daughter. 

I am so proud of my girl and so in love with her. She is confident and smart and independent. She stands up for herself. She likes herself, more than I did when I was her age. But it also can be scary and exhausting and confusing to parent through these years. That's when it's important for me to stop and acknowledge that these years are all scary and exhausting and confusing for her, too. I know it might sound silly, but I promise it's not - 90210 has helped me to plug back into those emotions of my own fifteen-year-old self. It's helping me to pause and see things through my daughter's lens. I just wish Cindy Walsh was around for us to talk through it all over a glass of wine, and probably a delicious, homecooked meal that she made from scratch. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Pride Month - Why Do We Need It?

Today marks the beginning of Pride Month, when members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies gather to celebrate and advocate. To acknowledge the progress as well as the work that still needs to be done.  

Some already have complained about the rainbows that will cover many storefronts and be displayed on the logos of sports teams and sold on clothing for the next several weeks. Why do we have to politicize everything? Aren't some businesses just doing this for good PR? Why do we have to make such a big deal out of Pride Month anyway? 

I've thought of a few answers to that last question:

Because gay teens are 3.5 times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers and forty percent of gay teens have seriously contemplated suicide in the past year. 

Because too many people don't know about the raids at Stonewall or how Senator Lester Hunt killed himself in the Capitol building when Senator McCarthy threated to expose his son's sexuality or the names Matthew Shepard or Harvey Milk.

Because the word "gay" is still used as an insult at my kids' schools.

Because sometimes the only parental hugs a teen gets all year are from random moms and dads who stand with signs offering "Free Hugs" at Pride Fest.

Because many churches don't allow gay members but divorced men serve as deacons and women who gossip teach Sunday school and obese people sing in the choir and vain leaders preach from the pulpit.

Because my friend's young son was brought to tears the day after the 2016 election when a classmate told him the new president wouldn't let him live with his two moms anymore.

Because there are eight countries where homosexuality is punishable by death and more than sixty others where it's a crime resulting in prison time and/or violent punishment.

Because too many politicians claim that they don't want government interfering in our lives except when they can use their power to control marriage and families and justify discrimination.

Because hatred is borne of fear and fear is lessened when we understand more. 

Because it's the responsibility of those with a voice and who speak from a position of safety and privilege to be vocal allies and provide a trusted space.

Because I have LGBT friends from childhood and others I just met a few years ago. I have friends with children who have come out in the last few years. I had students in my classroom who are gay. I cry and get angry when I think that they ever are told they are lesser than or treated poorly or feel scared because of who and how they love.

Because now my daughter has friends who are gay (and I'm sure my son does as well). I'm so proud of her for being an ally and offering a space where she listens and loves and I want to affirm her in that.

Because love wins and that's a victory worth celebrating.

"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive." - Dalai Lama

Friday, May 21, 2021

Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Turn Your Back on the Republic

This week, the House of Representatives voted in favor of creating a commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. Every Democrat backed the idea, but only 35 Republicans did the same. That means that 178 Republicans don't want to learn any more about how and why hundreds of people broke into the building that houses the core values of our democratic republic, stole documents and other items, smeared feces on the walls, injured dozens of police officers, threatened to hang our then-Vice President, and hunted down senators after erecting a noose outside.

But why? 

If some members actually believe that the insurrectionists were members of Antifa and/or Black Lives Matter who changed into Trump shirts and waved Trump flags as a clever disguise, you would think they would want to learn more. Let's hold the correct people responsible and bring to light their crimes against our country! But the truth is, the Republicans who voted against the commission, at least most of them, know that the Antifa conspiracy theory is not a true one. Keeping some shred of credibility to the theory, however, benefits many of these House members in their home districts. So they don't challenge it.

Perhaps there a few members of Congress who worry about being implicated themselves in the day's events. What exactly was said in the phone call between former President Trump and Rep. Kevin McCarthy once the Capitol had been invaded? How did some of the insurrectionists know the exact location of Speaker Pelosi's office? Why did Rep. Paul Gosar tell Trump supporters that it actually was the Democrats who were planning a coup and they needed to "be ready to defend the Constitution and the White House." (Which is ironic, as the insurrectionists themselves were a violent affront to the principles of the Constitution.)

Sadly, though, it seems the primary reason that so many Republicans have abandoned their country and the search for answers is self-preservation and their fear that one man could destroy them. Trump does not want any more time spent studying the mob that was comprised of "very special people" who he "loves very much." He does not want people to keep making connections between the MONTHS he spent telling supporters that the only way he could lose is if the other side stole the election. He does not want people to think about how he spent every day in the weeks leading up to January 6 telling crowds how disappointed he would be if Pence didn't have the courage to "do the right thing" and that those who listened then cried out to "Hang Mike Pence!" Trump is deeply embedded in a tunnel of disinformation that has him convinced he was cheated out of reelection and anyone who disagrees is a traitor.

And Republicans cannot afford to have Trump think they are traitors. His name and his endorsement, sadly, still matter. This is why Cruz still grovels for his acceptance even though Trump called his wife ugly and claimed his father was involved in Kennedy's murder. It's why Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA)  said, "You know, if you didn't know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit." It's why Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) said, "I didn't see any violence." It's why Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said that the Justice Department is now "harassing peaceful patriots" in its attempt to hold the insurrectionists accountable. They cannot risk contradicting Trump's delusions. The political stakes are too high.

In their attempts to whitewash history, to insist that the country needs to move on and forget about what happened in and around the US Capitol on January 6, the 178 Republicans in the House who voted against the commission (including my Rep. John Rose and every other Republican congressperson from Tennessee) have turned their backs on our republic. They have stated with their votes that winning a primary in 2022 is more important than the truth and more important than understanding how some of our elected officials came within minutes or even seconds of violence at the hands of a mob. It's more important than admitting that this very real threat to our country still exists and we need to know how to stop it from happening again.

Next week, we will learn if the Republicans in the Senate have the same priorities. Spoiler alert - they do. There will not be enough Republican senators who will be willing to back this commission and we never will get the bipartisan commission that our republic, our Capitol police, our freedoms, and our elected officials who were threatened that day deserve. 

In November 2002, Congress created the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States in order to investigate how the horrific events of 9/11 were able to happen on our soil. The commission was comprised of five Republicans and five Democrats, just as the January 6 commission proposes to do. There was not an overwhelming number of members from one party who opposed learning more about 9/11. In fact, pretty much everyone thought it was a good idea. Our country had been attacked and we demanded answers. While the death toll and the psychological toll on our nation certainly was greater on that awful day in 2001 than what we experienced at the Capitol earlier this year, the attack on our country was just as real and the threat to the vitality of our republic is greater now than it was nearly two decades ago. And the problem should not be ignored just to pacify one man who couldn't care less if the whole place burns. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Pro-Life or Pro-Death? It's So Hard to Tell!

This morning, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a measure that would make abortion illegal in the state after six weeks and also allow for civil lawsuits to be brought against anyone who assists in the abortion process (those who drive a woman to a clinic, doctors, anyone who contributes to Planned Parenthood, and so on). Abbott was very pleased with the passage of this law and offered up the hashtag "#prolife" on social media to celebrate.

This evening, Texas will execute Quintin Jones.

You may be thinking what I've been thinking all afternoon - Texas is having a very confusing day. Pro-life at sunrise, pro-death by sundown.

Governor Abbott's crusade against abortion is founded in his Christian faith. He believes that all life is precious. He has declared a "Sanctity of Human Life Day" in Texas. He has said, "I will always fight for life as your governor." Just today at the bill signing, Abbott declared, "Our Creator endowed us with the right to life." 

With Governor Abbott's theological pro-life stance in mind, let me tell you a little about condemned prisoner Quintin Jones. He admits to killing his great aunt in 1999 in an effort to get money from her, when he was nineteen years old and under the influence of drugs and alcohol. For the past two decades, he has been the model prisoner without a single disciplinary infraction. He has gotten clean. His family, and therefore also his great-aunt's family, is appealing to Governor Abbott for clemency. The actual surviving victims of this crime do not want the ultimate punishment to be carried out. But clemency will not come. despite the fact that extending grace and the notion of being made new again are both pretty important parts of the faith that led the same governor to sign the abortion bill this morning.

Today's bipolar activity in Texas is just another piece in a bizarre week for any consistent message regarding sanctity of life in our country. On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a Mississippi law that outlaws abortions after fifteen weeks. (Texas responded, "Fifteen weeks? Please. That's nothing. Hold my beer. No, really, hold it because I don't want anyone around me to know I drink alcohol.") It has been the goal of conservative state legislatures to pass extreme laws that climb all the way to the Supreme Court to challenge Roe v. Wade and one of them finally succeeded.

But on that same day, "pro-life" Governor Henry McMaster of South Carolina signed a bill forcing death row inmates to choose a firing squad or the electric chair for their executions. Firing squad or electric chair. In a supposedly advanced country. In 2021. I'm not sure how the push for burning at the stake or stoning didn't make the cut as well. Did anyone see this news story this week and wonder if perhaps they didn't take a trip in a DeLorean and somehow forgot?

It's grotesque that the death penalty finds some of its most ardent supporters in the same states where the pro-life abortion agenda is fought the most fiercely. One in nine prisoners on death row is eventually exonerated, sometimes after spending decades behind bars or even already killed by the state. The notion of one person being put to death for a crime he did not commit is horrifying. It is one sentence that is irreversible. 

These days, I'm struggling to figure out what someone means when they claim to be pro-life. Did he pray outside abortion clinics all through this past year but then also attend a packed worship service without a mask every Sunday? That's not consistently pro-life. Did she applaud the previous president's Supreme Court nominations because justices who will restrict abortions are important to her but then also cheer when Oklahoma and Florida passed laws granting immunity for people who drive over protestors and perhaps kill them? That's not consistently pro-life. (And in Florida, "rioters" who you can run over with your motor vehicle are defined as a gathering of three of more people. Seriously.)

Put aside the other important and true arguments against the death penalty - it's more expensive than keeping someone in prison, it's not an effective deterrent, the sentencing is hugely skewed to the poor and the non-white. If you are pro-life, if you are a Christian and therefore have read past the vengeful justice of the Old Testament, if you do not believe it is a human's place to serve as final executioner of another man who was made in the image of God, then I think what is happening in Texas tonight and what was decided in South Carolina this week should be troubling to you. 

"With every cell of my being and with every fiber of my memory, I oppose the death penalty in all forms. I do not believe that any civilized society should be at the service of death. I don't think it's human to become an agent of the angel of death." - Elie Wiesel, writer, speaker, Holocaust survivor

"Perhaps the bleakest fact of all is that the death penalty is imposed not only in a freakish and discriminatory manner, but also in some cases upon defendants who are actually innocent." - former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan

"Capital punishment is against the better judgment of modern criminology and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God." - Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.