An Empty Gurney. {Troy Davis, Jesus, & us}

Via Roger Wolsey
on Sep 22, 2011
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Turning the lemon of Mr. Troy Davis’ death into life-embracing lemonade.

Last night was a sad one.

But today’s a new day. And the sun still shines.

I wrote a blog yesterday ruing the, then, impending unjust execution of Troy Davis.  A lot of people read it…and I feel called to not leave us with a dark cloud of gloom and doom over our heads. My primary vocation in life is to share good news.

As a progressive Christian, I am moved, motivated, and inspired by recalling the story of how a certain radical rabble-rouser from Nazareth ended up pissing off one too many of the worldly powers that be, was unjustly executed….and how that wasn’t the end of the story. God’s speciality is transformation and turning the lemons of life into lemonade. God redeemed that horrible Friday and turned it into a “good” one by committing an act of civil disobedience against the Roman Empire by breaking the imperial seal from the front of Jesus’ tomb and resurrecting Jesus from the dead. In so doing, God showed us that Jesus’ death wasn’t in vain and that his life and teachings were ultimately validated and proven true  — that the way of life truly is the way of unconditional, compassionate, self-sacrificial love of others.

I saw signs of this even last night — regarding the other execution that happened in our country yesterday. While Georgia was busy killing Davis, the state of Texas killed white supremacist Lawrence Brewer. Brewer was in fact guilty of committing a heinous murder and racially based hate crime against a black man. And yet —- I came across these words:

“The true prophetic voice on Wednesday came not from Georgia, but from Texas where aging African American Civil Rights activist Dick Gregory fasted for half a day to protest the killing of an avowed white supremacist who murdered a black man solely because he was black.”David Henson

Here’s the back-story. Here’s a different version. Talk about someone walking the walk and incarnating the gospel through his actions! God was at work redeeming our mess and some of us noticed.

Inspired by this realization, I’d like to offer the following ways that we can join God in turning the lemon of our nation’s criminal justice system into lemonade – by engaging in some holy foolishness.

Sign a Declaration of Life.

Tell your loved ones that if you are murdered, you don’t want the person who kills you to be killed.

Eliminating the death penalty remains a daunting challenge for many individuals and organizations.  While progress has been made through the Innocence Project and the elimination of the death penalty for persons who are mentally challenged, 35 states maintain the death penalty.  One creative effort to discourage the use of the death penalty is the Declaration of Life.  This legal document states that if the signer is murdered she/he does not want the perpetrator executed.  The signed document should be kept with other legal papers.

Support a group of people who “aren’t supposed to exist” — because they reject our prevailing meta-myth that vengeance and retribution are somehow a good thing – the Myth of Redemptive Violence.

Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation

Founded in 1976, Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation (MVFR) is a national organization of family members of victims of both homicide and executions who oppose the death penalty in all cases. MVFR includes people of many different perspectives. Because violent crime cuts across a broad spectrum of society, our members are geographically, racially and economically diverse.
Sign a Petition to say Not In My Name!

…The state of Georgia shamefully executed Troy Davis on September 21, 2011 despite serious doubts about his guilt.But Not In My Name.While a majority of the world – more than 65% of all countries – has abolished the death penalty in law or practice, the United States remains one of the top countries responsible for executing people.Not In My Name.Officials continue to allow this deeply-flawed, extremely arbitrary and severely-biased (both economically and racially) system to run rampant without checks, balances or concern for moral decency.Not In My Name.Guilty or innocent every person is a human being with human rights. Executions are always wrong.I won’t stand for it.THE DEATH PENALTY MUST BE ABOLISHED. I take this pledge because human rights and human lives are on the line.I pledge to fight to abolish the death penalty

And more than merely signing  a petition, contact your elected officials to let them know that you wish to see capital punishment banned in the United States and relegated to the trash bin of history.
On a personal level, I’ve been thinking about either getting a tattoo or having a jeweler make me a pendant to wear around my neck.  No, not a cross – but of a lethal injection gurney. As a symbol, the cross has pretty much lost it’s power. It’s become a mere piece of bling that people wear who haven’t the foggiest idea of what it means. An empty cross is supposed to show that the powers of this world are impotent and have been defeated. That God’s love is stronger than our hate and fear. If Jesus had been killed in 2011, it would’ve been via being strapped to a vinyl table and having chemicals forced into his veins. If I were to wear such an unusual pendant on a necklace around my neck, people would likely ask “what is that?” And I’d be honored to tell them.
Yes we’re still in a state of shock and grief. Understandably so. But we need not remain there.
“Today may be Friday, but Sunday’s a comin’!”

I can almost taste that lemonade, and it is cool and it is sweet.

Troy, Lawrence, and Jesus are enjoying it already.
Rev. Roger Wolsey
“An eye for an eye will make us all blind.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” – Jesus, Luke 23:34


About Roger Wolsey

Roger Wolsey is a free-spirited GenX-er who thinks and feels a lot about God and Jesus. He’s a progressive Christian who identifies with people who consider themselves as being “spiritual but not religious.” He came of age during the “Minneapolis sound” era and enjoyed seeing The Replacements, The Jayhawks, Husker Du, The Wallets, Trip Shakespeare, Prince, and Soul Asylum in concert—leading to strong musical influences to his theology. He earned his Masters of Divinity degree at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO. Roger is an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church and he currently serves as the director of the Wesley Foundation campus ministry at C.U. in Boulder, CO. He was married for ten years, divorced in 2005 and now co-parents a delightful 10-year old son. Roger loves live music, hosting house concerts, rock-climbing, yoga, centering prayer, trail-running with his dog Kingdom, dancing, camping, riding his motorcycle, blogging, and playing his trumpet in ska bands and music projects. He's recently written a book Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don't like christianity


8 Responses to “An Empty Gurney. {Troy Davis, Jesus, & us}”

  1. Roger Wolsey says:

    On a related note: here's a previous blog that I wrote: "Turning Religious Turds into Lemonade"

  2. Howard C. Berkowitz says:

    While I believe the death penalty is vastly overused, I will not reject it. I believe it to be appropriate and necessary in exceptional cases, which probably occur once every few years. My basic civilian criterion is for multiple murderers with a high probability of recidivism. Terry McVeigh was the poster child in recent years.

    Federalizing the death penalty might remove some of the state politics.

    The military, and related espionage and sabotage cases, remain a separate category. Some actions that would not be capital crimes in civilian life, or might not even be offenses there, must have the potential of being capital crimes if one is to maintain military discipline. Horrible as it may seem, there are even cases where, under Aquinas’ Principle of Double Effect and in Just War Theory, summary killing may be necessary. For example, if a soldier starts to break and run, potentially causing a loss of unit integrity, he may get everyone killed. It may be the unfortunate responsibility of the senior commander to shoot him down. It may be necessary to shoot someone sabotaging equipment, and it is likely some cases of espionage or massive disclosure of classified documents deserve the ultimate penalty.

    There were many things wrong with the Nuremberg Tribunal, both International and Nuremberg Military, but most of the death penalties were warranted. Some remain questionable — and perhaps some prisoners lived that should have been at the end of a rope.

  3. Roger Wolsey says:

    Howard, fair enough, and you're entitled to your opinion. However, it is the case that for the first 3 centuries of Christianity, believers made a point to not serve in armies. It is also the case that Christianity began to modify and assimilate various pagan/worldly values and principles beginning with Constantine. You may consider that to be a good thing. I do not.

  4. Howard C. Berkowitz says:

    Roger, I am not a Christian, so Christian ethics are irrelevant to me.

    If I had misunderstood, and this is a Christian blog, I should leave with no hard feelings.

  5. Roger Wolsey says:

    A powerful commentary re: capital punishment on MSNBC:

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