Saturday, April 24, 2010

Messin' With Texas

We took a long and beautiful car trip through the Transylvanian countryside today. The occasion was a visiting in-law from Texas, and our guide was a Canadian expat. It was all rather jolly.

But when the Texan discovered that the Canadian had never been to Texas, she gave him quite a hard time about it. (Now, Father Anonymous should say that he is not an objective bystander in the matter of Texas. He has, in the course of his life, spent quite a fair amount of time in the Lone Star State, and has enjoyed comparatively little of it. His principal complaints are the weather, the Bushes and Houston. Many, many Texans in his experience are smart, kind, cultured people. They should move.)

Anyway, after ten or fifteen minutes of intermittent insistence that "You really should come to Texas. We have bluebonnets," and so forth, the Canadian gently murmured, "What's the death penalty situation down there?"

The Texan stammered, "Why, um, I don't know," which may actually have been true at the time. It certainly isn't any longer, because your humble correspondent piped up from the rumble seat, in his customary soft sweet tone, shouting, "The highest rate in the country! By far! They kill you for jaywalking."

The Texan kept stammering, to the effect of "Really? Now, I didn't know that." Father A., the very soul of discretion, may have added something to the effect that "When W. was governor, they made a specialty of killing women and the mentally defective." This, gentle readers, is the sort of thing that is guaranteed to smooth those difficult visits from in-laws.

But, for the record, Texas killed 6 people last year, which is just under half of the 14 Americans executed by the government. Of the 1202 US executions since 1975, 453 (almost 38%) were in Texas. For details, click the link up top. In the modern death-penalty era, Texas is by far and away the bloodthirstiest of the United States.

Now, opinions on the morality of the death penalty cover the spectrum from Roy to Biv, and we are well aware that the Catholic ethical tradition has a long and closely-reasoned series of arguments in favor of its use. Despite the current withdrawal of the Roman church from some of those historic positions -- the "seamless garment" about which Cardinal Bernardin liked to speak -- it should be worth noting that Lutheran theology retains a clear understanding that the state may rightfully exercise "the power of the sword," which is usually taken as a reference to both war and executions. We at the Egg admit to a certain internal struggle over the matter. Neither our church nor we ourselves are prone to absolutism on the subject.

Still, bloodthirstiness is not an endearing quality in a government. In a democracy, the creation by ballot of successive bloodthirsty governments is not an endearing quality in a people.

1 comment:

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

I've always been against the death penalty and I've assumed that somehow, by osmosis, I came to that position because of being Lutheran, but I can't remember it being discussed in churches or the Lutheran college I attended. Certainly the map of the US, with the death penalty states one color and the other states another color, would show a grouping of the non-death penalty states as those which also have lots of Lutherans. Maybe it is because Lutheran preach grace and think everybody should get a second chance.