taking the words of Jesus seriously

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published by Jeff Hood at Patheos and is published here with permission.

I used to think that God was everywhere…but God don’t live in spaces like this.

I’d seen it all in pictures before.  The dim lights.  The harsh colors.  The small windows.  I don’t think it would’ve mattered how many times I’d studied those pictures before.  Nothing could have prepared me for standing in the midst of it all.  Death was now a place…a physical reality.  There would be no going back.  The valley of the shadow of death was more than just metaphor now.

I started to shake from the moment I entered the room.  What else was I supposed to do?  How else was I supposed to deal with all of the emotions bottled up within?  I was about to explode.

Completely immobilized, Arthur Brown laid on the gurney in the middle of the room.  When he saw me, he started to shake his foot.  I could see the white sheet moving rapidly.  I knew this was his way of telling me to stay strong.  I was trying.

My rosary cut into my hand.

Though the protocol had been shared with me, I was lost.  I couldn’t remember when I was supposed to speak.  It was so strange to have an order of service for an execution.  Propping my back up against the wall, I kept my legs straight.  On multiple occasions, I looked to the agent that was in charge of escorting me for guidance.  Then, the moment came.

I read as loudly as I possibly could.

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and, making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

Nobody seemed to listen to the words of Jesus.  “Let anyone who is without sin…”  Either that or all of those who were participating were sinless.

The time came for Arthur to give his final statement.  In our visit before the execution, I’d encouraged him to use this opportunity to speak his truth to the world.  He did.

What is occurring here tonight is not justice, it’s murder of an innocent man for a murder that occurred in 1992. For the last 30 years I’ve proven my innocence to the courts, but the courts blocked me and then refused me access to the ballistics for 20 years; I’ve proven facts and ballistics to be false. It’s been 30 years now, the state refused to turn over evidence. Nine of the ten trial motions were filled for discovery of evidence, but each were denied each time. I asked for DNA, I was denied DNA. My co-defendant was executed in 2006 and if I’m innocent he was innocent and they killed an innocent man, and the state doesn’t want the truth to come out. They won’t allow me DNA. The victim’s son identified on audio tape it wasn’t me or the co-defendant. The state hid the evidence so long and good that my own attorneys couldn’t find it. Tonight, Texas will kill a second innocent man for a murder that occurred in 1992. I have no further words.

Before the poison completely took over, I told Arthur that he was loved.  “Keep fighting!  Use my truth…”  Right before he lost consciousness, he told me he loved me too.

For the next few minutes, I watched Arthur struggle to breathe.  In the midst of it all, all I could do was shake.  As the minutes grew longer, I kept asking God to forgive us.  Close to 17 minutes passed before Arthur was pronounced dead.  Those were some of the longest minutes of my life.  I couldn’t figure out what was taking so long.  How hard can it be to kill a man?

Just as quickly as it started…it was over.

The agent who had escorted me the entire night walked me out the door into the night.

I hugged him.  While I’m sure he thought it was strange, it felt like the most human thing to do on such an inhumane night.

I’m still looking for God…

*Last night, I became the first spiritual advisor to accompany the condemned into the execution chamber in two different states, Oklahoma and now Texas.  I was with Scott Eizember when he was executed on January 12, 2023.  Now, I’d been with Arthur Brown on March 9.  I’m still processing what it all means.

About The Author


A pastor, theologian and activist living and working in Little Rock, Arkansas, the Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood is a Catholic Priest (Old Catholic), the founding Dean and The Rev. Charles Moore Professor of Prophetic Theology at The New Theology School and the Convener of Clergy United Against the Death Penalty. Dr. Hood is a graduate of Auburn University (BA), Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv), Emory University’s Candler School of Theology (ThM), University of Alabama (MA), Creighton University (MS), Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University (DMin), the American Institute of Metaphysics (PhD) and The New Theology School (NThD). Dr. Hood has also completed international studies at Tel Aviv University (Israel) and Yonsei University (South Korea). His primary interest has always been in experimental theologies of liberation. In addition to his formal studies, Dr. Hood completed multiple units of Clinical Pastoral Education at a Level I trauma center in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Hood was ordained to the ministry at the Rock Baptist Church in Rex, Georgia in 2006. Dr. Hood was incardinated into the priesthood of the Catholic Church (Old Catholic) at Saint Miriam Parish and Friary in Flourtown, Pennsylvania in 2022. Dr. Hood is the author of over 70 books, including his infamous The Courage to Be Queer (which was named the third best religion book of 2016 at the Independent Publishers Book Awards), and countless significant articles. In addition to writing books and articles, Dr. Hood’s work has appeared extensively in the media, including in the New York Times, Dallas Morning News, Huffington Post, Fort Worth Star Telegram, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Los Angeles Times, WIRED magazine and on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NPR amongst a whole host of other outlets. Dr. Hood has served in the governing leadership of multiple organizations, including the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and Fellowship of Reconciliation USA. In 2013, Dr. Hood was awarded PFLAG Fort Worth’s Equality Award for activism and service for the LGBTQ community. In 2015, Hood was named Hope for Peace and Justice’s Ambassador of Justice for his theological activism. In 2016, Hood was named the Next Generation Action Network’s Person of the Year for his work against police brutality. In 2017, Hood was given an award from the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty for his work toward abolishing the death penalty. Currently, Dr. Hood serves on the Board of Advisers of Death Penalty Action (the most consequential protest organization dedicated specifically to abolishing the death penalty). A participant in history, Dr. Hood organized and led the July 7, 2016 Dallas, Texas rally against police brutality that tragically ended in the shooting deaths of 5 police officers. Dr. Hood saved countless lives by using the cross he was carrying to force people away from the shooting. For multiple days, Dr. Hood did countless interviews and appearances while he and his family were under constant threat. To commemorate Dr. Hood’s role in the shooting and his wider work, the archives at the Dallas Public Library opened, “The Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood Collection.” With three arrests, various assaults endured and thousands of miles marched, Dr. Hood is not afraid to step into the shoes of Jesus and give his body for justice. In addition to being the husband of Emily and father of Jeff III, Phillip, Quinley Mandela, Lucas & Madeleine, Dr. Hood also maintains multiple close friendships with persons on death row.

Related Posts

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.


Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
    Check which Newsletter(s) you'd like to receive:    

You have Successfully Subscribed!