taking the words of Jesus seriously

As the national tide turns away from execution- on Thursday, Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill to bring back the electric chair in my home state of Tennessee.

It’s a sad day today in the movement for a better world.

I don’t think there is any good way to kill someone, but there is definitely an evil way – and electrocuting someone to death is evil.  No one speaks with more credibility than former executioner Ron McAndrew who describes what it is like to smell someone as they die by electrocution, and to watch someone’s head smoke as they die.  I cannot believe that we are actually considering the electric chair a viable form of “justice” in the United States in 2014.

I will continue to pray for Gov. Bill Haslam, with tears coming down my cheeks, and I hope you do too.  I will continue to pray for the victims’ families, and for those who have created victims by committing violence.  And I will continue to pray for the men I met a few weeks ago on TN’s death row who face execution and who have invited Gov. Haslam to visit them and pray with them.  One of them is writing a book with his victim’s family, a book on forgiveness.

We don’t want to react impulsively, but consider this…

Maybe it is time for people of faith and conscience to start going to jail in TN – for nonviolent demonstrations against the 10 executions that are scheduled.  I’m sure considering a few trips to TN this year, and I hope you will too (the first execution is scheduled for October).

As I am writing this book on the death penalty, I am continually inspired by folks around the country (and world) who are tirelessly organizing for alternatives to execution — so demonstrations against executions happen all the time.  But perhaps it is time for lots of us to join the great abolitionists already at work in Tennessee.  Perhaps we should all consider laying our bodies in the way of the electric chair to stop such a horrific glorification of death.  .  I really do think we will look back a generation from now as we look back at slavery and wonder — how did we possibly think that was okay?

There’s a verse in the Bible that says: “Do not repay evil with evil… overcome evil with good” (Romans 12).  In the case of the electric chair —  we see a “cure” that is far from good… it is as bad as the disease.

Please consider how you might act.

“All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke

About The Author


Shane Claiborne is a best-selling author, renowned activist,
 sought-after speaker, and self-proclaimed “recovering sinner.” Shane writes and speaks around the world about peacemaking, social justice, and Jesus, and is the author of several books, 
including "The Irresistible Revolution," "Jesus for President," "Executing Grace," "Beating Guns," and his newest book, "Rethinking Life (released in Feb 2023)." He is the visionary leader of The Simple Way in Philadelphia and co-director of Red Letter Christians. His work has been featured in Fox News, Esquire, SPIN, TIME, the Wall Street Journal, NPR, and CNN.

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