Humanity and Grace in the Presence of Horror

The New York Times has a remarkable story today about a death-row inmate in Georgia who has completed a certificate in Theological Studies and has corresponded with and met the great German theologian Juergen Moltmann. She is scheduled to be executed on Monday after her final clemency appeal was rejected by the state board.

There’s more to the story. Bethany Foster of Mercy Junction in Chattanooga provide a deeper portrait of Kelly Gissendaner:

“Every man Kelly’s ever come in contact with has done something horrible to her,” Kara Tragesser said. “From her stepfather who started molesting her when she was 9 years old to the man who raped her and got her pregnant when she was a teenager, to the judge and the DA and now the five men on the clemency board who decided to kill her in a meeting she wasn’t even allowed to attend.”


It’s a story of grace and humanity in the midst of horror. Gissendaner has been in solitary confinement for eighteen years but the women who served time with her speak of her care and compassion. Read it all here:  Former inmates say fight to save Gissendaner is only the beginning.


Torture, execution, and murder

There’s a pathetic irony that I posted yesterday about Sarah Palin’s outrageous equating of torture and baptism, and today we learn that the State of Oklahoma “botched” the execution of an inmate for murder.

The description of that travesty is here

There’s been a lengthy legal tangle about Oklahoma’s execution plans, centering on their use of previously untested drugs.

It’s easy for us in other states to pass judgment on Oklahoma’s efforts but I think their (and other states’) efforts to find an acceptable means of capital punishment says a great deal about our national culture. There are methods that are effective: hanging, the electric chair, the guillotine, even firing squads. The Romans used crucifixion. But apparently state governments find such tried and true methods repugnant, so they want to use a cocktail of deadly drugs. But pharmaceutical manufacturers have refused to allow the use of their products. I suspect the governor of Oklahoma and the courts would be reluctant to use a more effective form of capital punishment, for the Supreme Court might deem it “cruel and unusual.”

Most of us would want to deny our own culpability in Oklahoma’s actions today but it is our legal system, our Supreme Court, that allows this sort of of inhumane actions to take place in the name of the people of our states and nation. We are all to blame.