I Love New Jersey

Posted: June 27, 2009 by Matt Horan in ReEmergent Church
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

By Matt Horan750px-Flag_of_New_Jersey_svg

          New Jersey is a place where I have some happy history.  My grandparents and several of my aunts and uncles and cousins live there.  We took many trips from Philadelphia, PA, where I lived until I was 12, to visit and spend time among our close-knit extended family and friends.  I have fond memories of New Jersey.
          Of course, there is also some significant rivalry between New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  The Philadelphia Eagles and the New York [they play in New Jersey] Giants play each other at least twice per season in a heated rivalry, and Philadelphia Flyers fans always enjoy a victory over the New Jersey Devils [in hockey–you might not have heard of them].  When people from Pennsylvania want to go to the beach, New Jersey is always in the way, unless you want to go to Delaware.  The rivalry was friendly for me, with good natured ribbing going back and forth between my grandfather, uncles, and several cousins when our teams intersected.  But as a kid from Philly, the rivalry was a part of my genetic makeup.
          Not long ago, New Jersey abolished the death penalty.  As a believer in societal evolution, and as a believer that societal evolution means trending away from capital punishment, I was glad.
          I’m painfully aware that I don’t have all the answers.  There are some truly heinous and evil crimes that humankind has inflicted upon each other, and had they been visited on my family or friends, I can’t say that my heart wouldn’t cry out for ultimate vengeance.  The argument against the death penalty is not one easily made to a grieving parent or spouse or friend of a sexual assault and/or murder victim.  It is surely not easily made against a backdrop of the trial of a genocidal dictator.
          Yet it is one that must be made.  The threat of lethal injection is not something that murderers or rapists likely spend time carefully pondering over before committing their crimes.  Do they weigh the pros and cons?  Do they actually spend time and make a decision that whatever satisfaction they expect to get from committing this act is worth the risk of the gas chamber or the electric chair?  I ask these questions because capital punishment does not appear to be an effective crime deterrent method.
          There are other arguments for the death penalty.  Some say that it’s too expensive to keep criminals alive in the prison system for their entire lives.  Prison accountants don’t agree on that one, but I’m not comfortable basing the life and death decision on which saves me more money as a taxpayer.
          Perhaps families can only have peace or “closure” once they witness the death of the person that took the life of their loved one.  It’s easy for me to say, but it seems clear from the Scriptures that vengeance is not something for us to seek out.  Rather, healing or wholeness are only to be found on the other side of repentance, forgiveness, and redemption. 
          Is redemption to be found in a story that ends, “…and so we killed him”?  “…and so she was executed”?  Or is redemption to be found when we can say, “…but we forgave, holding out hope that God can bring something redeeming even out of the life of the most brutal murderer”? 
          The ultimate question on the issue of capital punishment might be which is greater: our rage, or our faith?  Perhaps New Jersey has decided, and perhaps New Jersey might be an example for us all.

  1. Terry Horan says:

    The older I get, the more I have begun to realize just how precious each life is. I spent many years being in favor of the death penalty in certain cases. Now it just doesn’t make any sense to me. If you are pro-life, I don’t believe you get to pick and choose. Pro-life means all life. Good for New Jersey.


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