Does Righteousness Really Matter To The Religious Right?

I think we’re pretty clear on the Church of the Republican Party’s interest in what consenting adults do in their bedrooms, yet it occurs to me that there are other areas of righteousness, public AND private, that not only befoul our world but also require a response from those ministering and serving in it.

But this week has brought us a couple of occasions that would seem to require — minimally — comment from Christ followers of any stripe, and particularly those running the country or running for the opportunity to do so as President. The subject, though, is capital punishment, and the death penalty itself doesn’t provoke much comment, ever, from the religious GOP — until, of course, their audiences cheer Rick Perry’s robust record of executions in Texas.

Glory to God, and flip the switch.

Tragically, though, two of the most clear, most grotesque abuses of an evil policy, one of which comes from Perry’s home state, doesn’t seem to merit even a murmur from him or from his co-political moralists. That’s not just a tragedy. That’s evidence of the kind of disregard for righteousness, and even an embrace of evil, railed against by the Old Testament prophets and condemned by Christ Jesus in the New. And the GOP is awash in it.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay of execution hours before convicted murderer Duane Buck was to be put to death in Texas, the state that under Governor Rick Perry and his predecessor, George W. Bush, puts more people to death than all other states combined. Under normal circumstances — those circumstances experienced and affected by a Church committed to the message of Jesus Christ and not to the ugly specter of privilege, power, and punch-drunk machismo it currently is — the dissonance between Evangelical governorship and its tax-funded killing spree would prompt outrage or, better, fasting and mourning.

Sackcloth and ashes would be more appropriate for Governor Perry than polished leather cowboy boots with “LIBERTY” embroidered on them, in other words.

But this is the United States of America, where the Jesus worshiped in the public square too often is a “savior” entirely foreign to the New Testament, entirely absent from the Blessed Trinity, and entirely uninterested in reconciling humankind to Yahweh. So the well-churched GOP seems entirely unconcerned that the most conservative member of a conservative Supreme Court stayed the execution because of his outrage over the sentencing, wherein the fact that Buck is a Black man was said to legitimately represent a greater danger to the public should he ever be freed from prison. Too subtle for you? The fact is, Duane Buck was sentenced to death and not to life in prison without parole because he’s a Black man, and the assumption that that made him more dangerous prevailed.

If that doesn’t make you flinch in horror, your soul is calloused and your heart hardened. That includes Rick Perry,

And then last night brought about the shameful execution of Troy Davis, a Georgia man convicted of killing a cop. But seven of nine witnesses had retracted their testimonies against him, and even the prosecution acknowledged doubts regarding his guilt. There was no DNA evidence linking him to the murder; another man confessed to the crime. Davis, also Black, maintained his innocence until the State killed him late last night. Even William Sessions, former director of the FBI, objected to his execution. Davis’ lawyer rightly called it a legal lynching. And Davis’ message to his executioners?

“May God have mercy on your souls.”

The State of Georgia has killed an innocent man, it appears, and the State of Texas was eager to kill a man sentenced to death because he was Black. And if none of the religiously-saturated, cross-draped-in-the-flag GOP candidates don’t at least question Davis’ execution and affirm the rightness of Buck’s stay of execution, they show themselves to be nothing more than pretenders to the throne of Christian leadership. I would not want to be one of them, however, at the great white Throne of Jesus Christ. Indeed, may God have mercy on their souls — and on ours if we remain silent.

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