But unlike some commenters this morning, I can derive no glee from his execution.
I have no desire to debate the issue of capital punishment here. Once upon a time, I was utterly opposed to it. Today, I would describe my attitude as ambivalent about it. I recognize that there may be some whose crimes are so heinous and who are so remorseless, that the state is within its right to take their lives. Stanley Tookie Williams seems to have been one of those people.
I have no argument with the prosecutors, jury, appeal judges, or Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in the decisions they've made. They did their duties as they saw fit and seemed to do so with appropriate gravity.
But I describe myself as being pro-life. I'm not using that term politically here. (Although when I ran for the Ohio House of Representatives last year, I did have the endorsement of all the right-to-life groups.) I mean to say that life is a gift from God. I mean to say that the taking of another life is a gravely serious matter.
I can think of situations when the taking of life is unavoidable--an intruder threatens a loved one, or an attacker kills many in an act of war, just to name two examples. But as a Christian, I have a bias for the protection, the preservation, and the nurturing of every human life.
This is why I've found the past several weeks' almost gleeful pleading for Williams' execution by people who describe themselves as pro-life so disturbing.
And I find it difficult to understand the near-celebratory attitudes of some of these same people in speaking of his execution early this morning.
It seems to me that it's one thing to advocate capital punishment, and a legitimate thing, but quite another to appear to enjoy it when it's used.
This is no time for glee, but a time for everybody, no matter what their feelings about capital punishment or about Stanley Tookie Williams, to pray that the glorification of violence endemic to our culture these days will be destroyed by the power of the God of peace Who came to us on a Bethlehem night long ago.
It's only the God-Man Jesus Christ Who can transform hearts darkened by sin and give us all such an appreciation for the humanity of others that murder will become unthinkable and capital punishment rendered unnecessary.
Of course, it would be naive to think that violence or murder will cease to be part of the human experience. The last people to succumb to such naivete should be believers in the God of the Bible. After the first human parents, Adam and Eve, fell into sin, one consequence was that one of their sons, Cain, murdered another, Abel. The condition of human sin, that state of alienation from God and neighbor, into which we all are born, means that, until Jesus returns to the earth, there will be other Cains...and other Stanley Tookie Williamses.
But I have seen much evidence that when Jesus Christ enters the lives of once-violent people, transformations begin to happen. So, as a Christian, I intend to do three essential things following Williams' execution:
- I intend to keep praying that God will open the wills of those hardened by sin and to send the Prince of peace to them in ways of God's choosing in order to begin softening them.
- I intend to ask God, as Jesus commands, to send "workers into the harvest," that is, people who will share Christ with those whose lives are ripe for living with God.
- I intend to try, in my imperfect and sin-infested way, to share Christ with others.