Jesus taught his followers to love their enemies and to forgive. How can these messages of compassion be reconciled with a policy of putting to death those whom we have judged to be wrongdoers against society? Walter Long, a defense attorney for Texas death row inmates, says that they cannot. He wrestles with the apparent contradiction between the teachings of Jesus and widespread tolerance for government violence in a state where most citizens identify themselves as Christian. He explores the impact of a particular execution of great renown—the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth—and looks for his own understanding of that event, of the man and his message, and of the followers who formed the church after his death. In a provocative essay, he returns to the basics of how Jesus taught us to live and how those instructions may encourage us to be actively faithful in our world today. Discussion questions included.
About the Author(s)
Walter Long is a member of the Friends Meeting of Austin, which he has attended since the mid-1980s when the meet- ing declared itself a sanctuary for Central American refugees. The meeting has a lengthy history of advocating for mat- ters of conscience and human rights, and it currently has a very active death penalty committee. As a criminal defense attorney, Walter has represented Texas death row inmates in state and federal habeas corpus appeals. He also founded the Texas After Violence Project (www.texasafterviolence.org), an independent oral history and human rights project designed to listen empathetically, carefully, and without judgment to people directly touched by serious violence, the criminal jus- tice system, incarceration, and executions in Texas. The project films and transcribes their stories and then archives the stories in the University of Texas Libraries and makes them available to the public. The project seeks to foster deep listening and exchange among all Texans affected by violence so that they collaboratively may find the means to build a less violent and more just community.
Pendle Hill Pamphlet #408