I recently read Walter Long’s small pamphlet An Art of Small Resurrections: Surviving the Texas Death Chamber. Long works as a defense attorney for death row inmates in Texas. In the pamphlet, he asks: “Can those of us who come from the Christian tradition primarily think of our faith as a strategy for compassionate living?”
The answer is yes! Being fearlessly compassionate means we must face the evils in the world, even when it’s difficult, just like Jesus did. When we feel our strength waning, Jesus has offered us clues in remaining persistent in our often despairing fight against capital punishment:
- Be fearless.
- Remain within a spiritually and emotionally supportive community (in pairs at a minimum).
- Understand that the world’s spiritual and political powers are always potentially violent.
- Recognize and resist the constant temptation to rejoin the pack that believes violence is the answer.
- Approach fear by risking everything while being as strategically prescient as those who are wrapped up in violence.
- Bring the peaceable kingdom, our home, along on each step of the journey.
- Remain in constant movement, summoning forgiveness and reconciliation at all times, in every encounter with others, while avoiding temptations through stasis and complacency.
The call to non-violence is not limited to believers alone. As Long writes, “Whether or not we believe in a transcendent God, we may find that a meaningful path is offered in Jesus’s wager to risk everything in compassion. This would mean always bringing oneself into the constant presence of the world’s violence in such a way as to encourage dialogue and reconciliation rather than acceptance or rationalization. It would include doing the best we can to realize the peaceable kingdom within the single and wonderful life that bounds our experience now, in this day, in this moment.”
Whether we come from the Christian tradition or another background, we are here on this earth to bring peace. All of us can use the example of the brave and loving Jesus to guide us in our battle to end the death penalty.
Walter Long’s pamphlet is available from Quaker Books.