Uni and I moved to Oklahoma six years ago, to live closer to our daughter and her family, as well as to be a day closer to our siblings and their families in Michigan, where we had both grown up. We had spent most of our lives in Texas.
Oklahoma has taken some getting used to, but we've learned to love much about it. People are friendly here. No matter where we go, we always feel welcome and among friends - the neighborhood, our church, our doctor's and our dentist's offices, even the shopping mall where we walk when the weather is too hot, too cold or too wet.
It's not all peaches and cream, of course. Oklahoma is a RED state - both its politics and its dirt; there's always either red dust blowing or red mud flowing. So I have to hose off my porch frequently and I know my vote doesn't really count except as a protest.
I'm developing a little Okie pride.
We're in the national news again. This time, however, they're not praising us for the unity and care shown for tornado victims. The news this time is about something that brings shame to our state.
Two men who were convicted of horrible sadistic murders were scheduled to die by lethal injection this past Tuesday evening, April 29. Though the cases were unrelated, for some reason the executions had been scheduled for the same date - a sort of "double feature." The condemned men had both fought for a stay of execution based on the fact that the state refused to disclose the source of the lethal drugs to be used. They lost their appeal. The talking heads on the local news felt that this was fine, that these men did not deserve any such consideration.
But something went horribly wrong in the first execution. It's not clear yet exactly what happened - perhaps a vein was missed in the injection. But the condemned man took forty minutes to die! He struggled, even mumbled a few words. It was obvious to the observers that he was in great agony. Finally he died from what was apparently a massive heart attack.
The second execution was put on hold for two weeks. The governor promised an investigation.
But as if this whole deadly fiasco weren't horrid enough, the comments that were made afterward added to the horror and the shame. Most that I heard, whether by pundits, lawyers or TV call-ins, seemed to reveal feelings that what had occurred was a positive thing.
· It was Karma, some said: ”This man had caused his victim to suffer horribly, now he was simply receiving back what he had done."
· "This was real justice being done," some said.
· "We ought to do this to every murderer," said others - "then people will learn."
· When some spoke of the horror of this event, others said that we shouldn't forget the families of the victims.
Wait a minute! Do two wrongs make a right?
Oklahomans are concerned about our Second Amendment rights. The right "to keep and bear arms" is considered sacred and inviolable. But doesn't the Eighth Amendment have the same status? Isn't the prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment" just as sacred?
And Oklahoma is the buckle on the Bible Belt. There are churches on nearly every street corner. Where is Jesus in all of this? Didn't He tell us to love our enemies? We don't hear much of this in all of the conversation.
I'm not questioning here whether these men deserved the death penalty for their crimes. I am questioning whether we know what we're doing when we impose it. I am asking the question whether there might not be a better way.
I cannot put myself in the place of the victims or their families. I realize they have suffered horribly. But I cannot see how the suffering of the one who caused their suffering can bring them any comfort.
One of the call-ins asked (apparently tongue-in-cheek), if Jesus would have watched this scene and what He would have thought? I don't believe He would have demonstrated the glee that so many seemed to feel. I picture Him as He appears in the statue across from Oklahoma City's Monument - weeping.
Our Savior suffered a horrible execution that He did not deserve. On each side of Him hung men who apparently did deserve their penalty. His words to the one who turned to Him were, "... today you'll be with Me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).