Daniel Siebert is 53 and dying of Pancreatic cancer.
But Alabama state authorities want to kill him before the cancer does.
Siebert is a convicted murderer on death row. If he is not executed he is not expected to live more than a few weeks. But not if Alabama Governor Rob Riley can help it. He has refused to intervene in Siebert's execution. "I would in essence be commuting his sentence to life in prison and that is not the sentence he was given by a jury," Mr Riley said. "His crimes were monstrous, brutal and ghastly." I wonder how we can so have lost our humanity that we want to kill a dying person.
Even more bizarre is the story of convicted murderer, Jimmy Bland. In June, Oklahoma state put to death 49-year-old Bland who was suffering from advanced cancer of the lung. The state went so far as to pay for Bland's chemotherapy to keep him alive.....so that he could be executed!
This has nothing to do with justice, and everything to do with revenge.
And we in South Africa know this feeling: there have been many moments when members of the public have called for the re-instatement of the death penalty: most recently after the senseless death of Lucky Dube. Some deeply religious people support this, arguing that it is ordained by God that murderers be executed. Personally I do not understand how killing someone teaches us not to kill.
I find the Genesis 4 parable of Cain and Abel very helpful. Cain killed his brother Abel. But the story does not call for Cain to be killed. We read of a God who refuses to kill the murderer. This does not mean that Cain escapes the consequences of his action: he is banished from his community and goes to live “east of Eden”....where he is allowed a fresh beginning at life. This is how God deals with human sin: we are granted the Grace to begin again.
And I am so grateful: because I have killed...and deserve punishment: this might not have been a physical action, but I have known murderous thoughts about someone, and participated in the character assassination of someone else. I am guilty and should be murdered in turn (metaphorically speaking). But Grace is extended, so that I can learn from my mistakes.
Has the time not come to move away from murdering the murderer? Godly action is all about rehabilitating those who sin. But I suspect that the desire for revenge is far stronger than the desire for a renewed world....and so humanity will continue to want to kill killers.