Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Standing against capital punishment

This evening I joined about 25 people ranging in age from 18 months to 94 years old on the steps of the University of Georgia for a prayer vigil.  About 20 came from our community and there were a few folks from Athens there.  We unfurled a large banner that read, "Did you Know that the state of Georgia is planning to Kill Marcus Wellons tonight?" Smaller signs read, "Choose Life," "RIP Death Penalty" and "Execution is not the Solution." I stood with a sign that read, "Let the One without Sin Cast the First Stone" beside a friend who survived the Khmer rouge in Cambodia. She propped up a large banner that read "Execute Justice not People."We just stood there in the heat on the street, bearing witness to the fact that while we go about our business a man will be strapped to a gurney and have his life taken by lethal injection.  We wanted people to stop and think, "This is wrong."  Some people asked a few questions.  A few folks took pictures.  Some glared or looked puzzled, most gave affirming smiles and nods. 
From what I have heard, Marcus Wellons has changed a lot since the day he raped and murdered his fifteen year old neighbor.  The biggest change has been his growth as a follower of Jesus. What a tragedy that our society favors vengeance over redemption, recompense over forgiveness.  It seems to cheapen a belief that Jesus died for our sins if we support killing people for any sins.  Father, forgive them for they don't know what they are doing.
The vigil we attended was one of many across the state, organized by Georgians for Alternatives to of the Death penalty any day that an execution is scheduled in Georgia.  Find out more about their important work here http://www.gfadp.org/home
For more information about the death penalty this is a good site:www.deathpenaltyinfo.org

We closed our vigil by reading this prayer written by --Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J.:
Please join in praying for the victim's family, Marcus Wellons and his family, especially his mom, and the warden who will have to carry out the orders.
A Prayer to Abolish the Death Penalty
God of Compassion,
You let your rain fall on the just and the unjust.
Expand and deepen our hearts
so that we may love as You love,
even those among us
who have caused the greatest pain by taking life.
For there is in our land a great cry for vengeance
as we fill up death rows and kill the killers
in the name of justice, in the name of peace.
Jesus, our brother,
you suffered execution at the hands of the state
but you did not let hatred overcome you.
Help us to reach out to victims of violence
so that our enduing love may help them heal.
Holy Spirit of God,
You strengthen us in the struggle for justice.
Help us to work tirelessly
for the abolition of state-sanctioned death
and to renew our society in its very heart
so that violence will be no more. Amen.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

mulching and the danger of reading newspapers

 I was having a conversation with a friend about the need to fast from the news at times as a spiritual exercise.  I had also just loaned her a book of poetry by women called Cries of Spirit.  She asked if I had a favorite and I said no, it depends on the moment.  She likes Margaret Atwood so we turned to the index and found this title, "It is Dangerous to Read Newspapers."  It fit our conversation perfectly.  The following week I used newspapers to mulch a weed patch near my  house where I hope to grow some black raspberries.  Here is the poem that got scribbled from the intersection of our conversation, Atwood's poem (copied at the end), and my meager attempt at being a gardener.

Margaret Atwood wrote
And I agree
It is dangerous to read newspapers

So I gather the pages
To spread over
Broken down cardboard boxes
Where I hope
Next fall
To plant black raspberries
right outside my bedroom window

Like an addict
I say
I’ll just look at this  one
story of a beloved father killed by a fallen limb

story of a murder victim’s family hoping for no parole

picture of a mother found guilty for murder of her newborn infant son
                        her pregnancy a secret
                                    his murder now public
                                                she faces life behind bars
Have you seen this missing teen? Car found burned
Or this one? Has tattoo on neck
Or this one? Has pierced navel
Or this one? May have a hair weave

I spread out the pictures of
lavender lips
and beautiful food
and premium wines
the happy couple who sold their town home in just two weeks
and all the advice
and empty crossword puzzles
never started

I cover them with warm hay
So sweet in my nose
I want to cry

and walk away

I will return in fall
I will plant black raspberries
Small sticks in the ground will look dead at first

The newspaper will
be dirt under my nails
that will wash away

And here is Margaret Atwood's poem:

It is Dangerous to Read Newspapers
While I was building neat
castles in the sandbox,
the hasty pits were
filling with bulldozed corpses
and as I walked to the school
washed and combed, my feet
stepping on the cracks in the cement
detonated red bombs.
Now I am grownup
and literate, and I sit in my chair
as quietly as a fuse
and the jungles are flaming, the under-
brush is charged with soldiers,
the names on the difficult
maps go up in smoke.
I am the cause, I am a stockpile of chemical
toys, my body
is a deadly gadget,
I reach out in love, my hands are guns,
my good intentions are completely lethal.
Even my
passive eyes transmute
everything I look at to the pocked
black and white of a war photo,
can I stop myself
It is dangerous to read newspapers.
Each time I hit a key
on my electric typewriter,
speaking of peaceful trees
another village explodes.
(by Margaret Atwood, 1939-)