Today I went to a small event with Sr. Helen Prejean, an outspoken advocate against the death penalty. She is in Eugene for the opera of “Dead Man Walking.”
The opera follows her original book, the album, and the play.
I could recount much of here talk and answers to questions, but I want to focus on something she emphasized concerning the public discourse on the death penalty: it is about us. She recounted a death row prisoner who was asked by a prosecutor: “Can you give me one reason why we shouldn’t put you to death after you murdered four people?” He responded: “Yes, I can give you one reason: because you’re better than me.” This poignant exchange highlights that executions say as much—if not more—about us as a people who enact the death penalty than it does about the executed.
Years ago I belonged to a congregation that was supporting some refugee families from Cambodia. The one who organized their support was asked by a member of the congregation if these families were Christians. Her reponse was right to the point: “We are not helping these families because they are Christians, but because we are Christians.”