No-Mercy Killing

Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all ... Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17, 21)

Repaying evil for evil -- an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life -- is neither new nor peculiar to U.S. society. In terms of secular justice in this fallen world, the unusual element in John Spenkelink's execution in Florida's electric chair on the morning of May 25 was not that he was killed against his will. The unusual element was that he was the first such prisoner in 12 years to become the victim of premeditated murder by a U.S. state.

In terms of God's justice in a world redeemed through the body and blood of Jesus Christ, however, there are a number of unusual, if not shocking, elements in Spenkelink's execution.

Foremost is the fact that, from all reports, two-thirds of the people in nominally Christian America applauded his execution in the name of "justice" and "deterrence."

People appeared to be more shocked and grieved by the deaths of 274 persons on American Airlines flight 191 that same day. But one wonders if God might bear a different and deeper kind of grief for the cool technological success in Starke, Florida, than for the fiery technological failure in Chicago.

Capital punishment has returned. It would be redundant to say with a vengeance. The doors are now open for the execution of as many as 40 others by the end of the year; there could be 100 executions a year in the 1980s, taking us back to the peak years of capital punishment in the U.S. -- the post-lynching, Depression years of the 1930s.

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