In a recent “Breakpoint” Chuck Colson tells us that he was bothered by something at a recent political debate. (Those things aren’t really debates, but that is another matter.) The thing that bothered Chuck was what Rick Perry said when he was asked about being worried about the innocence of people recently executed in Texas for murder. As Colson reports this:
… the governor instantly replied, “I’ve never struggled with that at all.” He cited what he called Texas’ “very clear process” and added that “if you come into our state and you kill one of our children” or “kill a police officer” or “one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas.”
Colson thinks this answer is too flippant. He thinks Perry was taking the whole idea of capital punishment (which Colson does not, in principle, oppose) too lightly. My main point here is not to defend Perry on this matter. But at these “debates” there is really not time to treat much of anything with the depth that most such things deserve.
But something that bothered Colson even more was the reaction of the audience. After Perry’s answer, the crowd cheered. As Colson comments:
“it certainly shouldn’t be the occasion for cheering as the crowd in California audience did twice. If the governor’s response troubled me, the crowd’s cheering chilled me.”
Colson goes on to say, in several ways, that this response is un-Christian. I’m not so sure.
Of course, I can’t know what was in the hearts and mind of Perry and those in the crowd. But cheering for capital punishment might not be cheering for the demise of a human being, even one guilty of murder. It might be an expression of approval for the idea that those who intentionally take the life of an innocent person will be required to pay the appropriate – and I would add, Biblically appropriate – penalty for murder.
We live in a society that sometimes winks at murder. We often protect murders rather than their victims.
So perhaps at least some of those cheering were Christians, Chuck. Maybe you just missed the point.