A senseless activity

During the early hours of Wednesday, February 9, 2011, just after mid-night, Martin Link was executed by the State of Missouri. Why? No reason other than he committed one of the few murders which result in a death sentence in Missouri – about 1 percent.

An individual taking revenge on a person who murdered a loved one is an illegal activity. The state taking revenge on that murderer is a senseless activity, completely absent any meaning. Killing someone who is defenseless and poses no threat to society defies explanation.

There are more than 40 men on death row in Missouri. (I invite you to name two.) These are men the state can’t wait to execute. But to what end? Who knows their names or what crime they are guilty of committing?

Mr. Link’s crime needed to be spelled out in several newspaper articles and TV reports over the weeks prior to his execution.  If he was such a menace to the life and welfare of any of our fellow citizens, you’d think his presence among us would have been top of mind everyday for the past 20 years.

To be sure, his crime was most distasteful, violent, and devoid of any public sympathy. I’ll let the reader Google his name for the details. During my 2-1/2 years of visiting him on a regular basis, I was unaware of his crime. Seldom am I aware of the crimes of any of the men I minister to in solitary confinement.

I intentionally choose to not research offenders’ crimes. No matter how hard I try, it is difficult to avoid being judgmental. Meeting them where they are and as they are is what I’m called to do as a volunteer chaplain in two of Missouri’s maximum security prisons.

Getting to know Marty Link was a privilege for me, and to have him as a companion on a small segment of my faith journey. My comments at his prayer service prior to his burial on Friday, February 11 are linked here.

Let us all pray for wisdom and maturity among our elected officials so that an end to capital punishment can be achieved in our states and nation. We are becoming more and more alone in the world in our inability to forgive and open the door to redemption. Denying access to repentance and a life of meaning, even in prison, doesn’t reflect what this country stands for.

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