Straddling the Tookie Fence

No need to explain who Tookie is. We all know what went down Tuesday morning at 12:01. I watched the HBO film entitled Redemption starring Jamie Foxx (Mr. Williams’ life story) that same day, but you never really know how acurate those movies are…much like Hurricane with Denzel. Tookie’s life before prison was packed with more sex, drugs, and violence than you or I could ever imagine. I once read the autobiography of Sanyika Shakur who, like Stanley Williams, was an ex-L.A. gang member. The words on the pages were horrific…to say the least. I was about eighteen when I attempted to read it. By the mid-way point, I was too disturbed to continue. I took the book to a trash can somewhere in Lexington and threw it in. Later, I returned to fetch it out because I remembered that I had been using a twenty dollar bill as a bookmark…but I digress. The lives of these men were insanely appalling and deserved to be punished, which they were. I would, however, like to briefly discuss two issues.

If Redemption is completely accurate (which I truly doubt it is)…then I must say that the original intent of Stanley Williams and his friend, when founding the organization that later became known as the Cryps, was a noble and understandable cause. These men came from a place where you could not take your life for granted. It was a struggle to stay alive, much less, healthy and prosperous. In the movie, it is explained that Tookie started the group for protection…protection for themselves, family, and friends. Why? Because they desperately needed it. You as Lexingtonians and myself as a Nicholasvillian have no idea of the life this culture is forced to live. Who wouldn’t be completely terrified to drive through an area like Harlem, or Cabrinin Green, East St. Louis, or Compton…TRY LIVING THERE. To be honest, I would feel the same need for some sort of protection if I were in their shoes. When the government regards you as a “self-cleaning oven,” then you are forced to fend for yourselves. The lives of the people involved in this scene are uncomprehendable. I took in an ex-gang member from New York for quite some time…actually a close friend. I was literally speechless after the stories he would tell me. We assign valor to groups of people or communities who do this very thing but with different situations (like war). At what lengths would you go to ensure the safetly of you and your loved ones? Now, I will say, the evolution of the original creation is vile beyond belief. Do not think that I believe otherwise. (Keep in mind that this all depends on whether the testimony of Redemption is accurate). Let’s move on.

Capital Punishment. Right or Wrong? I’ll go ahead and tell you that I ride the fence on this issue. I grew up a stanchly conservative baptist which naturally leads to a stanchly pro-capital punishment conviction. I never questioned it…never really gave it the time of day…until I saw a bumper sticker that said this:

We kill people who kill people to teach them that killing people is wrong.
This is a logical argument. However, I know that a lot of things in Scripture are not logical. I also see in Scripture that Jesus taught mercy and grace and forgiveness. Honestly, I can’t see the Son of God pulling the lever or inserting the needle. But I do understand what the Old Testament teaches. Take this verse in Exodus for example: “Whoever sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God made He man.” In fact, I found it beneficial to read this article by John McArthur. I just don’t know. I understand that their is no confusion in the mind of God, but it seems that the Old and New Testaments teach different principles on the matter. I must also keep in mind that in Romans 13, Paul teaches that we must obey and respect the governing authorities.
Anyway, what I would like from the blognation is a one word comment. I would rather not have to read any dissertations…that is what your blog is for. But I would appreciate your opinion expressed in one of three words, “pro” “anti” or “fence.” I think it would be interesting to see where the blognation stands. Thank you for your time.

18 Responses

  1. pro

  2. “fence” although I see passages like Romans 13 that say we must submit because governmental authority comes from God and that authority does not carry a sword (or uses lethal injection) in vain. On the other hand I have a hard time with the idea that criminals die without the oppurtunity to hear the gospel. But then again we are sinful creatures and we are aware of what we are doing, and I have no idea of the christian influences in williams life, so I am still ridin that fence.
    I do take issue with those Christians who claim that to kill em all is the biblical justification for captial punishment. The issue recquires much sensitivity and careul Scriptural attention.

    You made some excellent point Smitty, it needed to be said.

  3. Quote from Smitty:
    “Anyway, what I would like from the blognation is a one word comment. I would rather not have to read any dissertations…that is what your blog is for. But I would appreciate your opinion expressed in one of three words, “pro” “anti” or “fence.””

    Justin, what didn’t you understand about that?

    Just kidding buddy

  4. Pro, if the crime is murder. I also think we should bring back the gallows or the thing with the blade that cuts off people’s heads. I GUARANTEE you the crime rate goes way down, and you eliminate the need to even have the death penalty or minimize it. Look at Singapore, I think, as an example

  5. anti

  6. Fence.

  7. Pro, in cases where there is absolutely no doubt as to the person’s guilt in a first degree murder case. No other case, I would argue, deserves the death penalty. Good post, Smitty.

  8. fence

  9. thanks for the love guys…and mel.

  10. fence

  11. jon in fact in countries where the death penalty is strongly enforced the crime rate is roughly the same as those without or minimal capital punishment. drug dealers for instance in a few South American countries live under a system of law that says invovlement in a drug ring in punishable by death. The thing is though, the drug business is a ruthless business and do you think that those involved in drugs do not feel that the threat is not from the law but from the lawless executions (and probably torture) for those in their own business.
    That though is the law in other countries and not here i was just siting an example.

  12. also Singapore’s culture is what breeds their abhorrence of crime. They see those who commit crimes as someone who is the scum of the earth, the worst imaginable not-human thing they can think of. There is also a lack of a thing in Singapore called due process.

  13. Let me retract the “guarantee” b/c that was overkill. I was just trying to say that I think the whole “cruel and unusual” punishment thing would help the crime rate. I look at the world today and realize that so many heinous crimes are committed, but due justice isn’t paid by our legal system. We have people who get away with stealing, perjury, murder, rape, etc. and they get jail time. People are gettin away with crime and enjoying a free life in jail all on the tax payer’s behalf. I just don’t see going to jail a legit punishment. It doesn’t scare anybody any more. It’s not like we have dungeons like back in the days Paul. Jail today is luxurious compared to then. Why would anyone be afraid?
    But, say the automatic penalty for theft was the chopping off of one’s hand. Say the penalty for rape included getting your genitals cut off. Say the penalty for brutally attacking and assaulting someone was a whipping or scourging. Say the automatic penalty for murder was instant death by electric chair, gas chamber, hanging, guillotine, draw and quartering, or crucifixion. What then? I think most Americans would be petrified. I wouldn’t be able to say 100% positively that this would solve crime problems, but I know within a shadow of a doubt that most people I come in contact with wouldn’t dare commit a crime if the consequences were stronger. That was my point.
    Oh, and one more thing. There will always be the few exceptions to the rule. Those that make millions of bucks that can pay their way out of a punishment will probably still be involved in crime, but the risks will be much higher. This includes the example of drug lords. This is all just my opinion though for whatever it’s worth.

  14. Anti.

    Used to be pro, some years ago, but that was when I was naive and didn’t think the justice system made mistakes.

  15. PRO.
    Capital crime deserves capital punishment. I could make several Scriptural arguments for it, but I couldn’t make many scriptural arguments strictly against the death penalty.

    When Pilate told Jesus he had the authority to have Jesus killed, Jesus simply responded that that authority was granted to Pilate by God, otherwise he wouldn’t have it. He didn’t say that using that authority in that sense was wrong. Echoed in Romans 13, I think.

    I think the bumper sticker only sounds like a logical argument against the death penalty.

    I don’t know where Justin got his stats on crime rate. Death penalty has been shown in the U.S. as somewhat deterring to crime, but only if consistently carried out. Many states pardon, or simply drag out the process enough so that the penalty is more of a threat than an actual reality, so it does little to deter crime.

    Abortion has recently been shown to be a much stronger correlating factor in reducing the crime rate.

    I don’t support the death penalty simply because it deters crime, but because it makes sense, and is shown to be Biblically reasonable. I oppose abortion because it’s murder.

  16. let us remember that jail is not officially called punishment, but it is a reforming mechanism to preapre those who commit crimes to return them to society better people.
    Tapp – my stats came from my criminology text. I think the studies were conducted in states that use the death penalty. which is like 40+. most of these states have had such a death penalty for more then 50 years, and yet I am willing to bet that the crime rate is growing. In the U.S. today there are less then 500 people on death row, out of a total prison population of nearly 3 million. i do not know why that is important it is just some crap i thought i would share.
    I think the point is CP is not going to deter people that much from committing crime, and neither is prison. The only way the guilty will truly be held accountable is either in judgment, or held by the cross. I hate to see people die, it is not a pleasant thing, but i do hate to see crime and its effects on the world. But in a sinful world there is a serious lack of peace.

  17. bro, it sounds to me that a lot of things you grew up believing have been up in the air recently. Am I right???

  18. maybe

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