At the Root of Nonviolence Is Hope

Hi there, friends. So, I've been hemming and hawing about posting something here that's been on my mind the last few days.

In some ways, as you'll soon see, this is the most obvious place to talk about it.

But in other ways, it presses one very hot button.

Sheesh, does it!


This means it could spark some lively discussion among our JTN tribe, which I would gladly welcome and expect you would too.

Especially because I think we all value what we can learn from each other's perspectives and have learned to uphold a gracious dialogue here.

But it also could invite some search-engine traffic from those who are less -- or in no way -- given to the path of nonviolence we trod.


So, let's be honest.

In a space exploring a subject like ours, we're bound to witness a level of engagement like that eventually.

It just hasn't happened yet.

And I wonder if we're ready for it now.

More to the point, I wonder if I'm ready for it now.

This is when walking the nonviolent path out loud begins to feel altogether daunting.


But there are very real questions about this journey that need to be raised if we're to stay intellectually honest with ourselves as we walk it.

And I, for one, want to explore those questions out loud with pilgrims like you.

That's one of the main reasons I created this space to begin with.

And really, what's to be gained by avoiding the real and hard questions when they come up?

I don't want to limit my journey to the antiseptic roadways.

Do you?


With that said, then, let's give it a try, shall we?

And if the conversation takes an ugly turn because of uncharitable visitors, I'll try to determine -- perhaps with your help -- the best way to handle it.

Sound good?




I'd like us to try our hand at a discussion of capital punishment.


Perhaps you heard about the man who was executed in Utah on Friday.

His name was Ronnie Lee Gardner, and he was sentenced to the death penalty in 1985.

At the time, he was allowed to choose the manner in which he would die.

He chose death by firing squad.


It's a grotesque story, and I'll let Google fill you in on the details if it interests you to seek them out.

But it was this detail of the firing squad that made my breath catch in my throat.

(Well, that and learning that the Utah governor tweeted about the event as it happened. That is utterly strange and hard for me to understand.)


But as for the firing squad, I tried to imagine the men who were given those triggers to pull.

I learned later that they were all volunteers.

Really, that just made it more difficult for me to fathom their experience.

I also learned that one of their rifles carried a blank.

This prevented each of them from knowing for sure if their shot carried one of the fatal woundings.


I couldn't help but wonder, as I considered those men:

  • What was it like for them to turn a rifle on a man sitting in a chair before them, totally defenseless?
  • What was it like for them to pull their triggers and watch him die?

Truthfully, I just couldn't stomach those images.

Maybe you can't either.

And I knew in that singular moment of revulsion:

I just can't get behind capital punishment.


Am I naive to feel this way?

Not to get on board with "an eye for an eye"?

Not to say, "He deserves that kind of death because he forced death on another"?


I'm sure that's what some would say of me.

That I'm naive.

Or that I care nothing for the victims and what they suffered if I hold this view.

(Although on that point, nothing could be further from the truth.)


I guess it surprised me to notice how far I truly am from espousing capital punishment.

And this is what I've realized is the reason why:

At the root of nonviolence is hope.

Hopes carries with it the possibility of change.

Of an honest reckoning inside someone's soul.

Of conversion of heart and spirit.

Hope carries with it the possibility of repentance.


But capital punishment carries none of those things.

It carries only a relinquishment of hope.

It roots itself in the idea that someone is finished.

That change is not possible for them.

Or that change -- if it is possible -- is undeserved.

In short, it's about totally giving up hope on someone's life -- so much that we'd choose to end it.


Do we want to be people who believe those things -- about anybody?

I don't.


But I'm curious to know what you think about this.

Do you have any opinions about capital punishment?

Would you be willing to share them with us?