I can’t think of very many people more deserving of the death penalty than Dylann Roof. He is a remorseless murderer… A demented and deceived white supremacist who walked into a historic black Church and took the lives of nine people who welcomed him into their prayer service. In his prison journal, this racist, hate-filled killer wrote, “I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed. I do feel sorry for the innocent white children forced to live in this sick country… I did not regret what I did. I am not sorry. I do feel sorry for the innocent white people that are killed daily at the hands of the lower races.” Even mentioning his name feels like a betrayal of the rules of common decency. He is a coward and a killer, and he is–without a doubt–one of the worst examples of humanity this world has to offer.
But that doesn’t mean we should kill him. Here are three reasons why…
1. IT’S CLEARLY WHAT HE WANTS. And we don’t give people like him what he wants. The whole reason he decided to serve as his own attorney is because he wanted to assure that there was no attempt to portray him as mentally unfit to stand trial. Whether or not he committed these murders is not being disputed… In a death penalty case, basically the only thing that could save his life is an insanity defense. Normal people look at his actions and think, “Only a madman could do something like this.” But he wants to normalize his white supremacy, his hatred, and his horrific acts of violence… Even at the cost of his life. His self defense is yet another continued act of violence against People of Color. He wants to be a martyr for his shitty, diseased “cause.” Being killed is what he wants… And we don’t give murderous madmen attempting to start a race war what they want.
2. YOU DON’T GET OFF THAT EASY. Not the killer… YOU. The reader. And neither do I. Dylann Roof is a reminder of the pure evil that is white supremacy. He is a reminder of the thriving cancer that is racism in the United States. He is a reminder of what happens when lies are passed along as the truth. He is a reminder of how wallowing in the cesspools of online Alt-Right hatred and bigotry can poison a person’s mind and soul. And what people would LIKE to do is to attach our nation’s sins to this young man’s scapegoat body, and send it off to die. They want to believe themselves when they say, “I’m not racist.” “I mean, sure–Maybe I don’t want my kids going to school with a bunch of blacks… Maybe I’m not super happy about THOSE PEOPLE moving into OUR neighborhood… Maybe I assume they deserve all those disproportionate police beatings… And killings… But I’m not like THAT. THAT’S what racism is! That guy needs to die.” Well, screw you, dude–You’re not getting off that easy. You don’t get to ease your mind with another sacrificial lamb. The horrific things he did–Those things are where racism leads. All this “Mexican rapists” talk, all this “moratorium on Islamic immigrants” talk, all this demonization of the Black Lives Matter movement… THIS IS WHERE THAT SHIT GOES! You think the Holocaust just “happened?” It started with nationalism, a fascist leader, blaming of “The Other” for all of society’s problems, and the tacit support of the Church. The thing that caused a young man to feel like murdering nine black people in a Church was “worth it” is POISON… But make no mistake–It is the same poison that has seeped into the Cabinet of our President Elect. You want to kill something? Kill the Dylann Roof in your own heart.
3. IT’S JUST NOT RIGHT. I’m sorry. It’s not. We don’t bully people who bully people to show them that bullying people is wrong. We don’t rape people who rape people to show them that raping people is wrong. And we don’t kill people who kill people to show them that killing people is wrong. It doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. We have to break the cycle of this mythical concept of redemptive violence. You don’t reap love from more hatred, and you don’t reap peace from yet another act of violence. And it ESPECIALLY doesn’t make sense if you are a person who is calling yourself a “Christian.”
Now… It should be noted that I am speaking here as a Christian. And I confess that never in my life have I ever felt further away from that word–“Christian”–than I have felt since this past presidential election… Where people calling themselves “Christians” (I call them “Christianists”) delusionally elected a different brand of “worst example of humanity this world has to offer” as our leader. I am not a Christian like that. Not even close. I am so far from that brand of Christianity that I can barely even speak the same language anymore. It’s gotten to where if people identify themselves as a “Christian,” I assume we have more differences than similarities. But still I hang onto that word… “Christian.” I’m not sure why. For most of the church, the word “Christian” has been more important than the word (and person of) Jesus for a very long time. So, if this is your first time reading something I wrote, you should know that when I say “I am a Christian,” I am speaking as the sort of Jesus follower who believes…
- Black Lives Matter
- Love Is Love
- Women’s Rights Are Human Rights
- We Need To Love Our Neighbors–And Muslims Are Our Neighbors
- No Human Being Is Illegal
- Science Is Not A Liberal Conspiracy
- Healthcare Is A Human Right
- We Need To Take Care Of This Planet
- Global Warming Is Real
- Social Justice Is Not A Dirty Word–It’s What We Were Made For
- Government Is Able To Make Things Better
- Easy Access To Guns Does Not Make Us Safer
- Bad Theology Gets People Killed
- The Idea Of An Eternal Hell Turns God Into A Monster
- Journalism And Education Can Save The World
- We Are Called To Love Our Enemies, And We Don’t Do That By Killing Them
But even if you’re not the sort of Christian who considers buying one of the bumper stickers above, there is no denying that Jesus declared an END to the old system of revenge, retribution, and “An eye for an eye” way of doing things. Listen… This thought–“He doesn’t deserve to live”–is exactly the thought that led to the shootings at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina. People who follow Jesus are a people of hope… And the death penalty is the death of hope. When people wished hell on the Boston Marathon bombers, I wrote that You’re Not A Christian If you wish eternal torture on someone else. It doesn’t matter how evil the act–I do not wish death on him. It doesn’t make things “right.” It makes them even more wrong. And I don’t wish prison on him in the hopes that it will somehow be a fate worse than death either (as I’ve seen many people do). I do not wish him rape… or torture… or despair so overwhelming that he takes his own life. And I do not wish him a quick journey to the eternal fires of some mythical hell… I wish him restoration. I wish him redemption. I wish him re-birth. I wish him a renewing of his hate-addled mind. In this life, or–if there is one–the next.
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And, although it is unfathomable to mere humans; God cares as much about him as he does an innocent new born. People are supposed to recognize Christians by their love.
Food for thought. I’ve never been pro death penalty, but at times you just shrug your shoulders and say who cares if they kill *that* guy. The last time I felt this way was with Timothy McVey. And here’s the thing: I wasn’t even sure if McVeigh’s execution was ever carried out. I had to look it up. After a while, the horrible act becomes a name – McVeigh, Dahmer, Harris & Klebold, Lanza, etc. I honestly don’t think it matters if Roof is executed. Once he’s sentenced, he’s out of the news and if his execution ever happens, people won’t even know. We’ll have 20 more Dylann Roof’s between now and then. Sorry, feeling cynical.
This is the kind of article I value your blog so very much for, and I hope too that Dylann Roof will find redemption and rebirth.
This is good. This helps me remember my moral grounding, and that while hate is a temptation, love is a decision. I thoroughly hate what Roof did. I am grieved beyond emotion at the deaths of these nine brothers and sisters in my faith. But if I want to kill Roof in order to show my hatred and grief, how then am I representing a God who is redemptive even as he is just?
I wish I could agree with you. I am normally dead set against the death penalty, but this guy needs to be taken off this earth. The sooner the better. He does not deserve to take even one more breath.
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I am not a Christian, but endorse all some of its values. ‘You want to kill something? Kill the Dylann Roof in your own heart.’ is the most prescient , powerful sentence.
Thank you. 🙂
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