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  • Writer's pictureGreg Dover

Greg's Weekly Word: "capital"

Not this...

Capital letters

Or this...

Investment capital

Or this...

That's THE Capitol (with an "o")

This is a little closer...

Capital literally means "of or pertaining to the head," and so has come to mean primary, main, most important, or first-rate (i.e. really good or special). Which I suppose applies in each of the above examples.

Just this past week, the governor of South Carolina signed a bill into law that has to do with capital punishment (i.e. the highest or main consequence). A shortage of lethal injection drugs has affected the state's ability to implement the death penalty. Death row inmates have chosen to die by lethal injection, leading to an effective halt in executions. As a result, South Carolina has not executed anyone in a decade. Under the new law, however, if lethal injection is not available, prisoners must choose between being executed either by a firing squad or by the electric chair.

Personally, I do not support the death penalty, regardless of the form. This comes from my belief that every person is a child of God - created in God's image - which makes every life sacred. And I do not believe it is anyone's right to take another person's life...especially since I am a follower of Jesus, who himself was a victim of capital punishment.

Artist's rendering of Jesus's execution

What bothers me about this new law, though, is not just that it allows capital punishment. South Carolina was already one of 27 states that allow it, and one of 8 that still have the electric chair. What grieves me deeply is the fact that lawmakers took action to make sure the state could execute people. Put simply, they couldn't let people not be killed.

And if lawmakers truly are "representatives" of the people, then how does this law represent our collective need for violence and revenge? And how does it reflect on our society that we cannot allow people (granted, people who have been found guilty of terrible crimes, but still people) to live? I am concerned by what this law says. But even more so, I am concerned by what it says about us as a society.

I hope and pray we can do the hard but holy work of honoring life...even the lives of those we deem guilty, bad, or evil.

I hope and pray we can rise to the call to pursue God's just mercy.

I hope and pray for the day (to paraphrase the prophet Isaiah) when we will not only beat swords into plowshares, but also guns into garden tools, transforming them from instruments of death into implements of life... when will we no longer take up swords (or syringes) against each other... when we will learn of war - and executions - no more.

Because to me, that sounds like a capital idea.


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