Dear In Communion reader,
One of the topics discussed in this issue is how often we prefer justice, as humanly understood, to forgiveness and mercy. For Fr. Stephen Freeman, the matter isn’t an abstract question. Two members of his family were victims of murder. Similar wounds exist in many American families, mine among then. I still grieve over the death of my stepmother, whose life was cut short by a bullet as she stood waiting for a bus in San Francisco.
It is stories like these which, most notably in the United States, help explain the widespread support for the death penalty an urgent longing to “settle the score.”
One never has to travel far in the U.S. to find a Christian church of one sort or another. They often stand side by side. Yet the cross on each church is rarely seen by Christians or anyone else as a symbol of capital punishment or as an invitation to become a life-protecting people.
Of course it isn’t only Americans. While capital punishment has been outlawed in most countries, there are many ways, direct and indirect, to kill our neighbor. No matter where we live, it is a day-by-day struggle to become guardians of life.
How odd we 21st century Christians would seem to our forebears in the early Church! For hundreds of years, Christians even those who were judges understood they could not be baptized unless they first committed themselves to have no part in anyone’s execution.
It is part of the work of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship to recall such forgotten traditions and disciplines in the hope that the Church might once again be known for its love of enemies.
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Thank you for whatever you can manage.
In Christ’s peace,
Fall 2009 issue of In Communion / IC 54