In the midst of the various news of January 10 – the anticipation of the farewell address by President Obama and anticipation of a news conference by President-Elect Trump, bad weather both locally and across the country, and international news of continued strife in Syria, in Israel and Palestine, in Central America. In the midst of that news was a fairly quiet piece about the sentencing of Dylann Roof to death for his crimes. Roof was convicted of murdering 9 people at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. It was clear that what he did was premeditated, planned out. Scarier than that, to me, was that he sat with those beloved children of God in a Bible study class for nearly an hour before he took out the gun to kill them. His hatred is clear. His misguidedness is clear. He is lost and was in seeking something that would make sense of the world, he found hatred, lies, and twisted history. One could say that Roof is the classic example of why the United States needs the death penalty – his crime is so heinous and he has a lack of remorse and lack of understanding that what he did was wrong.

heather blog -1.11.17.jpg photo collage from CNN

And yet, I am sorry that the jury came to the unanimous decision to sentence Roof to death. My heart is heavy that we (I say we since the jury in this federal case is serving on behalf of all of us) have chosen death in response to death. We have chosen to fix this rift in our world, Roof, by removing him from this world, rather than seeking life in prison where we might to redeem him, change him, as well as punish him, rightfully so, for his crimes.

For me, as a person of faith with a deep belief in the barely fathomable abundant love and forgiveness of God, I hold that we are called to live in ways that seek redemption, restoration, and forgiveness. This is not a call for the Mother Emanuel family to offer personal and congregational forgiveness to Roof but to let Roof live, in prison, so that he may have the chance to see the errors of his ways and beliefs and seek that redemption and restoration. As I heard the news yesterday, I had a passage from Deuteronomy 30 echoing in my ears. In this passage, Moses gives parting words to the Israelites and, through the generations, to us as well. We are reminded to "choose life", that is following the ways of God, so that we and others may live.

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days…” (Deut 30:19-20a)