Just after midnight on Wednesday September 24, 1997, I watched as the state of Missouri put Samuel McDonald to death by lethal injection. I had never wanted to witness an execution, and I was devastated by what I saw. How did I come to be at the Potosi Correctional Institute on that night?
It had to do with friendship, and with the unforeseen and frightening implications of taking even the smallest step forward in faith.
Since my late teens I have opposed the death penalty. I have had many reasons: Poor and minority defendants are executed in grossly disproportionate numbers. Innocent people are sometimes sentenced to death. There is no evidence that the death penalty reduces the rate of violent crime. The rest of the Western world has managed to function without executing criminals.
But the heart of my opposition grew out of my religious commitments. As a Christian, it seems to me that the death penalty violates the essence of Christ's teachings to choose mercy over revenge, to love our enemies, and to forswear all violence.
Copyright © 1988, Christian Century.
Trollinger, William Vance, "My Friend's Execution" (1988). History Faculty Publications. 7.