Richard Goode is Professor of History at Lipscomb University and coordinator of the Lipscomb Initiative for Education (LIFE) program, which offers Lipscomb courses at Nashville area prisons and at Room in the Inn. He is the author, with Will Campbell, of And the Criminals with Him (2012) and Crashing the Idols (2010).
Dr. Goode writes:
Over the last 35 years we’ve often made the death penalty one of our favorite, polarizing disputes. Candidates for elected office, for example, make capital punishment a campaign pledge, promising to get people what they’re due (retribution and/or revenge). Criminal Justice experts analyze it as a public policy (i.e., whether it effectively deters future offenses). Such polemics can impoverish our communities by masking the real costs of executions. When it comes to capital punishment, we’re not talking about some “issue.” A crime has shattered lives and community relations as they ought to be. No matter how severe and well-intentioned our punitive reprisal, however, we can neither erase the pain and loss, nor do some final just thing to delete the offense.
Community is found in our ongoing response to the offense, rather than on some once-for-all, ultimate payback inflicted on the offender. Insofar as both the victim and the offender are our siblings, our challenge is to live beyond retribution, and love beyond revenge. Our commitment is to restore right relationships after the horrendous offense. Toward that end, we’re not called to settle the score—as if our vengeful might could return life to some prelapsarian state. We’re called to be reconciled—to incarnate the reconciliation that has already restored right relationships.
To view the full list of signatories to our open letter to stop executions in Tennessee, click here.
If you are a student or educator in Tennessee, and you would like to add your signature to this open letter, click here.
If you are not student or educator in Tennessee, but you would like to support the open letter, please sign this petition.