When a parishioner from the church I serve emailed me this past Friday reminding me that the mother of Rodney Reed, the man on death row in TX whose case has grabbed the attention of millions, was the caregiver of her father before he passed it hit me hard. She had mentioned this to me before and had even given me Anthony Ray Hinton’s book, The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row. I read the book, which is a great treatise on the failure of the death penalty system. I’ve prayed for Rodney and his mother and looked into his case. And, like most people who have looked at the evidence and listened to the witnesses, I believe his execution should be stayed and that he should receive another trial.
But in the mix of so many concerns in my personal life and society at large, it dropped from my awareness that Rodney Reed’s execution was scheduled for less than two weeks from now. Hearing this and realizing that I wouldn’t be preaching again until after the planned execution date, the stirring in my soul told me I needed to shift the focus of my sermon to this issue. Below you will find both the sermon and the words to a letter I submitted to Governor Abbott, through the Texas State website as well as some links to information about this case. I composed the letter the way I did after imagining myself in the governor’s shoes and considering what my discernment process would be if I had to make such a decision.
OUR ENTIRE RELIGION IS ABOUT AN INNOCENT MAN WHO WAS EXECUTED BY A LEGAL SYSTEM THAT WOULD RATHER STAY WRONG THAN ADMIT THAT IT HAD BEEN WRONG.From the sermon, Custom Eyes Religion
Rodney Reed. I imagine that you have heard this name more times than you know what to do with and are feeling the pressure of the eyes of a nation. For this, I feel compassion for you. You didn’t ask for this. But here you are facing a decision that no human being is truly equipped to make–to change the course of history. But you have been tasked and you will answer the call. And whether you choose to stop Mr. Reed’s execution or let the dominoes fall in the direction that were set before you entered into office, you will feel the impact. You cannot make everyone happy. None of us can. Perhaps we cannot make anyone happy. But, there is one person over whom you have some say in how they process the decision you will make–yourself. You will have to look yourself in the mirror. Even if no other person were watching for your next move, your own soul will speak into your life. What do you want it to say to you? I do not envy you being in this position. And as you may have noticed, I have not said to you what I think you should do because I realize that regardless of the decision you make, no one will look at me with the judgment you are about to live into.
My only advice is that you make your decision mindfully and prayerfully with the intent of doing the greatest good. If you do this, your soul’s peace will serve as a balm from the scorn of either side of the issue. And I don’t have to tell you the pain of your own soul’s disagreement with your decision. When your own soul condemns your decision, the whole world can agree with you and there won’t be enough salve in the Universe to succor the pain of personal conviction.
So I will pray for you to have the peace that surpasses all human understanding.