Friday, April 15, 2011

Updated Essay-Thanks Everyone!!

Since there were so many people that were helpful, I've decided to post the essay.
Please excuse the lack of colorful analogies and excitement that you're used to;
this was cut and dry. I didn't even bother using third person.
I suppose worse things have been handed in. :-P

Generally, I like to say that I’m middle of the road when it comes to sentencing a serial murderer to death, but that’s not an option, so I’m electing, “Yes (as in, I support capital punishment), but with some exceptions.” As a Christian, it’s often difficult to look at the men and women on death row who have committed heinous murders and think, “Kill ‘em.” Believers and nonbelievers alike go back and forth setting conditions for which they believe a specific individual should be eliminated from society; it is not every day you meet a person who can go either way 100% of the time.

He who strikes a man, so that he dies, shall surely be put to death.
Exodus 21:12

Not long ago, I watched a documentary entitled At the Death House Door directed by Steven James and Peter Gilbert.  It interviewed a minister by the name of Carroll Pickett; a man who was transformed from pro-capital punishment to anti-capital punishment when he became the Chaplan for the Huntsville Unit Prison in Corpus Cristi, Texas. As the last person to talk to the inmates, Pickett recounts gruesome details of guilty men claiming innocence until the very end and innocent men accepting their fate.
Before seeing this documentary, I was pro-capital punishment. If you kill a man in cold blood, you deserve the same. I couldn’t stomach the thought of an individual killing someone I cared about and then getting to spend their lives in the general population (or even in solitary) in prison. The knowledge that most sentences usually don’t last their entire suggested duration also tugged at my heart. What if the offender was released and sought revenge? Or killed again? Of course, there are always those people who suffer from an inability to control themselves or their actions based on biological dispositions. If a schizophrenic suffers from auditory and visual hallucinations, he or she who looks like an innocent victim to us might look like a Nazi to a Jew, or an abusive father to an abused son. These select few individuals need intense treatment, and should not be killed for their inability to determine right from wrong under the circumstances, but should never be allowed to return to society again.
After the documentary, however, I was even more confused about my position on capital punishment. Based on the inconsistencies of the criminal justice system, identifying the wrong killer, not getting an appropriate sentence, or even not being able to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt prevent me from making a definite decision whether or not I support the death penalty.
My feelings about serial murderers, however, are slightly different. John Wayne Gacy raped and murdered 33 teenage boys. Eddie Gein killed his victims and made novelties out of their skin. Albert Fish lured children to their death and then devoured them. Robert Pickton killed over 60 women in the sex trade business as his guilty pleasure. These individuals are not only dangerous, but evil in its purest form.
The Objections
                Though I don’t often venture toward such a controversial matter, a general theme of morality applies to this topic. One objection to my opinion is:

He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.
John 8:7

Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
Matthew 7:1

Something I often hear people (Christians and nonbelievers alike) say is that, “If [you] are so God-like, [you] would reserve judgment for God”: that, by God, we are instructed to love and forgive despite the transgressions done unto us. Forgive and forget, they say. A person who does not support the death penalty might reference the story of the adultress who is sentenced to be stoned (John 8).  Jesus saves the woman from being stoned by using words that can loosely be translated as “Let he without sin, cast the first stone.” If you are a Christian, you acknowledge that Jesus was the only man without sin. If you are not, you acknowledge that you have sin, but you (hopefully) just do your best to be a good person. Due to the fact that we are all sinners, we have no right to “cast the first stone” or judge anyone else who has sinned.
Another objection to my opinion could be that “two wrongs don’t make a right”. This argument is usually coupled with the argument that all life is sacred. The picture to the right is an excellent example of this idea. How can we support killing people for killing people in order to demonstrate that killing people is wrong? We are just creating a cycle of violence that doesn’t solve anything; it just adds another tally to the list of those killed inhumanely. Are we any better than the murderer if we sentence them to death?
The Rebuttal

Bible verses are frequently misinterpreted, especially by those who don’t see the verses in their context. In John 8, the Pharisees were setting up a ploy to trap Jesus between two types of rules: Roman law and the Mosaic law. If Jesus said that they should stone her, He would violate the Roman law. If He supported the stoning, He would break the Mosaic law. Jesus cleverly avoided the trap by trapping the Pharisees instead. The second half of that argument, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged”, is also a matter of interpretation. What the Bible actually says is that we are supposed to avoid judging hypocritically (John 7:2-5) by judging with careful discernment (John 7:24).  If you observe someone close to you sinning, the Bible instructs you to confront them lovingly to help them bring their sins to the table (Matthew 18:15-17). Therefore, if you, yourself, can say that you would not commit murder against another human being, I believe that it is appropriate to pass judgment against someone who (without the imposition of a mental disorder) would.
The second objection is a little more difficult to rebut, but Scripture is always a safe way to find those controversial answers that you seek. Though used interchangeably in our society, one must acknowledge the difference between “murder” and “kill”.  Murder is forbidden by law, and in the case of this debate, serial murders are often very carefully planned. The killing of someone is a consequence of murder. The Bible teaches that murder is wrong, not killing. Unfortunately, these two words have gotten lost in translations of the Bible and make it incredibly difficult to have an opinion on the death penalty if you’re not familiar with the history of the language. In every section of the Bible, there is evidence that capital punishment is supported. In the Old Testament, Numbers 35:31 says, Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which [is] guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death. In the New Testament, Matthew 15:3-4 says "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying... `He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death,’” implying that not the Commandments are to not to be disregarded over time. Most importantly, in Exodus 21 it teaches that our government is responsible for punishing these murderers.
 Ultimately, there will always be a moment when you go back on your word and turn your back on your own opinion. Capital punishment is no different. Though my opinion is that the majority of serial killers have sealed his or her own fate, there are a number of exceptions that sway my opinion, and will continue to do so as my faith and knowledge of God grows.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain.

Let the countdown begin: I've got less than three weeks to pump out an entire thesis paper that I've barely started researching and a twelve page clinical analysis on a serial killer (it sounds fun, but don't let that fool you). And that doesn't include finals week and all the tests in between. Grab some coffee, get your butt in a comfy seat, and enjoy the latest rant.

For those who haven't already heard, grad school is a "no-go" at the moment, and my academic motivation is decreasing rapidly. My mother wants me to go, but I've realized my calling, and it's not a $23,000 education. Not right now, at least. Some good news this week: I got a 93% in my neuropsych lab as the final grade! Some bad news: I failed the second (out of two) criminal behavior test. And I mean bombed it. My first college 'F'. It burns! Granted, this is the teacher that just assigns readings and never talks about them and then tests us on them (also, his class is during the hours that I have to work, so I rarely have the chance to come to class and watch his terrible VCR recordings from the 60s about psychopathic tendencies as portrayed in the media), but I should probably stop making excuses and take responsibility for the fact that I'm starting to lose interest in some of the things I once cared about.

I didn't realize that by having to drop criminology from my major to my minor affected me as much as it did until I started thinking about ways I could drop my DIS class. I'm going to kill myself for a thesis-level paper that no longer counts for anything. All because of a woman (my academic advisor) who is completely incompetent (and currently under academic investigation)...and that upsets me! My parents might blame my dedication to church, Justin might blame himself, but it really just comes down to me. I hate school. In fact, it's really no secret that I've always hated school. Now that I know I have nothing else to work toward except my graduation date this summer, I don't care enough to apply myself. I'm so happy around God and my friends and Katie and the baby (and my hubbie, of course), that I just don't want to be bothered by reality. Survival is the goal! What's a girl to do?


Sonshine State at Florida Bible Camp was definitely an experience for me. There were (plenty o') times that I really just wanted to get in Justin's jeep and speed away toward Tallahassee, but it was worth it to stick it out. The hard beds, the cold showers, the flooded bathrooms, and the bugs and dirt and grossness everywhere were really enough to scare me away from going on another retreat...ever. But for that moment, I swallowed my princess attitude and put on my warrior-for-God face. When I let Him, God opened my eyes to see a dirty camp transformed into a wonderland of opportunity abounding with the lost and lonely looking for a hand to reach out and save them from drowning. My heart often gets cloudy when I feel I'm stronger in my faith than the people around me. My God does a great job at keeping my snotty butt in check!

I was absolutely humbled by a guy in our "breakout" group that had turned his life around for Christ and knew the Word backward and forward. WOW! It was so intimidating to see someone my age quote and interpret scripture like a second language. And I thought I was good? Psh. I have a long time before I get that good.

 The speaker, Clint Hill, was truly an awesome individual! If you haven't added him on Facebook, you need to! His story and his ministry are equally inspiring. You laugh, you cry, and you learn how to make steps you previously couldn't....or wouldn't. My absolute favorite part of the weekend, however, was the arrival of the foster children. Justin and I were very blessed to hang out with an awesome little man named Alex. At first, this five year old wanted nothing to do with us, and was even a little scared of me as I held my hand out to give him a high five, but as we painted with him, as Justin built him a sailboat, as we played in the bounce house, and slid down the slides in the playground, he came out of his shell and ran around like the most energetic five year old I've ever seen.

I even played in a basketball tournament! (Now if only I knew how to play basketball.....) It's true that I was only on the court for about 45 seconds before it ended up in terrible disaster (see picture for details), but I still played, and still lost the game like a champ. I know that neither Justin nor I will be visiting FBC anytime soon, but one day, I hope to go back and have myself a good time playing in the woods.

Artistic liberty?

On a much happier note, this week Justin and I will be halfway through our counseling experience, and I can definitely see the way it has affected us on a much deeper level than I ever expected. I feel like we're able to communicate our emotions instead of worrying about the anticipation of a blow out. And it's filtering out to other areas of our life. We're working on our friendships with people we have left in the dust, and forgiving those who don't necessarily deserve it. We're getting better at quick conflict resolution instead of letting an insult ruin an entire day. I wake up each day falling more and more in love with him, and never regretting a single decision I've made thus far.

Ever since I was started getting into relationships at a young age, I had been looking for a similar love I [now] share with my number one Bridegroom, but had been incredibly unsuccessful. I'd been searching for a worldly man to fill that void in my heart, when what I was really missing was Him. It wasn't until I stopped looking and wanting that He gave me a wonderful blessing. Say what you want, World, but [He] knows the plans [He] has for [me] and I'm not fighting it anymore (Jeremiah 29:11). I also can't listen to what others say about my choices. Justin and I have wonderful mentors, and look up to some very special people. They see the adoration we have for eachother, and the storms we weather with His ever-merciful Love and Grace.

I love you both so very much,
but the time that you can make my choices for
me is coming to a close. I'm not ready to grow up,
but who is? You say I'm too young, you say I'm
out of my mind...but like my faith, I expect my
God-written love story to be criticized until the very end.

Love is supposed to be hard, and marriage is supposed to be harder. This won't be any cake-walk, but no great cake is store bought, right? It's about keeping the faith, and getting stronger through our struggles. I'm ready, God. Hit me with your best shot. (Ok, maybe not your best shot. Maybe just a little challenge here and there.)
I'd like to take a second to make a little shout-out to someone who never misses my blog updates: I miss you. I miss our talks and the way I could just drive to your house when I was upset. I miss spending the afternoon just sitting on the porch with you, or just enjoying "jammy day" when we felt like we just needed a day to be lazy. I miss having to take day trips down to South Florida because of my shoulder surgery, but I secretly enjoyed using your house as my "rest-stop". More than anything, I appreciate the way you support my decisions, no matter what the outcome is, or what your opinion is on the situation. I know you feel like I never think about you, or that I haven't needed you since I've found a church family. But I want you to know that you're always on my mind, and that I never stop questioning ways in which to make you proud of me. I'll never forget where I came from, and the woman who helped me become who I am today. And for that, Nana, I love you.