Holy Week is used by many Christians to reflect on the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday, and now more than 400 Catholic and evangelical leaders are using Jesus’ state-sanctioned execution to call for an end to the death penalty.
“When they look at Christ on the cross, it’s a reminder of how very many millions of people have been executed by government in history and how grotesque it really is and, often, how unjust it is,” said David Gushee, an evangelical ethicist at Mercer University in Atlanta.
Gushee is one of the signers of the statement, as are two former presidents of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston and William Skylstad of Spokane, Wash.); Miguel Diaz, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See; and Jim Wallis, founder of the progressive Christian group Sojourners.
The letter urges governors, judges and prosecutors to end the death penalty, which the letter calls a “practice that diminishes our humanity and contributes to a culture of violence and retribution without restoration.”
Other signers include death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean of “Dead Man Walking” fame; Lynne Hybels, wife of Willowcreek megachurch founder Bill Hybels; the Very Rev. Timothy P. Kesicki, head of all Jesuit priests in the U.S. and Canada; and Richard Cizik, a former vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
The letter follows a similar call by the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, which recently became the first national evangelical group to publicly call for an end to capital punishment, and Pope Francis, who called it “inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed.”
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: Religion News Service