Jesus’s Crucifixion and Other Victims of Execution

Amy-Jill Levine’s recent book, Witness at the Cross, includes a chapter entitled “The Other Victims.” It is the account of Jesus’s interaction with the two anonymous men crucified with him. Dr. Levine aptly suggests that the inclusion by the Gospel writers of these two condemned men forces us to consider those awaiting execution in today’s prisons.

Over my years as a pastor and a bishop, I have spent many hours sitting with men condemned to be executed. Unlike the men in the Gospels, the ones I have visited have names. I have known some of their families. I listened to the anguished cries of a mother who watched her son executed by the state. She loved her son no less than the mother of the person he had murdered. In the name of “justice for the victim,” the state created additional victims and added to the culture of violence that plagues our world.

South Carolina is set to resume executions later this month. Since the state has had difficulty obtaining the lethal drugs needed to put Richard Moore to death, he must choose between the electric chair and the firing squad. Below is a letter I have sent to the governor requesting that he stop this barbaric action.

May Jesus’s attentiveness to the two other victims of state-sponsored execution on that fateful day two thousand years ago cause us to remember the approximately 2500 persons awaiting execution in our prisons today. From my understanding of the Incarnation, their execution will be a repeat of Jesus’s crucifixion!

It was for the two “bandits,” those participating in the execution, and us that Jesus prayed: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 CEB).

The Honorable Henry McMaster
State House
1100 Gervais Street
Columbia, South Carolina 29201

Dear Governor McMaster:

               I wish to strongly urge you to stay the execution of Richard Moore, currently scheduled to take place April 29. While Mr. Moore’s crime is a grave tragedy for which accountability is appropriate, it does not reach the level of premeditation and heinousness for which the death penalty is intended. From the news reports and court records, he entered the convenient store unarmed and his offense was fueled by drug addiction; therefore, the resulting murder was not premediated and took place in a struggle over a weapon.

               During this Holy Week for Christians, we relive the state sponsored execution of Jesus the Christ. As a retired United Methodist bishop, pastor, and seminary professor, I strongly support my denomination’s opposition to the death penalty. No evidence exists that executions are a deterrent to crime, and death inflicted by the state only adds to the culture of violence that permeates our society. Having visited persons on death row over more than fifty years of Christian ministry, I can testify that it only adds to the number of victims of violence as the families and friends of those executed are victimized by the state.

 I hope that before you make your decision whether to stop this barbaric act that you will exercise courage and visit with Mr. Moore and his family. As Jesus was attentive in his dying hours to the two men executed with him and offered forgiveness and assurance, I hope you will be attentive to Mr. Moore as a fellow human being, made in the divine image and redeemed in Jesus Christ. As one who has publicly declared as being “pro-life,” please be consistently pro-life and respect Mr. Moore’s right to life.

               Please be assured of my prayers as you discern the fate of Mr. Moore. May you bear witness to the justice and compassion as made known in Jesus the Christ, whom you and I seek to follow and serve.

Prayerfully yours,

Kenneth L. Carder

9 thoughts on “Jesus’s Crucifixion and Other Victims of Execution

  1. Ken, my Sunday School Class has been studying Levine’s book and have had profound discussions about ‘the other victims’ you described. I will be in prayer for all involved in this current tragedy in your state. I ask that you have the Governor of the State of Tennessee in prayer as i understand Tennessee is also resuming executions. I am always grateful for your caring words. Jean


  2. Bishop Carder,

    Thank you for this post and for your powerful letter to Governor McMaster. What you’ve written made me think about a program that was held earlier this week in the WNCC, It presented The Stations of the Cross paintings by the men on Tennessee’s death row that have been made available free via Red Letter Christians. I imagine that you’re aware of them, but if not, wanted to send along the link.

    You may access the low-resolution images here.

    You may access the high-resolution images (for large prints) here.

    Thank you for your continued prophetic witness!

    Holy Week blessings!

    Grace and peace,

    Amy L. Coles
    Assistant to Bishop Carter

    Western North Carolina Conference

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you Bishop Carder for speaking up on the excessive punishment to be carried out on Mr. Moore this very month. My prayers join with yours that his life will be spared.

    The extent of violence in our society surely breaks the heart of God.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ken: your article and the letter to the governor touched my heart. Your compassion, use of the Gospel, and gift of heart felt, articulate writing is an inspiration. I feel so blessed to know you and your kindness.

    Kathleen Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

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