WARNING: The image in this post shows an act of disturbing violence.
This photograph was taken in Delhi by Danish Siddiqui on February 24, 2020 for Reuters. It shows a man, Mohammed Zubair, being beaten by about a dozen men with sticks, bats, and metal bars. The mob descended on Zubair because he’s a Muslim (he was dressed like a Muslim as he was walking home from a religious service). They beat him as he begged them to stop. Even as he begged for his life, they beat him unconscious and left him for dead.
Some people believe earnestly that capital punishment is about justice. It’s about law and order. It’s about justly punishing someone for their crimes. It’s about deterring criminals from the worst offenses. There are good arguments in the other direction that sometimes the executed prisoner is later found to be innocent, that racial bias plays a large role in capital punishment as it does throughout the criminal justice system, and the murder rates in states with and without capital punishment prove that capital punishment is not a deterrent. As a Christian whose Lord and Savior was convicted in a sham trail and publicly executed on a cross to terrorize his people into submission to Roman power, it is hard not to find these counterarguments convincing.
But it’s images like this that also remind me that the instinct for capital punishment within us is driven not by justice, but by hate. And it’s not about law and order, it’s about mob violence. We’ve tried to sanitize it. We’ve tried to make it passionless and upright, but we’re looking at it here. What happened to Mohammed Zubair, so similar perhaps to how Jesus was stripped, whipped, and tortured by bloodthirsty soldiers, lives inside the guts of capital punishment. I don’t think that we can ever wash away the hatred and the frenzy of lynching from capital punishment.
Mohammed Zubair survived his injuries though more than 50 others were killed in the riots that day in Delhi. And though he survived, more than a year later he is a changed man, unable to work or support his family. He will carry his injuries with him for the rest of his life. When asked about the religious motivations of his attackers he said, “People who do such horrible acts cannot be from any religion.”
Let us pray:
Jesus, you who know what it is to be hated, beaten, and killed, whatever religion we follow, grant us the love to make it a religion of life and not a religion of death. Amen.
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Jesus the Imagination
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