“In the end, Gentry’s family said Bishop’s execution was justified. ‘Whether you believe in the death penalty or not, stand in our shoes and feel the pain, the loss of someone you love,’ the Gentry family said in a statement.” (Clarion-Ledger July 24, 2008)
This is a powerful and important statement made by the Gentry family. I can only speak for myself, but I do stand with them in their loss of someone loved. Which is why I do not want to repeat that loss by inflicting it on another family. To do so is not justice, it is revenge. It does nothing to reduce the pain the Gentry family feels. Revenge only has the purpose to embitter the heart further. It is incapable of inviting love and forgiveness back into the heart.
A life for a life is Old Testament thinking and rhetoric. It is based on a theology of a vengeful and wrathful god. It is based on a theology that the unrepentant and even those who are repentant too late are destined to the eternal fires of hell and damnation. This is not a theology that embraces the concept that god is love. It is not a theology that embraces the notion of universal salvation and the reconciliation of all people to their creator.
Where is the faith of a god who is ever present in our time of need? A god who is able to break through the darkest of nights with the light of day? Where is the faith of life being eternal and death merely being a shedding of the chrysalis body? Where is the faith of a loving god that embraces all of her children in pain? Was this faith manifested to the Gentry family in their time of sorrow?
For Unitarian Universalists who may not believe in a supernatural being to supply these answers, it is certainly answered in the relationships one has with another. I personally believe it is through my relationships that god’s presence is felt and embraced. It is through these relationships that I receive solace and comfort.
One of the most powerful examples of this is in the relationship that Jesus had with the sisters of Lazarus. Lazarus had died and when Jesus approached the tomb, it is written that Jesus wept. Mary and Martha came out and expressed their anger towards Jesus for not being there in time. They had seen Jesus perform miracles and yet, Jesus was not there to heal their brother’s affliction. He embraced their pain. He was present to them. He did not try to argue with them that what they were feeling was inappropriate. He simply wept with them. This speaks to me about how to be with others in the presence of pain. It then behooves me to develop these relationships with integrity and respect.
In Hinduism, the word namaste is offered as a salutation. It roughly translates as ‘ The divine in me recognizes the divine in you.” We can tap into in the divine in others in our relationships. But to do so also means that we need to re-align our perception of how god moves and has its being among us. The pain the Gentry family feels is just as divine as the love and joy a family feels at the birth of new member of their family. We should not fear feeling this pain.
It is not something we should seek out, but should it come, our faith (regardless of its construct in traditional terms) should be teaching us to embrace it, to feel it deeply, to honor it and to allow our relationships with others to birth us into a new feeling. Love expressed purely can do this.
I pray that the Gentry family have family members and friends who are able to help them embrace the pain and to then let it go into the divine arms of love.