Gun Violence and God’s Justice

Roger Nelson

Roger Nelson
January 3, 2017

Statistics on gun violence can leave us paralyzed. But God requires us to act.

January 4, 2017

Roger...this is a beautiful and thoughtful piece. I'm just a little unclear about something. This flows awkwardly to me here:

"...A few years later, when the sentence was overturned on appeal, we asked that he be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

How is shalom administered? How is justice done? How is the knot loosened? I don’t have many answers. But I think the justice of God involves more than locking up one more criminal for a lifetime. ..."

Who is the "we" in this first sentence? You and your family? I thought so at first, but then when you talk in the very following paragraph about NOT "locking up one more criminal for a lifetime," I'm thinking maybe you're referring to another party in this sentencing?

Roger Nelson
January 4, 2017

The "we" there was me and my family. At the initial sentencing we offered a victim's impact sentence that asked only for the assurance that Clarence Hayes would not be able to "inflict" pain on another family. He already had three felony arrests for the same pattern of robbery ~ without the murder. He was sentenced to death. We didn't ask for that or quite frankly feel very strongly either way about it. What happened with him wasn't going to change the reality that we were facing. When the death penalty came up on appeal we were given the choice of life without parole or pressing ahead with the death penalty. We opted for life without parole.... It was the only choice that we had. The death penalty would continue to come up on appeal for years; we would have to keep returning to court. We didn't want to do keep coming back..... I can only report what we felt at the time.

Maybe as a coping mechanism, maybe out of cowardice, or some lack of faith or clarity about how to proceed, I have thought more about the knot in which we all live than about Clarence Hayes. But, I don't think locking him up for life does much to untangle the knot. I don't know that it deters, etc. In the rest of the sermon, that is available on-line, I make a short argument for investment in education as one thread that can help undo some of the knot. I was probably responding to recent calls for more "law and order." I don't disagree that there is much to be done, but I think longer term solutions rest in access to quality education. Thanks for the note. I hope this helps clear up your question. Peace to you.

January 4, 2017

In Reply to Roger Nelson (comment #29754)

Crystal clear, Roger, and many thanks for your elaboration. That helps tremendously. I'm going to head over and read the full sermon later today, too.

If you read many of my own posts here at TC, you'll find that I share your same conviction regarding the use of harshly punitive sentences in response to crime--even crimes of the most heinous sort. And as an ex-offender myself, I feel more gratitude than most toward victims like you who find the courage to offer mercy where absolutely none is merited.

I'm sorry for your family's loss and ongoing pain. I'm not qualified to speak as a victim, but others have told me in the past that their choice to pursue restorative alternatives to retribution helped them find healing where no amount of punishment of the offender could--and I sincerely believe that's the shalom of God at work when that happens.

Donna Millard
January 5, 2017

This is an encouraging article with an encouraging response. I hope it stands as an example of the discourse for the Christian Community in 2017.

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