I was shocked the other night when the applause broke out. I thought I'd heard it wrong.
I'm talking about the crowd sitting under Air Force One at the Reagan Library, listening to the Republican Presidential debate.
When moderator Brian Williams noted that Texas Governor Rick Perry has presided over a record 234 executions during his term of office, the audience burst into applause -- some of the biggest of the night, according to the applause-o-meters of the blogosphere.
That was shocking enough, applauding at the deaths of 234 human beings. I don't care if you are a supporter of capital punishment. Who applauds death? Who are these people?
The Texas governor got more applause when he expressed his certitude about those executions, noting that a majority of Americans do support the death penalty. "Americans understand justice," Perry said.
Really? Do we understand justice? I won't take up the argument for or against the death penalty, I just wonder how folks can applaud the killing of people, even people guilty of heinous crimes.
I wonder if these same happy clapping people, who "understand justice," also understand that Texas' health system is a kind of death row itself: one-quarter of Texans lack health insurance, the highest rate of uninsured in the nation.
The stats on health care in Texas are nearly as shocking as the applause on Wednesday night. Over the last decade, while Perry's been in office, working Texans have been priced out of health insurance. Insurance premiums have risen more rapidly in Texas than they have nationally. Texas ranks 40th in child health care, and infant mortality rates have risen in Texas, while declining nationwide. The numbers go on and on.
Any clapping out there yet?
So back to my earlier question: Who are these people? What do they care about?
As a pastor, I want to know, are they people of faith? Christians? My fear is that many of those clapping hands could have been Christian hands, the well-known base of the Republican party. I'm hoping that's not the case. I'm hoping that the followers of Jesus, who died at the hands of political executioners, would not be the ones applauding executions.
Can you imagine Jesus clapping?
I imagine Jesus weeping as that applause broke out, as he wept for Jerusalem. Folly is something to cry about.
Follow Rev. Anne Howard on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AnneHoward