THE BLOG
06/21/2010 03:55 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

If St. Paul Had Been a Texan, Our 'Christian' Officials Would Have Executed Him

I have to say, I get the keyboard blues from being constantly compelled to call out "Christians" who practice tribal religion in lieu of Jesus-infused Christianity. We've got legions of 'em here in the Lone Star State. They populate and dominate our death penalty industry.

Led by Governor Rick Perry, these believers wear Christianity on their chest like a Superman logo. They boldly and proudly proclaim the United States to be a Christian nation. If Texas were an independent nation, we would be the seventh-largest practitioner of capital punishment, just a smidgen behind Yemen, a failed state with a medieval judicial system.

This week David Lee Powell was executed by our "Christian" system for killing an Austin police officer 32 years ago, the Austin Statesman reports:

Seven members of the victim's family watched silently from a nearby window. Strapped to the execution gurney with intravenous lines already inserted, Powell kept his eyes locked on members of officer Ralph Ablanedo's family but did not acknowledge Warden Charles O'Reilly's invitation to speak.

His head still turned toward the window, Powell half closed his eyes as the lethal combination of drugs began flowing at 6:10 p.m.

Ablanedo's widow, Judy Mills, gripped the hand of son Steve Mills and cried quietly as the drugs took effect. A doctor pronounced the once-promising honors student dead nine minutes later. He was 59.

This is the first execution with which I had even minimal personal interaction. I interviewed Sally Norvell, the filmmaker of "Saving David Powell, on my radio show "Soul Talk," and I invited her to screen the film at my church. I called and e-mailed Travis county District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg numerous times requesting to meet with her, along with several of my parishioners, to discuss David's execution. I wasn't even extended the courtesy of a form letter rejection.

Former Texas state representative Sissy Farenthold has been visiting David Powell for 20 years. A few days ago she wrote:

Powell has demonstrated his remorse and humanity by living a redemptive life for three decades. He has taught illiterate inmates how to read, write and improve their lives. He had no history of violence before his crime and none in his 32 years on death row. And he has expressed his deep remorse to Ablanedo's family.

Restorative justice calls for Powell to be spared so that he can continue to address the needs and concerns of the Ablanedo family and the prison community in which he lives.

It recently struck me like a Damascus road jolt that if St. Paul was a Texan the ruling "Christians" of this grand Republic would have executed him.

He was an accessory to the murder of Stephen, one of the original church Deacons. Among the groups involved in his stoning were the "Freedman." Today they would be FOX commentators. Before his Damascus road conversion St. Paul (then Saul) was "breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord." Saul had received warrants from the Supreme Court to search the synagogues for Christian disciples whom he would arrest and drag to prison.

God entreated a disciple named Ananias to go visit blinded by the light Saul. He was skittish to do so because he had "heard how much evil he has done to the saints at Jerusalem."

But God assured Ananias, "He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel."

Since Saul was afforded the opportunity for redemption he became Paul, the greatest evangelist in the history of the Christian faith.

If Saul were a Texan he would have never become St. Paul. Before he had a chance to print up his gospel tracts, our pious officials would have executed him just like they did David Powell. The crude and cruel irony is that in so doing they likely would not have the honor of calling themselves by that noble name: Christian.