As Christians, we believe that the image of God exists in all human beings. It is for this reason that I have recently launched the Imago Dei, a global campaign initiated and led by Christ centered, Bible believing evangelicals for the purpose of recognizing the image of God in every human being in and out of the womb, without exception. Nothing we can do – no sin too great – can ever rob us of that. In other words, no action can ever put us beyond redemption or the miraculous power of God’s grace. The inevitable conclusion from this insight is that all life, from conception to natural death, is sacred and demands our respect and protection.
Because of the deep value I hold for all human life, the details of the botched execution on April 29 in Oklahoma shook me, as it did many evangelicals and people of faith. The inmate executed, Clayton Lockett, committed horrific crimes. Based on these actions, he was a clear danger to society and needed to be permanently removed from it. Regardless of how you feel about the death penalty, though, Oklahoma’s decision to move forward with this execution showed an insufficient concern for human life. Beforehand, legal and medical experts warned that the experimental execution protocol and the secrecy surrounding it could lead to disastrous consequences. Oklahoma ignored these concerns.
From all accounts, the scene was horrific. After the administration of the drugs, Lockett became unconscious and began to writhe on the gurney. Discovering a ruptured vein, officials stopped the execution and tried to resuscitate him but without success. Eventually he was pronounced dead from a heart attack. My heart breaks for everyone touched by this case and execution. In an already difficult situation, this botched execution inflicted further stress and trauma on everyone involved.
Those of us involved in the Imago Dei campaign understand that the image of God exists in all human beings. It lies within the victim and the perpetrator. We cannot stand idly by and be silent as individuals are killed in this way, and in our names. We must shine the light and stand for grace, truth, and love.
I hope that my fellow evangelicals will join me in this important dialogue about the value of human life. Our commitment to the Gospel must guide us in this conversation. No matter where you stand on the death penalty, as a Bible believing Christ centered follower, this botched execution should prompt in us a moral outcry. Let’s use this time to reflect and pray for all those impacted by violence. Let’s look for meaningful guidance from our Heavenly Father as we seek to honor all life.
Reverend Samuel Rodriguez is the lead pastor of New Season Christian Worship Center in Sacramento and president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.