No theological perspective has a commanding place or an especially impressive following these days. Various theologies compete for attention in a highly pluralized field, and no theology has made much of a public impact.
Like many Americans, my family will celebrate July 4 by sharing a picnic with friends. After the usual greetings, jokes, and anecdotes about our children, we’ll no doubt find time for a political discussion. And since most of us are Democrats living in a very Republican county, my husband and I won’t have much trouble triggering a good argument with strong opinions.
When Martin Luther asked “Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved,” he was struggling to find a theologically defensible balance between two competing demands. As he penned the 1526 essay, he was feeling the force of the New Testament’s condemnation of violence and Christ’s exhortation to nonresistance of evil. But Luther also faced the demands of political reality.
From 1974 to 1980, William J. Wiseman Jr. served three terms in the Oklahoma state legislature as Republican representative of Tulsa’s district 69. During his tenure he was the architect of what became known as the lethal-injection bill, which was introduced and passed in 1977.
I finish this review in the shadow of Timothy McVeigh’s execution. But while America’s most notorious mass murderer is dead, and while the pundits continue to argue the merits and meaning of his execution, news about capital punishment just keeps coming.