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Exile and Embrace

Contemporary Religious Discourse on the Death Penalty

Anthony Santoro

Publication Year: 2013

With passion and precision, Exile and Embrace examines the key elements of the religious debates over capital punishment and shows how they reflect the values and self-understandings of contemporary Americans. Santoro demonstrates that capital punishment has relatively little to do with the perpetrators and much more to do with those who would impose the punishment. Because of this, he convincingly argues, we should focus our attention not on the perpetrators and victims, as is typically the case in debates pro and con about the death penalty, but on ourselves and on the mechanisms that we use to impose or oppose the death penalty.

An important book that will appeal to those involved in the death penalty debate and to general religious studies and American studies scholars, as well.

Published by: Northeastern University Press

Title Page

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pp. 4-9


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pp. ix-11

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pp. xi-xiii

By then I did oppose the death penalty, though it wasn’t something to which I gave a lot of thought. My opposition was by no means the result of a deliberative process; it was far more reflexive than reflective. I was nineteen or so, in college, and trying to figure out more directly personally relevant issues....

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pp. xv-xvii

First, I would like to thank Marie Deans, who, the first time we met, asked me whether or not I supported the death penalty. It was perhaps the first time I ever seriously considered it, and may have indirectly set this project in motion....


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pp. xix-21

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1 | Introduction

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pp. 1-25

In 1972, when Marie Deans was thirty-two and pregnant with her second child, her mother-in-law, Penny, was murdered. Penny’s husband, Jabo, had died a year before, and when Marie became pregnant, “it was like a new life . . . for all of us.” Penny drove from her home in Charleston, South Carolina...

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2 | Between Moral Certainty and Morally Certain: The Churches Discuss the Death Penalty

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pp. 26-46

Virginia’s 2005 gubernatorial election pitted Democratic lieutenant governor Timothy Kaine against Republican attorney general Jerry Kilgore in an election that featured a new wrinkle: for the first time in the modern era, an individual personally opposed to the death penalty had won his party’s nomination...

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3 | Between the Innocent Man and Osama bin Laden: The Believer and the Death Penalty, as Viewed from the Pew

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pp. 47-80

It is probably safe to suggest that for most Christians the overriding conception of the foundational biblical characters is that they were generally good and holy men chosen by God for a specific purpose. As James, a federal judge, put it, “Very few people who were chosen by God . . . are also killers,...

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4 | The Exile: Instantiated and Revealed

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pp. 81-119

Rev. Joseph Vought asked me that question over a beer while we were talking about his ministry, particularly his death row ministry, which I will talk about more in chapter 7. We had spent the previous hour discussing the walks he’s made with men to the death chamber, the way his prison ministry has...

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5 | The Bloggers’ Exegesis: From the Death Penalty to Taxonomies of the Executive

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pp. 120-146

The ad begins with a sad-eyed elderly gentleman seated right of center against a black background. Stanley Rosenbluth tells viewers about his son Richard and daughter-in-law Becky, who were murdered by Mark Sheppard, the couple’s cocaine dealer. When Stanley says that Sheppard shot Richard...

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6 | Death, Difference, and Conscience

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pp. 147-176

Two prominent truisms figure prominently in the broad death penalty discourse: “death is different” and the jury is the “conscience of the community.” The idea that death is fundamentally different from other punishments, articulated by Justice Potter Stewart in Woodson and reaffirmed by Justice...

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7 | Opening the Space: From Exile to Embrace

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pp. 177-206

On July 24, 1991, Albert Clozza Jr. became the twelfth person executed in Virginia in the modern era. Convicted of the murder of Patricia Bolton, Clozza was the first person executed in the state’s new execution chamber at Greensville Correctional Center. Following typical practice, Clozza was transferred...

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8 | Conclusion

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pp. 207-211

Over the course of my research, I made three trips to the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Virginia, each time to attend a protest vigil being held in a field within sight of, but a substantial distance from, the main prison gates. The location feels as isolated as it is, well removed both from...

Appendix. List of Bible Study Sessions

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pp. 213-235


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pp. 215-266


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pp. 267-296


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pp. 297-308

E-ISBN-13: 9781555538187
E-ISBN-10: 1555538185
Print-ISBN-13: 9781555538163

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2013