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The Execution of God: Encountering the Death Penalty

SKU 9780827208513

By Jeff Hood

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"This is in-your-face, aggressive theology at its best. It's grimy, gritty, and has no trouble holding its audience's feet to the fire." -- Foreword Reviews

We kill. We kill each other. We kill God.
The altar of the death chamber is open, the hour of execution upon us. Is there salvation amidst the horror of the death penalty? We must save to get saved. We must save our God. How will we encounter the execution of God? Will we save or will we kill?

In this stunning fusion of biblical interpretation and memoir, radical theologian of mercy Jeff Hood takes us on a unique spiritual journey into the heart of the death penalty. The Execution of God is a powerful invitation to encounter God in the last place we expect divinity to dwell…on the gurney.

The Execution of Godwill invite you to re-examine your belief in the ultimate punishment and consider:

  • How the death penalty kills our relationship with God
  • The idea that the divine image of God dwells in those on death row
  • How we cannot be both people of love and people of murder
  • How our cultural obsession with violence harms our spiritual life
  • How to stop the killing and join the work of abolition and restoration



"This is heady stuff, masterfully combined with cringeworthy specifics about the world inhabited by the people on death row. Images abound of incomplete final meals, pain, and the crimes themselves. Hood’s own story passes through the book as well, giving a clear understanding of why someone would devote himself to a topic so tough.... This is in-your-face, aggressive theology at its best. It’s grimy, gritty, and has no trouble holding its audience’s feet to the fire. Evil, as presented here, is not just what humanity does, but what it leaves undone—or that, by allowing the death penalty to stand, each of us is also to blame. A consideration of the state of theology, which puts theology on trial alongside American culture, proves to be one of the best parts of the book. Theology, because it colors the way people understand and talk about God, is said to fall short too—something that clearly needs to change. There is hope here, but it is a human-shaped hope. Jesus is very much a man in this book, and less an otherworldly savior. Hood’s hope is that people will be able to see Jesus that way, not just when they consider innocent people, but when they look on people who have committed unthinkable crimes, as well.―Foreword Reviews September/October 2017 (read the entire review here)

"The Execution of God is a disturbing book—and rightly so: any meaningful discussion of the death penalty should be profoundly unsettling. It should cause us to reassess our values and our ethics. It should press us to reevaluate our actions—or inactions—regarding what continues to be one of the most divisive and troubling issues in modern America. The Execution of God succeeds on all these counts, and its potent message lingers, disturbingly, long after the final page.... Unlike Shane Claiborne’s book Executing Grace, which presented a sustained intellectual attack against the death penalty, Hood’s book is targeted directly at the heart, offering a spiritual and emotional refutation of our country’s continued love affair with death. Hood’s accounts are visceral stories about stepping inside death row, about talking to murders, about struggling to understand how a faith supposedly centered on love has become so twisted as to cheer on death. The Execution of God isn’t about the calculated logic of arguments, nor about statistics and criminal justice theory. It’s about real people, real suffering, and real activism....The struggle against the death penalty presented in The Execution of God is troubling, frustrating, and heartbreaking. But in that struggle, there is hope."―Dan Wilkinson, Unfundamentalist, 11/5/17 (read the entire review here)

“When I think of the quest to abolish the barbaric practice of capital punishment, Jeff Hood is one of the first leaders who come to mind. This book creatively and passionately puts forward a case that I hope all Christians will listen to.” —Benjamin L. Corey, author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus

“Here, for devout Christians whose interpretation of their faith allows the embrace of state killing, are some thoughts for their consideration. Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood, a committed Baptist minister from the South, offers some meditations on The Execution of God.” —Mike Farrell, actor (“M*A*S*H”) and President of Death Penalty Focus

“Jeff Hood is one of the nation's leading voices against the death penalty. In this work, he shows us that in our common bloodlust to kill the Other, we put ourselves at risk of killing God.” –Anthony Grimes, Fellowship of Reconciliation

The Execution of God is a revelation. Rev. Hood’s lone fist of resistance evolved into a movement to truly love your neighbor as yourself and examine our own Christianity.”–Brian Stolarz, attorney and friend to Alfred Dewayne Brown, 13th Texas Death Row Exoneree, and author of Grace and Justice on Death Row

“For those of us in the restorative justice movement, or those of us whose hearts cannot break into any more fragments over the violence unnecessarily part of our justice system, this book is poetry ... not to soothe the soul but to awaken it.”–Sandhya Jha, Director, Oakland Peace Center

“May this book be shared throughout congregations as an example of how each of us, particularly those who identify as Christian, must unbind each other from our addiction to death.” –Steve Dear, Executive Director, People of Faith Against the Death Penalty

“Jeff Hood has the blisters that come from a journey such as this. He asks the questions hardest to answer for Christians who root their support for executions in the Bible.” –Abraham J. Bonowitz, 

The Execution of God is also for cynics, conservatives, and pro-death penalty people. His voice is raw and honest enough to make believers out of anybody.”–Nikki Roberts, author of Freed from Within

“Jeff Hood is in the vanguard of a new spirituality for a new age.” –Stephen V. Sprinkle, Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University