Tuesday, April 6, 2010
I have just finished reading a book that mentioned episodes of stoning, and some time on Easter afternoon I saw a bit of one of those 1950s religious epics that included a stoning scene. It struck me that stoning is a very strange method of execution. The point, I think, must be to include the whole community in the killing. To throw stones at a helpless person requires the executioners to rouse their hate and anger, and by throwing stones they become complicit in the victim's death. At a hanging, the sympathies of the crowd may actually be with the criminal, killed by the impersonal power of the state. But at a stoning the people themselves do the killing, and they cannot afford to care for their victim. They must harden their hearts, give in to rage, and see the man before them as the enemy of the people, not just a breaker of the laws.