July 10, 2008
‘Power in the Blood’: Praying for the electric chair
My (long-hyped?) interview with Jeff Sharlet will run in tomorrow’s Jewish Journal. Our discussion hinged heavily upon his new book, “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.” He originally dubbed the book “Power in the Blood,” but later dropped the working title—an obscure but strong reference to a classic hymn—at his editor’s suggestion.
The title had a deeper meaning for Sharlet. When writing “Killing the Buddha,” his first book, with Peter Manseau, the two visited a Florida pentecostal church that has lost one of its own to a murderer named Lucious Boyd. Boyd had just been convicted of the Dawnia DaCosta’s rape and murder, and the church wanted his blood.
I got chills reading this portion of “Killing the Buddha.” This is not the Christianity I know. This is not grace and forgiveness and redemption. This is vengeance. And, in fact, a woman in the back row confirmed that when she belted out:
I understand being angry with God for what happened to Dawnia after her car broke down, on the way home from choir practice of all places. I get that. And I understand wanting Boyd to get his comeuppance. But that is not for us Christians to decide. That is not the message of the Gospels.
“It was one of the most thrilling and at the same time ugliest services I’ve ever attended,” Sharlet told me. “And the crescendo was an, ahem, electrifying version of “Power in the Blood”—a prayer for the chair for the killer.”
So they sang, with fire and fury: “There’s power! power! wonder-working power! in the blood! of the lamb!