Too Close to the Flame : With the Condemned inside the Southern Killing Machine

Af Joseph B. Ingle (2024)
Summary: Joe Ingle's Too Close to the Flame is a heartbreakingly beautiful account of over four decades serving as a spiritual counselor, guide, and friend to the men and women on Death Row. "I had been working with the condemned since 1975—but never before had an execution affected me with this much power and confusion." Throughout his forty-five years visiting death rows across the American South, Joe Ingle has learned, loved, and suffered intensely. In Too Close to the Flame , Ingle describes how the events of 2018–2020 finally exposed the deep wounds inflicted on his psyche by nearly half a century of enduring the state-sanctioned murder of friend after friend. As an advocate for the men and women condemned to death by an unjust legal system that routinely victimizes the marginalized, Ingle has often found himself waiting through the darkest hours as the spiritual advisor and sole companion of those on deathwatch—the brief period of isolation that precedes an execution. In vivid detail and startling candor, Ingle describes every moment with the expertise of a scholar and the affection of a brother. Through Ingle's eyes, we are invited into the inner sanctum during desperate attempts at clemency, intimate final hours, and the mourning that follows a night on deathwatch. Part psychological memoir, part history of Southern state killing since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, Too Close to the Flame is above all a catalogue of love—a gallery of relationships that could only be forged between people staring death in the face together. It is an account of the price of radical Christian love, a record of service to the least among us, and a testament to the full humanity of those whom the powers that be would seek to dehumanize and exterminate