Think of a topic or issue about which you’ve switched your opinion. Why the change?
Bloody knife. Eye witness testimony. History of heated exchanges. The guilty verdict comes down hard. The crime is deemed particularly heinous and the man is sentenced to death. Now, comes the years of waiting and finally the gurney, the chemicals, and the expiration of life. Grim? Of course. Powerful? Most definitely. Justified? To kill or not to kill, that is the question.
I think that I used to way back support the death penalty. I am not sure if this is really true or exists only in my mind now as a counterpoint to the present truth. There is a logic to it, the death penalty, I suppose. If certain acts can deprive you of liberty, does it not stand that more heightened acts can deprive you of life? Doesn’t being really pissed give you the right to use the government to kill somebody? OK, so maybe that part is not logical.
The death penalty evokes significant visceral reaction on both sides of the question of its legitimacy. On the one hand, it is hard to get behind people who seem sympathetic to a child rapist and murderer. On the other, does feeling like something should be done justify doing it? Sometimes, I feel like punching people in the face (rarely, thankfully), but I don’t think my strong desire and frustration would stand up in a court of law.
We could consider everyone’s potential thought process and reactions, but the post is supposed to be about me. For many, many years, I stood as undecided. I had the same sort of wishy-washy position as I had on abortion. “It is what is is, and I’m not particularly thrilled about it,” seemed to be my general position on the issue. This is fairly safe for cocktail parties, although I’m not quite sure what qualifies as a cocktail party, but I am almost certain I have never been to one. But as an American, a human being, and a Christian, I knew I had to do better.
My early transition was made through the security of science. The number of death row inmates being freed by DNA evidence continues to rise, as I am sure so does the number of bodies in the ground that also bear the distinction of being innocent of their crimes. Purely based on this, the death penalty gets a resounding vote of no from me and all others truly interested in justice. There cannot be collateral damage in the fair and balanced prosecution of American citizens. That is unacceptable.
Now, I take even a broader perspective on the issue. Who the &*&%$# am I to condone the execution of another human being? If you break into my house and attack my family, I have no problem with caving in your skull. If we meet on a battlefield, and you point your weapon at me, plan to get shot. This isn’t simply about taking life. It is about removing the breath from someone who does not pose an immediate physical threat. There is a word for “the termination of human life with malice aforethought (i.e. advanced planning)”. The word is murder.
“Vengeance is mine” says the Lord. Vengeance can be defined as “punishment inflicted for an injury or offense.” These men and women who transgress beyond the realm of decency are blights upon society who do not deserve another breath of the air of a righteous nation. That is the general whiff I get in support of the death penalty. The very existence of egregious murderers, the determination of which can itself be called into question, is an offense against the good people of America. Their lives injure our noble sensibilities. And then we remember that Jesus intimates that anger is dangerously close to murder. Do we see ourselves before we cast stones at others?
In conclusion, I can not in good conscience support the death penalty, nor do I have any desire to do so. I ask all, especially my fellow Christians, who support this fatal fix to our nation’s violence problem to reconsider. I believe prayer and reading of the Scriptures, alongside talk with those who see the sickness here, can change lives and stop the support of ending lives.
Stay tuned for upcoming blogs on my thoughts about other controversial issues such as drugs, prostitution, and children on leashes. Thank you for walking through the lions’ den with me.