Wednesday, November 08, 2006

On the Death Penalty

The following is from Josh Kingcade, originally posted on his Facebook.

Why I Oppose the
Death Penalty

by Josh Kingcade (notes) 4:28am Tuesday,
Nov 7
As I’ve watched the Oklahoma gubernatorial debates, and now with the Saddam Hussein verdict, I thought about how to articulate my opposition to the death penalty. Those of us who oppose it inevitably get called weak or soft on criminals. I will try to give a reasoned defense of my opposition.Some oppose
the death penalty on pragmatic grounds – that is, they believe that the death penalty in America yields too many errors, and that since we’ve executed many innocent people, we should stop sentencing people to death. However, if our country could guarantee 100% mistake-free executions, this group of people would again support the death penalty. In sum, their opposition is not moral, but rather they are opposed to how it’s done and the risk for error. My opposition is beyond that. Even if the government could guarantee that only guilty people would be executed, I would still oppose it.

1. I refuse to condone the killing of someone for economic reasons. Some supporters of the death penalty say they don’t want their tax dollars going to fund a lifetime of imprisonment for a murderer. Execute them, they say, and keep us from paying for their existence. No life, unborn baby or convicted murderer, should never be equated with some dollar amount. That is a poor and unbiblical way to look at people. Jesus would never attach an economic amount to a human being. We cannot sentence someone to die simply because we don’t want to fund their existence.

2. I fully support life imprisonments for dangerous criminals. There is no reason to let them back on the street. They pose a threat, and they deserve to be punished for their crimes, even if that means a lifetime behind bars. So let’s think for a minute:
why would you kill someone instead of giving them life in prison? I’ve already named one reason: money. The other reason I can think of? Revenge.

Now, look, if someone killed a member of my family, I’d want their head to ROLL. But I would also not want my emotions to be the deciding factor in someone’s life. Thank goodness our justice system does not hinge on the emotions of the plaintiff. So while I might want that person dead, I rest easier knowing that a reasonable, uninvolved judge can render a sensible verdict.

So again, why would you kill someone instead of sending them to prison for life? Because you want to avenge your loved one’s death. This is perfectly natural, but it is neither biblical nor a justifiable reason to kill someone. Christ tells us to love our enemies and not to seek revenge. God will take care of that.

Some argue that Romans 13 gives government this right. I would agree for the most part. But remember, when Paul was writing, the government was totally pagan. Paul was saying, “I know the government is totally opposed to Christianity, and I know none of you Christians have a place in that government, but you must submit to that government.”

Things are different now. Our government is, at least in part, based on Christian principles (or it pretends to be). We have Christians in high places in the government, and we have Christians deciding laws on capital punishment. So I would argue that Americans and the American government have every right to impose the death penalty. Christians, however, should have no part in it. Human life is not ours to take.

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