Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What I Think About--Capital Punishment

Two Fridays ago I put a little post on my personal Facebook page saying Utah was on my poop list because 1) They left the Mountain West Tournament (money over 80 years of tradition--slime balls--sorry if you're a Ute fan!) and 2) They executed Ronnie Lee Gardner.

I put it like that, in that order.

Boy oh boy did that start a firestorm!  I ended up having to delete comments.  It was dramatic. 

One comment simply asked: “Are you anti-capital punishment?”

Why yes I am.  Here's why.

Whenever capital punishment is mentioned, I hear the same arguments.

If we killed more people there would be less crime. 
Sadly research is conflicting.  The data in this research indicate that after an execution, there are 18 fewer murders.  The problem is, correlation does not equal causation.  The moon phases could play into those 18 fewer deaths just as easily.  Other data found there is no correlation because those who commit violent crimes rarely think of consequences prior to committing the crime.  It’s a draw. 

What isn’t a draw is the fact that since DNA testing has been used in courts, many people serving life sentences have been freed and 8 others have been “executed but possibly innocent.”  39 more executed people have been killed in the face of evidence that they were innocent.

Why do I mention this?  Because what I generally hear is my dad people saying, "even if it only deters one crime, even if it saves just one life, I'm for the death penalty."  In my estimation, being against the death penalty might save innocent lives as much, or more, than hoping for capital punishment to be a deterrent.  I guess I'd rather keep one proven and convicted killer in prison for life than "accidentally" killing a person who actually WAS innocent.

We save money killing criminals 
Hate to say it, but WRONG-O!
One study counted death penalty case costs through to execution and found that the median death penalty case costs $1.26 million. Non-death penalty cases were counted through to the end of incarceration and were found to have a median cost of $740,000.   You do the math.  Want more info on how much more money taxpayers pay to execute someone?  Click here.

Lethal Injection is humane
Really?  For some reason I think the majority of humans fear death whether it is "humane" or not.  New data suggest that lethal injection is not as painless as first believed.  And it can be botched.  Actually, the man in Utah who was recently executed chose the firing squad because it is 100% effective.  The same thing can't be said of lethal injection.  Or the chair. 

He Deserved It
Don't even get me started on the systemic issues that skew capital punishment.  Borrowing from Thomas More, "We create criminals and then punish them." (Don't believe me?  Gardner was alone on a highway at 2, addicted to sniffing at 6, a robbery lookout at 10, sexually molested by his state-paid foster parents ... don't tell me he wasn't partially failed by his culture and society.) 

Eye for an Eye
Ah yes, and now the religious excuse for capital punishment.  

It is true that you'll find this statement in the Old Testament (Lev. 24:19-21).  However, you have to look at it contextually.  In ancient days, punishments generally FAR exceeded the crime (think of stoning a woman to death for adultery--not exactly just).  Thus, this command, "an eye for an eye" was actually a call for mercy--that the worst you could do to someone was what they did to you.  This original command was set up so people wouldn't capriciously seek revenge and retribution.  The intent was to solve problems with justice--not revenge.

What I want people to know is that they can't throw Leviticus at me while forgetting Matthew 5:38-39.
You have heard it said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." But I say to you, Do not resist and evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.

Again, it is all about context. Jesus ISN'T saying we have to be pacifists and never defend ourselves.  He is saying "don't compete with an evil person through retaliation." Don't do to them what they do to you.  

Some other good New Testament stuff: 
  • James 4:12 says God is the only lawgiver and judge who can take a life in the name of justice. 
  • Romans 12:17-21 warns us against answering evil with evil and assures us that God will see to justice in the afterlife. 
  • In John 8:7 Jesus points out that all humans are imperfect, and are therefore unqualified to decide whether someone lives or dies. 
  • And a personal little favorite James 1:20: “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”
The Bible doesn't steadfastly say YES or NO to capital punishment (so it's probably best not to use the "eye of an eye" defense).

What I Think:
As a Christ following woman, I am against capital punishment.  I believe and trust that Christ came for the "least of these" and that He can redeem people (heck, look what He's done for me!). 

I believe this is a heart issue, not a salvation issue.  If you disagree, you certainly have that right but I personally can't reconcile "loving your neighbor as yourself"with capital punishment.  

What Do You Think?
Even if we disagree, I'd love to hear your side of this issue.  Respectful comments are welcome
~I trust we can all disagree without being disagreeable~ (Comments will be moderated as needed).

Sorry for the photo.  Turns out there aren't many inspirational capital punishment photos!


  1. Ha, I didn't realize that by me writing 'are you anti-capital punishment?' that a firestorm would be started either!
    This is a tricky one for me, because I believe in the validity of all of Scripture, and unfortunately, capital punishment is a gray area in Scripture. There's no definite 'yes' or 'no'. I tend to favor capital punishment, not because I'm a revenge seeking heartless barbarian, but I think it is a fair form of punishment in response to their actions. I don't know about the waiting around for years to carry out the punishment, but I honestly don't feel it's out of line. I am a major advocate of mercy (you have to be if you received it, right?)and I love hearing stories of inmates who have turned their lives around for the better and have become changed people. However, with the rate of recidivism and the fact that we don't have a justice system that immediately cuts somebody's hand off for stealing and allows defense trials, I think the process in some cases is long overdue, and gives serious criminals the opportunity to do more harm to others (not that I'm saying we should kill everybody immediately. not at all!)
    Furthermore, I have a really hard time placing a huge portion of the blame for criminals upon society, because I feel it is an alternative in a lot of cases to explain away or ignore human nature. I know that there are lots of things about our imperfect society that contribute to the delinquency of people, but C.S. Lewis makes a great point when he says that there is an internal law established by God within every man. You can't slap somebody out of no where, and have the other person feel ok about it, nor can the slapper argue that they didn't know any better or that it was 'right' for them or that if society had made them a better person, maybe they wouldn't have slapped them. Obviously everyone knows it's not ok! That's why we all spend so much time hiding our wrongdoings, no matter how big or small, because we know them to be wrong and shameful! We don't want them exposed to the light. I think the same principle applies here. Ultimately for me, it is all a struggle of sin. Some sins are harder for people to avoid then others, and it's all about the battle of whether we succumb to our flesh or not.
    Sorry this is so long, I really enjoy discussing tough topics like this!

  2. @Whitney--Thanks for your thoughts. I've had similar people who are along your line of thinking. I understand that. I appreciate being able to talk about hot topics without name calling, etc.!

  3. I am totally torn on this issue. I try to think if someone MURDERED my sweet children.. my mother.. my sister.. I'd probably want to see the same done to them. Right or wrong.. I can't help but feel that victims of these crimes (their loved ones at least) might deserve to see this person put to death.

    On the practical side - it cost a lot more money to put someone to death. Even with a confession you can't be sure they are guilty - and the thought of someone DYING for crime they didn't commit is ludacris to me. Not worth the risk!

    In all honesty, murderers typically kill one person unless they are one of these more crazy serial killers. If someone is going to be actually put to death for their crimes, I'm much more in favor of child molesters going away forever.. they are proven over and over again to almost never be rehabilitated, they almost ALWAYS have numerous victims.. and they never stop.

    So, as you can see, I am not against it. I'm a Christian.. but I do think it has its place. I do think the process is totally screwed up... and I think the death penalty is something that should almost never be used. If the cops walk in and SEE you kill someone.. sure. If the "evidence" puts you away.. not sure I trust that. Not always.

  4. I appreciate your appreciation :) I agree, debating without degrading is a long lost art, and people tend to get caught up way too much in emotion and pettiness to act like adults in scenarious such as this. It's too bad!

  5. I agree with that last comment, Whit!

    I am definitely against the death penalty!

    I guess for me its mostly from a spiritual aspect. I don't really get caught up in the money issue because its somebody's life...our government wastes money all the time! Of course it is all expensive!

    Likely the person who had done something to be sentenced with such a probably not a follower of Jesus. I don't think that we should sentence them to Hell for all of eternity. I think they should have a chance to repent & choose to follow Christ. Maybe I would feel differently if I was directly effected by their crime. I don't know! But to me it just seems so wrong.

    Now, do I believe in prison reform...YES! Do I believe in stricter prison sentences with less chances of parole...YES! Do I think that prisoners should be treated humanely...yes! Does that mean they should have all the comforts that they have...NO!

    okay...that's another subject!

    I've discussed this (respectfully) many times with my husband & I just can't wrap my mind around capital punishment being okay! I would rather spend more money (or less?) to keep them in prison until they die of natural causes...allowing them to have a chance of following Jesus. Plus, it just seems more humane to me. Killing someone for killing another just seems a little backwards to me.

    Sorry for the random thoughts. I don't have time to go back & proofread them. Hope it makes sense! :)


{Reverse Psychology}
I DO NOT like comments. Whatever you do, don't leave me a comment about this post or your thoughts or any connections you have to what I wrote. Seriously, I don't care.
(Did that reverse psychology work???)