Once again I am driven to my the crayon box to scrawl my objections to yet another inconsistency I see in the Christian worldview. As a Christian myself, I know it depends on where you go to church much of the time, but the people I come from and that I love rise from a conservative mentality. There are few shades of gray and for the most part, I will agree with that, but it all has to be sorted out and thought through because the potential for error is high.
Let me say first, the death penalty for certain crimes against God and your neighbor is in the Bible. It is generally declared for things like murder, blasphemy, adultery and other unnatural sex acts according to the law given to Moses by God Himself. It was never given as a punishment though, unless there were at least two eyewitnesses to the crime. The death penalty was also carried out publicly and in the most gruesome ways. Stoning, beheading, crucifixion and hanging were all practiced in ancient times and more often than not, the public was required to attend. The purpose in all this was to prevent, to discourage, to deter others from behaving as the executed criminal behaved. Even children attended these public executions. The intent was to strike fear in the heart of the people.
Today in the West we reserve the death penalty for the most grievous crime of murder and in some places, kidnapping and rape can also bring the death penalty and maybe treason and sedition. Otherwise it is prohibited and in some states, it is prohibited completely and is not seen as a deterrent to the criminal behavior in question. The worst part of the continuing practice of capital punishment in the West that the accused can be sent to their death on circumstantial evidence. Production of actual eyewitnesses is not required. Further to the point, it always seems that the severity of the sentence can be greatly effected by the lawyer that you can afford. If you are stuck with a public defender, there is a good chance you will be convicted and executed for the crime of which you are accused. But if you have the money....if you can afford Johnny Cochran for instance, you will never see the sparky side of the electric chair or the three allegedly humane needles used in today's execution chambers.
I find this state of affairs appalling. No one should be executed on circumstantial evidence. No one should be stuck with a bad lawyer simply because they cannot afford a good one. It is not right. It is unjust and it must stop.
Beyond all that, there is the example of Jesus. Please read John 8 when you get an opportunity. A woman is allegedly caught in the act of adultery - a capital crime in Judea at the time. The Pharisees take her to Jesus. They want to stone her. They asked Jesus what should be done with her. He said something to the effect of, "who among you is without sin, let him cast the first stone." This indictment was enough to make them all walk away. When they had gone, Jesus counseled the woman, "there is no one here to condemn you. Neither do I. Go your way and sin no more."
Grace and mercy...a second chance...that's my Jesus!
Jesus also said on the occasion in the garden when Simon Peter sliced off the ear of Malchus, the High Priest's servant, "those who live by the sword shall die by the sword." This was an observation that we should never be quick to make judgements that may bring irreversible consequences.
I will grant you that neither of these instances rules out the use of capital punishment for high crimes against people or the government of the state. It's just that death is so permanent and everyone, in my mind, should be allowed every last chance possible to repent. It's true that, if they are guilty, they have sinned a grave sin by taking the life of another, but we need to be sure. We cannot take a life based on the circumstantial and possibly arranged evidence. Police departments and district attorneys sometimes have more of an interest in keeping conviction rates up for political reasons and they do not care who has to pay for it. Justice is a secondary issue to those driven by such things. Perhaps we should make political corruption punishable by death. If the death penalty is a deterrent, that should work right?
So here is what I suggest. Enforce the death penalty only on crimes where there are at least two eyewitnesses. Make sure, in capital crime, that the accused always has a good lawyer. Never execute a child, a mentally disabled person or a mentally ill person. Let mercy reign.
So what about the Boston bombers of this world? What do we do with them? Give them life in prison without hope of parole. Why kill them and make them martyrs? In the case of this one, serve him pork chops for the rest of his life. That should teach him.
My point here is that the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ is for everyone. It is for the innocent unborn and it is for sinners - adulterers, fornicators, liars, thieves and the chronically grouchy. We all need one last chance.
Do you still want the death penalty? OK, here is the deal. The jury that convicts also executes. Simple really. If you were on a jury, I think you would want to be sure. Also...how about public executions? Sound awful? Good. That would be the idea. If you really believe it's justice, it should not bother you to witness it...right?
How does taking the life of a murderer bring back the murdered party? How is that justice? It's fair, but is it justice. Does it actually make anyone feel better about the situation? If it does, I would say you need to see a doctor. Vengeance is for God alone, just as it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay".
As for me, I will always err on the side of grace.