The redemption of the felon on death row is between the felon and God. It’s up to God to have mercy on him/her; we on the other hand, have to do what’s right and necessary for the preservation of civil society by protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty. Sparing the condemned doesn’t do that. It sends exactly the wrong message about life’s sacrosanctity to other violent criminals that have yet to be brought to justice. Abolishing the death penalty shows preferential treatment for the murderer at the expense of the murdered.
Social Justice Activist Shane Claiborne – a progressive Christian who runs Philadelphia’s Simple Way community, and an author who published Executing Grace earlier this summer about the death penalty – was recently interviewed by Relevant Magazine about what he claims is the Christian obligation to reject capital punishment.
Claiborne seems sincere in his religious opposition to capital punishment but his reasoning (in this piece but also his book) to support abolition are in conflict with biblical justifications for the death penalty, and don’t make much sense.
For example, Claiborne says:
“The consistent life ethic is beautiful. It says, “We are uncompromisingly going to stand for life.” The early Christians did that; they unilaterally spoke against violence in all forms. But what’s happened… pro-life has come just to mean anti-abortion… But it’s not the only life issue.
…The death penalty raises one of the most fundamental questions of our faith which is: Is any person beyond redemption? At the end of the day I think there are a lot of reasons to be against the death penalty, but for a Christian who believes that Jesus died to spare us from death and this idea of grace or as Scripture says “mercy triumphs over judgement.”
This is a bit convoluted and attempts to hide moral relativism posing as, but distorting, Christianity.
“Violence in all forms?” So murder, rape, and punishment for both are all morally equal – comparably defined as violence? How? Based on what functioning ethical system? The Bible and Christian orthodoxy are clear that gradations of violence, sin, and punishment exist precisely because of the morality attached to them.
The idea that one has to reject capital punishment to maintain pro-life ethical consistency is a false dichotomy, completely ignoring biblical teaching on the matter.
In my opinion – and based on the Bible – to be pro-capital punishment is to be pro-life.
It’s why the divine injunction of capital punishment is the only command repeated in each of the first five books of the Bible. It rightly roots out the evil in our midst, preserving the lives of the majority. Those who commit the most grievous of crimes and worthy of the death penalty are killed, preventing them from re-committing their heinous acts, which violate the safety and security of other people.
Claiborne’s petition that no one is “beyond redemption” doesn’t factor in the dispute against capital punishment. The argument is that no person – regardless of the moral depravity evidenced in the actions s/he has committed – is beyond repentance, spiritual conversion and redemption. As such, a person shouldn’t be condemned to death via capital punishment, but should be spared and given opportunities to be spiritually rehabilitated and saved.