Death Penalty- The Christian Debate

It is disturbing and very theologically unsound that 'capital punishment' was ever espoused as an acceptable Christian practice.

With alarming frequency the public statements of people like Festival of Light Jim Cameron {who said on air once that God wanted him back in Parliament to reinstitute the Death Penalty} are allowed to go unchallenged by the media. It has I believe, become imperative that the vast majority of Christian people, who are not represented by the extreme right wing views of Fred Nile and Jim Cameron, begin to speak out on this issue.

The real nature of the killing that occurs at an execution is punitive killing, which is never justified. Capitol punishment is cold blooded ritual murder, performed for revenge and often in the interests of political popularity. Revenge killing is always wrong.

People on both sides do throw various Bible quotes at each other, so I will try to avoid that, and just remind Christian readers that The New Testament does deal specifically with the question of Capitol Punishment. The New Testament contains two very specific incidents in which Christ became intimately connected with the issue of execution. He came to the first experience as a judge and to the second as a convicted criminal, but to both roles he brought the boundless compassion and forgiveness that stands to this day as the definitive Christian response to the barbarity of "Capital Punishment".

When the woman caught in adultery was brought before Christ, the people expected Him as a lawgiver, a Rabbi, to act as her judge and her executioner in accordance with the Law. There was not even the slightest doubt of her guilt, she had been caught in the act and yet Christ's judgement, both a spiritual and a temporal one, was clear. Not only on her, but upon the crowd who had been screaming for her death. Screaming, I might add, in much the same way he knew they would later scream for his.

He said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." One by one the people put down their stones and went away. Why? Because no man on earth, and more particularly, no society on earth could ever qualify under those terms to be an executioner.

So she found herself left alone with Him, the one man who could be her judge and what was the example that he gave to those who call for the introduction of "Capital punishment"?

" Neither then will I condemn you.' he said, "Go your way and sin no more."

The issue of adultery may not be one calculated to stir up howls of vengeance among modern readers but among the Jews of Christ's time it was as equally emotive an issue as narcotics importation or child molestation may be to us today. It involved by implication, the potential loss of health, inheritance and family fidelity. As such it threatened the whole fabric and survival of Jewish society. The Law demanded mandatory execution. What Christ said to the 'partying crowds' at that scheduled execution.... remains with us today! At another place and time when asked how often one should forgive those that do evil to us, his answer was equally clear.

His personal confrontation with the evil of Capitol Punishment was during his own unjust crucifixion, an event which I might add was also very popular with the masses at the time. An innocent man, widely demonised, unjustly accused and for whom execution was the most popular and politically advantageous option. Perhaps some of the Right Wing Christian Groups who favour the reintroduction of The Death Penalty today would care to argue the correctness of that particular judicial decision.

Capital punishment, along with it's highly ritualised implementation, equipment and methodologies, represents, I believe, the most sophisticated, sadistic and terrible form of psychological torture ever conceived.

It places it's victims, particularly those without religous belief, in the months leading up to their deathday, in a world utterly without hope, without pity, without even the possibility of earthly forgiveness.

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." These words are not so easy to misrepresent.

It is distressing indeed to witness in the rising clamour of the "Capital Punishment" debate, the growing number of otherwise rational people who are prepared to twist the words of the "Gentle Galilean" to support their inhumane and vengeful philosophies.

To quote Andrew Greely's article in MSCBN recently

" People like Karla Tucker, Timothy McVeigh, Nichols and Kaczynski are dangerous human beings. Put them all someplace where they can do no harm. But do not sink to the same savage depths into which they have fallen.  Revenge is an ideology, too. It twists the human soul with a fury that distorts a person's humanity beyond recognition.   Incidentally, don't tell me you're a good Christian and still favour the death penalty. That is sheer hypocrisy."


Further Reading Link to New Abololitionist

The Case against The Death Penalty In The USA

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