There are a couple of aspects of the judicial system that creates a lot of emotion in people. One of those aspects is a crime committed against a child. The other is trying to implement or use the death penalty.
Both aspects sacrifice justice and fairness but those sacrifices are done in different ways. For the former, myriads of people have no qualms implementing the death penalty on anyone who commits a crime on a child. At these times, the death penalty is neither immoral nor unethical.
For the latter, the sacrifice of justice comes in favor of the criminal who committed a crime worthy of death. A majority of people think it is immoral and very unethical to use the death penalty as punishment, They liken it to murder or call it a court sanctioned killing (Hine, 2018).
This article will examine the death penalty and apply it to Christian living as well as justice. It will do this in several ways to provide a very broad picture so that this punishment can be seen in its fullest light making its purpose very clear.
The State and the Death Penalty
This section will only use the 50 American States as the example. The enactment nd use of the death penalty around the world varies but the reasons for its use or non-use remain the same.
In America, 29 states have the death penalty on their law code books. You do not hear about all 29 states as only 1 state is very active in its application. Of those 29 states, 4 have have their governors place a moratorium on its use. That leaves 21 States that do not have the death penalty to use when sentencing criminals (DPIC, 2020)
There are many advocates for the elimination of the death penalty and their behavior raises some questions. These advocates are, of course, imposing their will on the state regardless of how their fellow residents feel about the subject. They feel that the rights of the convicted are greater than the rights of the victim and others (House, 2009).
Yet, since the state is charged with creating laws and punishments for those laws, why are they limited in using the death penalty as a just punishment for certain crimes? If the elected officials are capable of constructing the laws and punishments, they should be seen as capable to applying the death penalty to the right crimes without bias in its application.
The government at all levels certainly have enough checks and balances, including multiple appeals to make sure innocent people are not put to death. In fact, the Supreme Court watches over the application of this sentence.
In 5 recent decisions, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2002 and 2016, the Court has provided strict guidelines in how the death sentence can be used (NCSL, 2020). Governments are capable to make sure that the death penalty is used as it is intended.
For Christians, we have two passages of scripture in the New Testament telling us that we must obey the government and its ordinances. Both Paul in Romans 13:1-4 and Peter in 1 Peter 2:13 remind of us our civil duty.
Since proper application of the death penalty is not against God’s laws or instructions, we should have no problem with its use on certain crimes. We do not speak up until those in power start to abuse their authority and use the death penalty in ways that are not just, fair, honest and so on.
But when we speak up, our lives should be a moral example so that our points of view are not dismissed as hypocrisy. We have to implement God’s justice in our churches, homes, and places of business of we want to be seen as credible and as an authority on punishing those who commit crimes.
The Issue of Human Rights
This is one important argument opponents to the death penalty cite often. They feel that even criminals have human rights and that none are sacrificed when they commit a crime. Some go as far as saying that a criminal has a right to decide how they would die (Mylz77, 2020).
This point of view would remove the authority from the states and place it on the shoulders of the criminal which is not right. It is the states’ laws that have been broken and the rights of the citizens of each state that have been violated.
It is the State that has been charged with protecting the victims and their rights, as well as the states’ rights. No one individual or group has the authority to remove that application of applying the death penalty from the states’ shoulders. Save for those already granted that power legally.
Then, does not the state have the right to impose upon its criminal element any punishment it deems fair and just? If not then what authority does the state hold? On top of that, opponents point to the unfairness of the implementation of the death penalty.
They feel that the sentence is not applied evenly across the board and some groups in any given geographical location can suffer more from this penalty than others (Mylz77, 2020). Just because the death penalty may be applied unjustly or arbitrarily does not make the punishment wrong.
It makes those who misapply the punishment wrong. We do not abolish the punishment because it is applied erroneously, instead, we correct those who misapplied it.
That too is a Christians duty. The Bible tells us to correct those who are doing sinful acts in a biblical manner. That correction applies to those who do not apply the death penalty properly. The Bible does not give us escape clauses to pick and choose when we try and correct those doing wrong.
The Death Penalty is Not a Deterrent
You will find that many opponents to this sentencing option cite that science has not gathered any evidence showing that the death penalty deters others from committing similar crimes (Swanton, 2015).
They also say that the criminal mind does not calculate the consequences when thinking about committing a crime. But ask any robber why they did not use a gun in their robbery attempts, and they will tell you the difference in time they have to serve if caught. They do think of the consequences of their crimes (Swanton, 2015).
This argument that the death penalty is not a deterrent fails on two counts. First, it is impossible to say how many people were deterred from committing a crime once they learned of the penalty for their actions. People do not broadcast their decisions on these matters.
The second failure to this argument is that the death penalty was never created or instituted to be a deterrent. When you look at scriptures, you will see that God said the punishment for this crime is death,. The punishment is for that crime is death.
You do not see God saying afterwords to use his death sentence as a deterrent. Exodus 21:12, 21;14-17, Numbers 35:16-17 & Deut. 19:11-12 will serve as support for that point.
The death penalty was created and instituted as a just punishment for certain crimes only. It was not a blanket punishment to be broadly applied nor applied to every criminal act.
The death sentence has a just and fair application. Now some may say that since the Pope said that the death penalty goes against the Gospel and against the nature of God who holds all life sacred, and because it is a voluntary killing, they argue that the death penalty is immoral, unethical and spiritually wrong (Hine, 2018).
The problem is that the Pope and those who use his statement in their opposing arguments, forgets that because God holds life as sacred he instituted the death penalty for the very reason it is fair and just for certain crimes.
Those groups and the Pope also forget that carrying out the death penalty is far from a voluntary act. It is a mandatory sentence where someone has to to do it. The fact that people do not want to do it, opens the door for the opponents of that sentence to work their weak arguments in and ruin justice.
No Christian should be cheering when the death sentence is passed and carried out. It is a loss of a life that has used up his or her opportunities for repentance and that is not a happy thought for any believer.
We must remember that the moral, just and holy God created the death penalty for us to use when that punishment fits the crime committed. The punishment is not immoral when applied correctly.
This issue probably will never go away. There are just too many subjective opinions out there that will keep the fight going. Some opponents will never be convinced of the morality and ethical nature of the death penalty. Some have argued that innocent people may be killed when convicted and sentenced to death (Mylz77, 2020)
But that is why the government has implemented a myriad of appeals just to prevent that from taking place. Yes mistakes happen but then humans are not perfect and cannot be held accountable to a standard they will never be able to meet.
When the people of this world and in our governments ignore and reject God, expect mistakes to happen and the wrong people executed. They reject the one objective moral standard given to use by the only objective being in existence through his holy Book.
When they do that, they are going to execute the wrong people in the wrong manner. Christians are not responsible for those decisions unless they help make them and carry them out.
God has also given us a guideline to follow when it comes to accusing. Numbers 25: 30 to 32 says that there are to be two witnesses before someone can be convicted of the crime. Too often courts and lawyers use only one witness to every supposed crime that was committed by one person.
I like to use Mr. Bill Cosby as an example here as it illustrates this point so well. Let’s say, for the sake of argument and I do not remember the exact number of women used by the prosecutor, 10 women accused him of 10 separate acts of a sexual crime.
In today’s legal world that number would constitute 10 eye witnesses for the crime Mr. Cosby is accused of committing. Unfortunately, each of those women did not have a second witness verifying the crime they said took place against them.
Their accusations did not meet God’s guideline as each unverified crime was merely her word against his and no proof existed to show that their crime actually took place. They are not 10 eye witnesses but 10 people who are a part of a conspiracy to get back at Mr. Cosby for whatever made them angry.
Not one of them proved he did his acts against their will either. So when it comes to the death penalty we have to be extra careful when witnesses are appealed. Even two witness can lie and commit a conspiracy.
Two witnesses are not the only element God has given us to convict someone of a crime. The truth is another criteria and you will find more when you read through the Bible.
If Christians want to take a moral stand about the death penalty, then they need to stand with God and see the truth about the death penalty. It is not immoral to implement it and use it for certain crimes.
It is immoral if it is applied unfairly and creates an injustice. This is the problem of letting emotions enter into this topic. Emotions are not just, fair nor use the truth. They usually use revenge and other negative characteristics.
We have to follow God in this issue and stand with him.
Chery, F., (2020), “Death Penalty: Bible Verses About Death Penalty”, Bible reasons, Retrieved from https://biblereasons.com/death-penalty/
DPIC, (2020), “State by State”, The Death Penalty Information Center, retrieved from https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/state-and-federal-info/state-by-state
Hine, M., (2018), “Is death penalty ethical, humane, fair, effective or even practical?”, Know news, Retrieved from https://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/columnists/2018/08/06/death-penalty-ethical-humane-fair-effective-practical/898371002/
House, R., (2009), “The death penalty and the Principle of Goodness”, The International Journal of Human Rights Volume 13, 2009 – Issue 5, Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13642980802533224?src=recsys
Mylz77, (2020), “Is the Death Penalty Ethical?”, News Activist, Retrieved from http://newsactivist.com/en/news-summary/ethics-fall-2014-champlain-college-st-lambert-flacks/death-penalty-ethical
NCSL, (2020), “States & Capital Punishment”, National Conference of State Legislatures, Retrieved from https://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/death-penalty.aspx
Swanton, D., (2015), “The death penalty is morally unacceptable” Ethical Rights, Retrieved from https://www.ethicalrights.com/articles/media/136-death-penalty-is-morally-unacceptable