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A Christian Against the Death Penalty

Last Friday night, we had a great segment about Clarence Ray Allen, the death row inmate set to be executed at midnight on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Allen is legally blind, uses a wheelchair and has a weak heart, but we’re going to stick the needle in him anyway.

I’ve long been a supporter of the death penalty, but I’ve been rethinking my position lately. The U.S. is the only Western industrialized nation that still executes people and study after study has shown the racist undertones of our system. I favor the moratorium being proposed in California whereby no executions would take place for at least two years so we can study and review the system.

After the show, I got this interesting email from Ken, a devout Christian. Check it out:

“I take a stance that is probably very different from the majority of conservatives that called in during the show: I’m a conservative Christian, and I’m against the death penalty. Let me explain why.

As a Christian, I believe that there is one end of man, and two destinations. The end is God’s glory; the destinations are heaven and hell. Those who will be in heaven on the last day are those who have accepted Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for their sins. Those who will be in hell are those who haven’t. Let’s take a closer look at these two groups of people.

According to the bible, Christians are blameless in God’s sight. This is because the punishment that God requires for a Christian’s sin was taken out on Jesus Christ 2000 years ago. There remains no more punishment to be given the sinner; Jesus took it all. If God required more punishment, he would be an unjust God for exacting the full, required punishment twice (once on Jesus, and once on the Christian).

The implication of this is: there remains no more wrath, or punishment, for the true Christian. If Jesus has taken the full punishment for the Christian’s sin, there remains no more punishment to “dish out”. Now, I am a believer in our prison system. I think that those who are a danger to society should not mingle with the public.

The second group of people is non-Christians. They, according to the bible, will be full recipients of God’s anger and punishment for sin (specifically, eternity in hell).

There are only two types of persons on this planet: Christians and non-Christians. God’s wrath on the Christian’s sin is appeased; Jesus was subjected to God’s required punishment in the place of the Christian. Conversely, God’s wrath on the non-Christian remains unappeased. This wrath will be inflicted on the non-Christian on judgment day. It doesn’t matter if one is a Christian or non-Christian; justice has been, or will be, served by God.

So why would a Christian risk sending an innocent person to the death chamber, when he/she knows that ultimately, perfect justice will be served? That’s what I want to know! It makes no sense to me! Even if I’m 99.99% sure that the person I’m calling guilty is in fact guilty, why should I take it into my own hands to serve him justice? I’d certainly be in favor of putting him/her in prison until I’m SURE that he/she no longer remains a threat to society, but I would not condemn him/her to death. It’s just too risky, especially when I know that God will give that person justice on the last day. God is the perfect judge; humans are not. God will bring perfect justice; humans should not, and cannot. Humans should do their best to protect other humans from menaces to society, and that’s all they should do.

And if I were an atheist, I would still not believe in the death penalty. If I did, I would not expect that anyone should believe as I do. Without a transcendent moral authority, morality becomes completely arbitrary, anyway. Your callers today were saying things like, “He killed another person. He does not deserve to live.” Well, says who? Them? So morality is based on individual preference? Well if that were the case, then the murderer is justified if he thinks murder is okay.

Without a transcendent reference point, morality becomes completely arbitrary and meaningless. That’s another topic, for another day, though.

So now you can tell people you know of a conservative Christian that is against abortion, AND against the death penalty!”

Thanks for the email, Ken.

Coming up next week on The Big Broadcast . . . . We’ll cover the medicare crisis on Monday, District 5 county supervisor Jim Patterson stops by on Tuesday and Arroyo Grande Andy takes us way to the right on Wednesday. Tune in, call in!

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  1. Anonymous
    January 16, 2006 at 3:59 am

    The e-mail you posted from the conservative Ken is telling in the assumptions he makes in it. He believes that Clearance Ray Allen is a Christian. I disagree with him. I do not believe you are a Christian just because you say so any more than you aren’t a Chirstian be I say so. It is about your deeds in life while you claim to be a Christian. Clearance Ray Allen did not live as a Christian. He was serving a term of life in prison for killing a a 17-year old snitch when he conspired to have three people murdered because they would stand against him when parole time came around. Clearly not an innocent nor was he acting as a Christian. Ken also says that we shouldn’t punish him becuase there is a remote chance that he could be innocent, so lets leave it to God. That is an arguement begging the slippery slope analogy if I ever heard one. Just because we can’t ever be 100% sure ;should not stiffle us into inaction. Furthermore, I am not concerned with the pacifity of Allen later in life any more than I care a whit whether Tookie Williams wrote one or a million anti-gang childrens books. Lack of violence or resistance or a campaign to reform an image does not mitigate the appropriate state-sanctioned punishment or absolve the crimes committed in either case. And who is to say on the religious side that we are not administering to God’s will when we punish him with execution? The obvious answer is no one because no one can know the true will and thinks of God. We could be doing God’s Will. We will never know.

    Morality is defined by society and right now society says that it is legal to execute a guilty adult and it is legal to execute an innocent fetus. From Mirriam-Webster, murder is defined as the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought. In the both instances, there is no malice prior to the execution from the state or the individual and they are both legally sanctioned.

    It is a tricky topic to talk abour morality. In this case, we end up focusing on the perpatrator of crimes and how the death penalty will obviously affect them more than the victim(s) of the murder.

  2. Bob from San Luis
    January 17, 2006 at 9:07 pm

    Okay, so we have one Conservative Christian who doesn’t favor the death penalty, and one anonymous Christian who does, with many callers agreeing with the anonymous commentator. I am a liberal and consider myself to be progressive as well, I too am against the death penalty for any reason, and even though I don’t think that they are connected, I would like to see no abortions ever done again. The difference is that I don’t want abortions to be illegal; to stop abortions from occurring would mean that there is sex education that is very thorough, that contraception is available to all (including the RU-486 morning after pill), and that all forms of birth defects eliminated, and that all forms of rape never happen again. The possibility of all of that happening seem to be extremely rare so for the time being, abortion should be legal, safe and hopefully rare. As for the death penalty for the Christians who mistakenly believe that Jesus would have someone put to death, look into your heart, try to think like Jesus, do you really believe he would have someone executed? I personally cannot follow the logic of someone calling themselves a Christian that they believe that the state has the right to take a life.

  3. Anonymous
    January 19, 2006 at 5:36 pm

    The questions is “WWJD” What would Jesus do? Well, here are some Bible passages from the NIV that may help on the subject of capital punishment and possibly some insite into what Jesus would do.

    Genesis 9:6 says:

    Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.

    Numbers 35:16-21 and 30 says:

    16 ” ‘If a man strikes someone with an iron object so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. 17 Or if anyone has a stone in his hand that could kill, and he strikes someone so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. 18 Or if anyone has a wooden object in his hand that could kill, and he hits someone so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. 19 The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death. 20 If anyone with malice aforethought shoves another or throws something at him intentionally so that he dies 21 or if in hostility he hits him with his fist so that he dies, that person shall be put to death; he is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him.

    30 ” ‘Anyone who kills a person is to be put to death as a murderer only on the testimony of witnesses. But no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness”

    Jesus says in Matthew 5:17:

    Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

    Furthermore, in the NIV, it is in Exodus 20:13 that God commands “You shall not murder”

    Therefore, I believe Jesus is saying at the Sermon on the Mound that he abides by the laws of the Old Testament and would, however uneasy he may be, okay with capital punishment since it was part of the old laws.

    So what would Jesus do with Tookie Williams and Clarance Allen? He would have them put to dewath just as we have done.

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