To date there is a nationwide debate over the morality, constitutionality and application of the death penalty. Recent polls show that the majority of contemporary Americans actually support the death penalty. Both supporters and opponents claim that the Bible corroborates their views when it comes to the Christian interpretation because verses in the Bible when taken independently, can back up both sides of the argument.
As a Conservative Christian I readily admit that I have struggled with my stance on the death penalty. When I made the decision to write this article I committed myself to finally making a decision about where I stood. As a former Peace Officer my duty was to protect citizens. I have witnessed horrific and senseless crimes that still to this day plague my mind. I have witnessed lives destroyed forever by the loss of a loved one either by death or incarceration. I have witnessed both sides of the Criminal Justice System and felt its power in the form of justice and injustice. I understood that there was no “one way” to look at this subject in order to come to my decision. I have looked into the history of the death penalty, moral obligations, the criminal justice system, political perspectives as well as my Christian teachings in order to come to my conclusion. This is my journey!
The Death Penalty dates as far back as the Eighteenth Century B.C. During this time sentences were carried out by ways of impalement, drowning, burning alive, crucifixion and beating to death. The first recorded execution in America was in the Jamestown colony of Virginia in 1608.
The Abolitionist Movement found its authoritative voice in 1767 with an essay that was written by Cesare Beccaria called “On Crimes and Punishment”. He theorized that there was no justification for the state’s taking of life. The first actual attempt to reform the death penalty in the U.S. occurred when Thomas Jefferson introduced a bill to revise Virginia’s death penalty laws. The bill proposed that capital punishment be used only for the crimes of murder and treason. It was defeated by only one vote!
The Death Penalty Information Center reports that 33 states and the federal government have reinstated capital punishment since the Supreme Court lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in the last 35 years. The 10-year moratorium on executions ended on January 17, 1977 with the execution of Gary Gilmore by firing squad in Utah. That same year Oklahoma became the first state to adopt lethal injection as a means of execution. Five years later the State of Texas executed Charles Brooks on December 7, 1982 becoming the first state to administer the lethal injection and Charles becoming the first man to die from lethal injection.
There is an absolute morality that we live by because if not there would be no existence of God. Some argue that God teaches forgiveness and we should forgive people who commit murder. On the other hand the same people will ask for restitution when they have been robbed. They say we should all “forgive” but actually demand punishment. An individual can find it in their heart to forgive a murderer but only God has the authority to forgive a murderer and even he will not forgive the unrepentant murderer! There is an absolute moral obligation for Law Enforcement and the Military to keep our country and its citizens safe. The moral principle that I derive from this is the right of self-defense. Have you heard of a just war to protect ourselves against naked aggression, whether by a nation or by terrorists organizations? We have individuals in society that choose by their own actions to remove themselves out of the norms of civil society when they choose to commit an unspeakable crime. Is this not an act of war within our society? Should they be treated any differently than a terrorist who decided to murder an American? I believe in the sanctity of life and the protection of all Americans. Putting murderers to death will not only protect the sanctity of life but also guarantee the protection under the absolute morality of the law. Have you ever heard of a dead person coming back to kill again?
Criminal Justice System:
Support for the death penalty has decreased, as Americans grow increasingly aware that the criminal justice system makes mistakes, innocent people have been convicted of crimes and perpetrators have remained free or set free to commit more crimes. The criminal justice system is simply flawed. Human beings, who make mistakes, drive it, and these same individuals are making decisions in which innocent people are potentially being sentenced as well as guilty people. There are even cases where witnesses lie or recant their story and they may or may not have a good reason for it. Perjured testimony happens too often. As Americans we would like to admit that most people tell the truth most of the time. But how do we honestly measure “most” of the time? Have you ever lied in order to protect yourself? Would a police officer lie to protect his job? Would a prosecutor illegally exclude people on the basis of race? Would a prosecutor withhold information that might prove an individual innocent just to get a conviction? Do prosecutors trump charges or charge and individual with a higher charge in hopes that they will actually get a conviction or guilty plea on the lesser charge? My friends, it happens more than we want to believe!
We tend to forget that in the U.S you are innocent until proven guilty. The system was made to protect the innocent! On the other hand when our justice system is riddled with rogue individuals on either side of the fence it causes flaws in our criminal justice system. The question then would be; if we face the truth and accept the fact that there are innocent people getting convicted daily then how could we ever kill an individual? I have pondered this question with only one solid answer. There is no doubt that our criminal justice system needs to be reformed and perfected. But when it comes to the death penalty there is in fact a very important actor on stage and it is called the executive branch that has the power to do justice through pardon or clemency. That role is not only found in the federal constitution text, but in literally each of the state constitutions where the death penalty applies. The Supreme Court noted that this process was a vital part of our capital punishment system. Clemency is the historic remedy for preventing miscarriages of justice in our system where the judicial process has been exhausted. The courts have referred to this as “the failsafe of our criminal justice system”.
Governors and their advisors are tending to neglect their role in history when it pertains to clemency and pardons in the system. Governors can’t let “politics” get in the way of doing the right thing under the law. There seems to be a terrible trend, a huge difference in the judicial system with its inevitable flaws and a frank unwillingness on the part of virtually every Governor in the country, and those who advise him, to fulfill their assigned role in our constitutional structure. This isn’t just a Supreme Court admonition; it is taking note of a constitutional structural point. Even President Lincoln himself took the time to personally review the files of those seeking clemency. We must seek justice for the victims and find a way to also ensure that the truly innocent are provided protection under the laws of our great nation. Governors, judges and prosecutors literally have power over “life and death” and they must act responsibly and not tolerate error on the part of our judicial system. They must guarantee their citizens that in this society driven by wealth that our legal system will not continue to be wealth sensitive. Ineffective assistance of counsel must not be tolerated and corruption must not undermine what goes on in the courts. If we have a political system that does not tolerate confessing error or acknowledging mistakes we will not get reform, you get a system that is undermining and corrupting at both the state and federal level.
Many moral opponents of the death penalty often intimidate good people into shying away from execution. Many Christians claim society should forgive criminals and instruct them to “go and sin no more.” There is a right way to deter criminals and to end the crime epidemic. That deterrence, however, does not lie in telling a serial killer like Jeffrey Dahlmer to “go and eat no more.” While Jesus was on the cross the Romans inflicted the death penalty on the two criminals next to him. Christ said nothing in their defense or against their crucifixions. One of those two mocked Christ. In response, the other criminal (whom Jesus would immediately declare righteous, Luke 23: 43) said of their punishments, “We indeed are punished justly, for we received the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23: 41). What did this forgiven criminal–this newly justified man–say about the death penalty? Bottom line: the criminals were getting their just punishment. The dying criminal knew the truth, as he said, “we indeed” are “justly” punished!
Paul instructs believers to “not avenge” themselves, “but rather give place to wrath.” Governments are the place for wrath for they are “God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath.” Individuals have one role; governments have another. Individuals do not avenge themselves, the government does. Believers forgive, governments execute! So, if the governing authorities are to obey God, they must not bear the sword in vain but execute wrath on the criminal, for they are God’s ministers to avenge and bring terror on him who practices evil. Thus God commanded execution in large part to meet out vengeance against capital criminals.
In conclusion, I am in favor of the Death Penalty 100%! I rely on my faith in God and understand that everything happens for a reason. I may not understand when, where or why but in God’s timing He will lead me to that understanding. I asked PolitiChicks followers to give me their opinions on the death penalty and Greg Troutman made this comment; “My opinion is simple…the death penalty was used on the only perfect man who ever lived…it is therefore permissible for use on anyone else”. I would like to leave you with the image of an innocent man hanging on a cross that died for our sins. God did not interfere in His only son’s execution and we must not interfere in the executions of a convicted killer who has exhausted the all his judicial powers. A swifter death penalty will in fact deter crime and aid in the healing of all involved. Godspeed!
Shannon Carpenter Rodgers is owner of S.C. Construction and Shannon Carpenter LLC, DBA Classy-Cleaning. She is H.U.B certified and is only the 4th woman to be certified as a Kitchen Exhaust Specialist in the State of Texas. For over 8 years she worked in Law Enforcement and Juvenile Corrections. She was President of her Police Academy and graduated with a 4.0 and salutatorian of her class. Shannon also holds three Lightweight Titles for women’s boxing in West Texas.