Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Republicans Must Not Be Hypocritical On Life

One of the easiest ways to degrade your political opponent on either side of the aisle or whatever point on the spectrum is to accuse them of being hypocritical. For instance, easy points to criticize the left are:

1. Pushing for low-income housing while putting growth controls on development.
2. Not supporting international trade agreements and claiming support for third world poverty efforts.
3. Pushing civil libertarian positions on drugs but then at the same time pushing nanny state positions on tobacco and food/obesity.

These are simply examples and its clear that often positions a political party or member takes can be seen as contradictory. One of the positions the left and the public at large can see as hypocritical is the dominant stance of the Republican Party on life, particularly abortion and the death penalty. The Republican party will most likely in the near future not abandon its stance on abortion (to do so would be political suicide) yet it should should move towards a conclusive pro-personhood stance advocating against the death penalty.

Brad V layed out the major reasons for opposition to the death penalty in terms of its ability deter, punish, or remove a threat. Obviously murderers are not a threat to society if they are sentenced and forced to serve life in prison. While prison is fairly tame in our modern society, who would actually want to sit there for life and is not dying (albeit 10-20 years later) a easy opt out? I'd rather fry for 1 second in an electric chair than spend decades more in prison. The fact is there is no evidence that the death penalty actually prevents homicide, especially when you consider that many of the people who commit murder are not mentally stable. While considering the effectiveness of the death penalty in stopping homicide, we also must consider how much it costs to prosecute and put someone to death. According to the death penalty information center, Texas spends an estimated $2.3 million dollars per case. In other states it costs even more per case due to the extensive legal process involved. From a cost-benefit case, this is not financially intelligent especially when looking at other possible uses such as increased law enforcement. While touching on the determent and financial aspects, another issue that I won't go further into is wrong decisions (check out Northwestern's study) and executing innocent citizens.

The ultimate issue though for Republicans is whether they see justice in the death penalty and do they find it moral and ethical to take someone's life even if they have done a horribly bad thing. Many will take "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" position but is the way our society should run and is this a moral or even Christian position. When someone hurts you physically, mentally, possibly even financially in a wrongful manner, the next move should not be to get back at them or get even. It should be to address their sin openly and ask them for repayment in a "sorry" or other justified manner. If legal issues were violated and can't be settled personally, then the answer is to obviously go to court and find retribution. While a murderer may not ever be able to pay the people they hurt back for killing someone in their family or close friends, compassion and forgiveness should be our main response. In the following passage, Jesus's main point was to expose the hypocrisy of the Pharissees. But I believe this passage is important and strikes a precedent of the kind of compassion and forgiveness we ought to show also.

John 8

1But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

While there are passages in the Bible that show pro death penalty tendencies (Genesis 9:6), the Bible does not offer strict guidelines to the procedure. In fact, the Bible does not offer much guidance to what role the government should play in our society. However, the Bible does advocate justice, compassion, forgiveness, etc. and in my opinion, we should let God handle life and death, not society. People can be transformed through hearing the Gospel and time, prison, and grace often does change people. While protecting society and advocating justice, Republicans must also be consistent in promoting pro-life views and supporting the existence of individuals. The hypocrisy on life within conservative circles must end.


  • wow three posts so soon, this is like Timmyscape heaven, and another way to procrastinate, yay!

    Good post, I also very much agree. Even from an economic stand point the death penalty is fiscally irresponsible, and I don't agree with the eye for an eye tooth for a tooth approach either, one should never advocate intentionally taking the life of another person.

    Here's a question to ponder though, regarding abortion. I have been thinking alot about this and in terms of when life begins etc. According to the bible, I believe it is in Exodus, but I'm not positive, there is a verse about life begining at the infusion of blood. Blood is infused into a fetus at 8 days (or something very close to that) does that make terminating a pregnancy prior to this point ok, so things like plan B would be ok, and early detected abortions after say a rape or something.
    Anyways just curious to see what you think

    By Blogger Kellie, at 12:57 AM  

  • Tim,

    I have to disagree with you that being for the death penalty is inconsistent with being against abortion. Abortion is the termination of innocent human lives, whereas the death penalty is the termination of human lives that are guilty of heinous crimes. Protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty are two harmonious concepts. This ideology is much more coherrant than killing innocent lives while protecting guilty lives, as is the ideology of people who are pro-abortion and anti-capital punishment.

    As for concerns about the cost of the death penalty, I would argue that the costs are artificially high due to invented rights by courts (and not legislatures) that go beyond the right to due process.

    Also, in the cases of cold-blooded murderers who are convicted on a mountain of evidence, wouldn't it be just to give them the death penalty?

    Finally, many interpret Romans 13:4 as a bible verse that gives governments the right to execute evil-doers.

    Romans 13:4
    "for it [the government] is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil."

    By Blogger Ryan S, at 2:36 AM  

  • Let me think about the blood infusion part and get back to you on that Kellie.

    Good comments Ryan. You are right that protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty are different concepts on that front. But the concept of life and respecting everyone's right to existence if they have done something very wrong is in my mind very important. One of my biggest fears about the death penalty is that we're not allowing people the due process to change, accept Christ, and be granted forgiveness. We're simply ending their life for good.

    I'm not going to argue w/ Romans 13:4 b/c it is fairly explicit. One thing about the passage is though that it says the government bears the sword but it does not say that the government should bear the sword.

    Also, I'm curious about the passage because if the government is an imperfect institution that does make mistakes from time to time. How can it be a minister of God and how much avengence should it necessarily carry out? I've always held the opinion that we should let God carry out vegeance, not ourselves or even human institutions.

    If any other theological scholars can help clear up death penalty questions, please post!!! On that note, I'll pray and reflect on some of the prior verses.

    By Blogger Tim, at 2:50 AM  

  • Tim,
    I believe that there is a Bible verse requiring us to allow people to repent. It's somewhere. Of course, an arguement can be made as to how much time we give someone to repent. Is a month enough? Is a decade enough?

    Here is a broad theological issue for you to chew on. As far as imperfect institutions, here are some asumptions that Catholics make in regards to "perfect" institutions.

    The Catholic Church, a "government" institution, is also a minister of God. As a Catholic, I believe God created the Catholic Church to minister the Christian faith and put the Pope as its leader. The Gospel recounts Jesus placing St. Peter as the head of the Church.

    Furthermore, Catholics maintain that the Pope is infallible when it comes to religian. That doesn't mean that he doesn't make mistakes as head of the Church or that he doesn't sin.

    Basically, infallibility means that the Pope's interpretion of the Bible and of the Christian faith is the correct interpretation. Examples would be the existence of the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the existence of Purgatory, etc. Infallibility, however, does not extend to non-Religious issues.

    Saying that the Pope and the Catholic Church (in its governing role) are both perfect in regards to interpretting the Christian faith is fairly contentious to many people because both institutions are made up of men--and men are imperfect and sinful.

    Another example is that all Christians assume that the Bible is the Word of God. However, God "wrote" the Bible through men. Additionally, scribes copied the Bible. Who's to say that when the human writers of the Bible wrote on behalf of God, that these men didn't make mistakes.

    By Blogger Ryan S, at 1:23 PM  

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