Opinion: Christians And The Death Penalty

The issue of the death penalty has long been a constant debate among Christians. One side justifies capital punishment from its biblical origins as retribution of wrongdoing, while others argue against the practice, maintaining a holistic pro-life stance. 

The death penalty is advocated for in the bible, but Christians should not support the existing death penalty model. Current inconsistencies in the system and discrepancies with offenders’ cases should cause Christians to stop blindly encouraging the policy Christians must first retain our pro-life and human rights stance before we can promote the poorly implemented capital punishment model we currently have in place.

The concept of capital punishment was established in Genesis 9:6: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.” Romans 13:4 specifically discusses the concept of government’s authority, mandating the instruction: “he [rulers] does not bear the sword in vain.” 

These verses outline that government has the God-granted right to punish wrongdoing, which includes implementation of the death penalty. New Testament principles of love and forgiveness apply to Christians but not primarily to governments and authority. The Bible makes it clear throughout Romans 13 that government was established as “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” With that biblical view of government, Christians can promote the death penalty as directed by God. 

There is a problem, however.

Christians must tread lightly on the issue of capital punishment. On the one hand, it is biblically mandated for government, but problems such as racism and the possibility of wrongful convictions corrupt the present system. The argument for capital punishment should first be met by proper implementation.

On the contrary, Christians have a bigger problem to solve than ensuring capital punishment’s place in government. Before promoting the policy’s use, Christians should be aware of the rights violations and discrepancies that contaminate the current capital punishment.

Innocent lives have been lost to the death penalty. The prominent issue of capital punishment is killing an innocent person that was wrongfully convicted. Since 1973 according to the Death Penalty Information Center, over 185 mistakenly convicted prisoners on death row have been exonerated, pointing to a trend of erroneous death sentences. Similarly, more wrongly-convicted detainees have most likely been put to death. There have been dozens of instances in capital cases where there were discrepancies and questionable convictions. Christians cannot ignore these cases and vouch for capital punishment without acknowledging this problem.

Another caveat for the continued implementation of the death penalty is the racist tendencies of conviction. If the victim of a crime is white, the offender is more likely to be sentenced to death. Cases involving white victims comprise 80% of capital cases according to reports from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in which African-American offenders are three times more likely to receive the death penalty than white individuals. How can Christians support a process with racist outcomes? Christians should be on the offensive in stopping racial disparities. Public policy with unjust results is not God-ordained.

With these misnomers, Christians have the responsibility to promote solutions to these inconsistencies before we begin to encourage the death penalty with a fairer justice system. Before capital punishment can be justified as biblical, we must follow our pro-innocent-life stance and fight against the sin of racism. We must fight to ensure innocence until proven guilty. After these problems are solved,  Christians could then justifiably encourage the biblical use of the death penalty.

Keaton Browder is an Opinion Writer. View his LinkedIn profile here.

One comment

  • I respectfully disagree with this stance and the way it was approached based upon the numbers presented. What’s not presented is the numbers of convictions that have proven to be true in the vast majority of death penalty cases. Further you are never going to get a perfect system. Once DNA evidence was introduced it dropped the numbers of wrongful executions down to a more reasonable percentage from what it was.
    Further what also is considered to be a racist issue is not examining the other side of the coin and asking the question “Why is it that more African-Americans are executed than white offenders?” The answer is not racism. If you looked at the statistics of numbers of African-American offenders, you might find that the reason more are executed is because there are more that commit and are convicted of violent crimes than their white counterparts.
    Finally, the Biblical mandate for the death penalty is not predicated on having a perfect system first like you appear to be advocating for.
    Thus good journalism would recognize these things and address both sides of the issue instead of just trying to push their own view.

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