Mode of punishment ultimately a form of violence
George Wiley, ordained Episcopal priest and Baker University professor of religion:
The death penalty is a hot-button issue in the U.S. right now. DNA evidence is overturning convictions, and people are questioning lethal injection as a "gentle" method of killing. Some believe the death penalty is the only way to keep someone from committing more crimes, but others say that execution is too big an action to entrust to fallible judges and juries.
For Christians, it is important to remember that the Bible is a valuable resource for thinking about contemporary issues, including this one. After all, Jesus, too, received the death penalty. His crucifixion was carried out through the Roman law system, under the authority of Pontius Pilate.
The Bible's most important idea about the death penalty is "turn the other cheek." Have you considered what this well-known statement means? Jesus himself says it to his disciples. He tells them that they should receive harm rather than inflict it. If someone hits you, don't hit back, but offer your body to be hit again, he says. If a Roman soldier says, "Carry my pack for me for one mile," don't attack him, but say you will carry the pack for two miles. (That's where "go the extra mile" comes from.) The point is that Jesus commands his disciples - not just the Twelve but also his followers today - to be nonviolent, even when treated unjustly. Therefore Christians, if they wish to be faithful to their Lord, may not support the death penalty because it, too, is a form of violence.
- Send e-mail to George Wiley at email@example.com.
God says 'never again' to killing human race
The Rev. Peter Luckey, senior pastor, Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.:
The clearest window into the heart of God is revealed in and through Jesus of Nazareth. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "You've heard it said, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, but I say to you do not resist evil ... love your enemies."
Sister Helen Prejean, A Catholic nun, gives these words a human face.
This diminutive but indomitable woman is not afraid to go into the most maximum-security prisons.
The film "Dead Man Walking" portrays one of these ministry moments between her (played by Susan Sarandon) and convicted rapist and murderer Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn).
Minutes before his execution, Sister Helen says, "Matthew, what you have done is a terrible, terrible thing, but you have your dignity now, and no one can take your dignity away from you."
As she walks with Matthew to the death chamber she says to him, "I want the last thing you see in this world to be a face of love. Will you look at me when they do this thing? I will be the face of love for you."
Pro- or anti- death penalty, you'll find Scripture to support your view. For those who want proof that God desires vengeance look no further than the story of Noah's ark. Except for Noah and his wife, God killed off the human race.
For those who are looking for proof that God is a God of mercy, look in the same story.
After God realizes the consequence of the punishment, God has a change of heart and says, "Never again"
- Send e-mail to Peter Luckey at firstname.lastname@example.org.