Whole Life starts with the premise that because each of us is of inestimable value, made in the image and likeness of God, we must value each human life equally. Even those who have committed heinous crimes are children of the same Father, and have the potential to experience God’s redemptive love. The question of capital punishment must be approached with an eye toward respecting the dignity and worth of every human being.
The death penalty as practiced in the United States does not adhere to the principle of valuing all human lives equally.
The death penalty is not applied uniformly.
The U.S. Constitution reflected the moral consensus that we are each entitled to equal protection under the law.
The believer must balance the Lord’s calls for both justice and mercy.
Nearly half of all murder victims in the United States are Black, yet only 35% of those on Death Row are there for murdering a Black victim. This smacks of valuing the life of a white victim more than the life of a Black victim.
In the past 35 years, over 130 men were released from Death Row after being exonerated, and perhaps as many as 38 innocent people were executed. Conversely, the rate of re-offending among released killers has been estimated as between 1.2% and 6.6%. Every year roughly 55 inmates in United States jails and prisons are murdered annually. Our criminal justice system is failing to protect the innocent defendant, the victims of recidivists, and the inmates in our prison.
Though Scriptures call for the execution of murderers, they also detail a specific justice system for administering capital punishment — which is not replicated in our modern system. We can not, therefore, simply fall back on scriptures such as Leviticus 24:17. We must instead strive to see to it that the secular justice system that we are supporting with our tax dollars and our votes does not violate the inherent worth of our fellow human beings, made in the image and likeness of God.
Thus, Whole Life calls for the utmost care in identifying perpetrators and meting out punishment that protects society while making every effort to recognize the inherent worth of even the violent offender. As much as we are able, we should keep dangerous offenders safely removed from society, and resort to the most extreme punishment only when all other efforts would not be sufficient to protect others.
“I do not believe any civilized society should be at the service of death.”