Albert Camus wrote this in his essay, Reflections on the Guillotine:
When the extreme penalty simply causes vomiting on the part of the respectable citizen it is supposed to protect, how can anyone maintain that it is likely, as it ought to be, to bring more peace and order into the community? Rather, it is obviously no less repulsive than the crime, and this new murder, far from making amends for harm done to the social body, adds a new blot to the first one.
Shane Claiborne wrote this on Out of Ur:
There is an incident in the Gospels where Jesus is asked about the death penalty.
Here’s the scene. A woman has been humiliated and dragged before the town, ready to be killed. Her execution was legal; her crime was a capital one. But just because it’s legal, doesn’t make it right.
Jesus interrupts the scene – with grace.
He tells all the men who are ready to kill the woman, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” And of course he reminds us all that if we have looked at someone with lust in our eyes we are adulterers. If we have called our neighbor a fool we are a murderer. You can hear the stones start to drop, as the men walk away.
It is this dual conviction that no one is above reproach and that no one is beyond redemption that lies at the heart of our faith. Undoubtedly it’s why the early Christians were characterized by non-violence, even in the face of brutal evil, torture, and execution. Of all people, we who follow the executed and risen Christ should be people who are pro-life, pro-grace, anti-death.
In college, reading in the areas of politics, philosophy, and sociology led me to a pretty strong social conviction that capital punishment, particularly as practiced in America’s justice system, is wrong.
In seminary, reading in the areas of theology, biblical studies, and ethics and continued awareness and exposure to some of the injustices of our criminal justice system strengthened my social conviction with theological conviction that capital punishment is wrong.
Methodist Bishop Will Willimon reflected on the 9/11 attacks and response stating that both reactions – “ours” and “theirs” – communicate that “the nonviolent way of Jesus is stupid.” I think the same can be said for capital punishment.
The death penalty says that:
- the nonviolent way of Jesus is stupid
- some people are beyond redemption
- our prison system is incapable of protecting society from violent offenders
- ends can justify means
- the shedding of blood can mend broken hearts
- vengeance is ours