Last month, I wrote about the question of justice for mass murders (Is Life Cheap in Norway?).
All our attempts at justice – whether it be community service hours, prison time, or the death penalty – fall short. And they don’t just fall short because we lack complete knowledge over the situations we’re judging. They fall short because our attempts at justice are rooted in fear and vengeance. To speak of “justice being served” is nothing but a myth on this side of redemption.
Last year, I wrote about the death penalty in light of the Troy Davis execution (The Death Penalty is Wrong).
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
So now here I am, writing about the death penalty again because it’s a dated, unjust, arrogant, and shameful policy the USA should cease immediately.
And I’m writing about it because those of us in California have a chance to stop further state-sponsored executions with the passage of Proposition 34.
California has an infamous number of initiatives and propositions on each election ballot, and this year is no different. As I see it, a ballot initiative is a chance for relatively simple issues to be so muddled up in legalities and technicalities that no one understands it and then ridiculously politicize the once-simple issue to the point that no one wants to vote for anything anymore because there is no way to know what you’re really voting for.
But I don’t think Proposition 34 is that confusing.
Even as someone who pragmatically thinks our democracy is fraught with problems and theologically prefers a less-activist stance in the political sphere, I think there is no compelling reason why our government should have the right or the need to kill people and am proud to be listed amongst clergy and community leaders who support this Proposition. We have all the technology and infrastructure to protect the innocent from the guilty without resorting to state executions. We simply have no need for capital punishment and Proposition 34 provides a new way forward that continues to take terrible crimes seriously and seeks the peace and prosperity of our society.
Specifically, Proposition 34 seeks to:
- Repeal the death penalty as maximum punishment for persons found guilty of murder and replace it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
- Apply retroactively to persons already sentenced to death.
- Require persons found guilty of murder to work while in prison, with their wages to be applied to any victim restitution fines or orders against them.
- Create a $100 million fund to be distributed to law enforcement agencies to help solve more homicide and rape cases.
- We stop killing people.
- Killers stay in jail forever.
- Victim’s families are provided some tangible recompense.
- We don’t resort to lex talionis eye-for-an-eye vengeance that does not belong to us but to God (see Leviticus 19:18, Deuteronomy 32:35, Psalm 94:1, Proverbs 20:22, Matthew 26:52 Romans 12:17, and Hebrews 10:30 as well as the entire narrative and ethical trajectory of the Scriptures if you want to engage this on a theological/biblical level).
A no-brainer, right? End the death penalty. Support Proposition 34.
As always, all my writing and ranting on this blog are my own personal opinions, unless otherwise noted. Please try not to assume any organization, entity, or other individuals I may or may not be connected with
hold these same opinions!