[Note: The following blog is on capital punishment. It is not a pretty issue. Just want to warn you in advance, I pull no punches but try to say it how I see it as a pastor, as a Christian, and as an American.]
Our society’s ethics and morals do not make much sense to me sometimes. We, as a society support the death penalty. Most of our society is Christian and we just celebrated the biggest holiday of the Christian year where our Savior was executed, but was resurrected. There is just an odd discontinuity with us being on the side of execution but that is what it is in our society. We also live in a world where it is statistically shown that the death penalty does not reduce crime. Nevertheless, we, as a society are still for the death penalty. Ok.
Murderer in Oklahoma is convicted and sentenced to death. But the key variable is that the prisoner can’t suffer because that would be “cruel and unusual punishment” (taking their life isn’t “cruel and unusual” but pain is. Ok.). So, the Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections goes to buy the drugs to execute said convict but can’t because U.S. drug manufactures don’t want to produce it. Europeans produce it but don’t want to sell it because of what we use it for (apparently, Europeans use the drug for something else, maybe for animals). So, Oklahoma finds a “secret source” for a drug to kill said convict. Opponents of capital punishment bring them to court. Oklahoma Supreme Court stays the execution. The Governor says she will defy the courts. Courts back down and unstay the execution. They go to execute the prisoner last night. The drugs don’t do what they are supposed to do. The head of Oklahoma’s Department of Correction (not sure at this stage his title fits what he is doing but I digress) orders them to stop after fifteen minutes. Then, we have the bizarre scene of sending paramedics into an execution chamber to save the convict. But the convict dies en-route to the hospital from, “vein failure.” The head of Oklahoma’s Department of Correction says he “passed away.”
As you can tell from what I have written, I am skeptical of the whole enterprise. I don’t think executing people prevents other crimes from happening. I also don’t think, as a Christian, we should engage in actions out of vengeance (although I well acknowledge it is easy for me to say when it wasn’t one of my loved ones who was a victim). I know we must use force, even lethal force, sometimes to safeguard our world. But once someone is behind bars, I personally do not see how executing them advances our society. But, I acknowledge that is my personal opinion and is not held by a majority of my peers.
In the end though, I think our society has to grow up and stop splitting hairs or trying to assuage our consciences. If we decide as a society that we are going to execute criminals, then let’s execute them. Stop this charade of not doing anything “cruel and unusual” because executing people isn’t pretty. If said criminal had been shot by firing squad, he would have died quickly (even if there would have been brief pain). Get this out of courts and appeals for each individual case. Stop having people go on and off “death row” as trials drag out and Correctional systems seeking out drugs. from secret sources. And, finally, pull back the curtain. Let the world see what we are doing. If it is morally right, then we shouldn’t have to put it behind closed doors. If we engage in the death penalty to discourage crime, then show it so potential criminals can see it. Our ancestors hung people in the courtyard, not quietly out back.
Whatever we do, we do need to keep the violent and criminally insane out of the general public. Finding a way for them to produce for our society, instead of being an additional burden, would seem to me to be more in the business of “correcting.” We also might find ourselves (those of us who are Christians) not being executioners side but the reconciler side. We might just find ourselves stronger in the process even if we fail to rehabilitate them or make them productive.
But, all that said, if the public disagrees, then lets do away with all this pretense. It is helping no one.
What do you think?