A human life is sacred. From the moment God breathed life into Adam, mankind has borne the image and likeness of the Creator. It would then follow that any attempt to suppress a life made in the image of God is a reprehensible act.
Christians, in general, agree with this. They picket outside abortion clinics, combat Euthanasia, and renounce any form of genocide. When it comes to capital punishment, however, a surprising number of Christians support it and even advocate it.
The abuses of the American capital punishment system run rampant and no Christian can support it in its current state. Most people with an understanding of the American justice system know that the death penalty is ineffective in most states. Many inmates sit on death row and await their end for years as appeal after appeal is made on their behalf. It is a waste of tax dollars and a nightmare for victims’ families. States could reform these issues with a few tweaks to their systems. Regardless of whether one thinks the death penalty is a justified form of punishment, these injustices transcend one’s personal opinion of capital punishment itself.
According to The Fair Punishment Project, 2,739 prisoners sit on death row as of 2017. 40 percent have been awaiting execution for at least 20 years. The extensive appeals process can take years to complete, and the living conditions of prisoners on death row are borderline torturous.
Some are imprisoned in 60-square-foot concrete cubes and only allowed to leave to exercise or shower. Often kept in cells without windows, inmates cannot make contact with loved ones or anyone from the outside world. Some descend into madness. This form of punishment strips the individual of all humanity.
No matter how horrendous their crimes, these individuals still bear the image of God and deserve basic human rights. The living conditions endured by death row inmates are despicable and violate the Christian obligation to protect the sanctity of life. As long as those on death row are kept in horrific conditions, Christians cannot support capital punishment in America.
Between 1973 and 2017, states exonerated 148 inmates from death row, with those exonerations taking an average of 10 years. It is estimated that 4 percent of inmates put to death were innocent.
The capital punishment system is run by humans, and humans make mistakes. Sentence an innocent person to death and that individual is stripped of all humanity and then executed. There is no instance in which we should allow the opportunity for an individual to be wrongly put to death. Eradicate the death penalty and the possibility to end an innocent individuals life ceases to exist.
The Bible allows capital punishment but does not mandate it. If it is allowed, then one must determine how and why it should be used. In 2005, The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a document calling for an end to the death penalty, while affirming the right of the state to execute those who threaten public safety. The document goes on to say, however, that if the Christian duty is to protect life in all capacities, the death penalty must only be used when absolutely necessary and never utilized when other forms of punishment are available, such as life imprisonment.
Rarely in today’s society would the justice system need to sentence a prisoner to death. With current technology, it is not necessary to sentence anyone to death. Place them in a supermax prison, solitary confinement, etc. No circumstance warrants the death penalty.
Some say that when one commits a crime egregious enough to warrant the death penalty they forfeit all rights and can be treated as animals because they abandoned all restraint in favor of animalistic tendencies. It’s compelling logic.
We want nothing more than to see these horrid people get what they deserve. If American Christians support the death penalty, they must answer one important question: Can we stand before God and say that it was absolutely necessary to destroy a life that he created?
Regan Meyer is a freshman studying the liberal arts