Sunday, May 4, 2014

Capital punishment and being pro-life

Recent news of a botched execution in Oklahoma provides a backdrop for this essay:
The conservative case for capital punishment
Capital punishment is where I part ways with many of my conservative and Christian brethren. I believe that capital punishment is neither conservative nor Christian.

From a conservative standpoint, it is the ultimate exercise of state power. No matter how heinous the crime committed by the offender, the deliberate, planned and technocratic killing of a human being by the state is wrong. As a conservative, I believe in small government. I believe also in law and order and safe streets, and of course public safely is the prime reason for government. But government killing people-- even evil people-- is the antithesis of small government. Capital punishment is not a conservative act.

From a Christian standpoint, I take the stance of the Church (as I understand it). Capital punishment is not an intrinsic evil, as, for example, abortion and euthanasia are. There have been situations in which capital punishment was moral-- specifically, in societies without the ability to incarcerate violent criminals. Without prisons (which were a modern invention), capital punishment was the only way to protect the public. As such, it was moral from a Christian standpoint, because the primary intent was to protect the innocent, not to kill the offender, and the innocent could not be protected any other way.

However, in the modern world, violent criminals can be locked up for life, and taking a human life is no longer necessary for public safety. As such, it is immoral to execute a criminal, no matter how heinous his crime.

I don't oppose capital punishment out of a misplaced sympathy for killers. Most of the folks on death row deserve worse than death, and they will get it, if they do not repent and get right with the Lord. But it is always wrong to kill a human being as a primary intent. It is no longer necessary to use capital punishment to protect the public.

And I don't accept the view that capital punishment is moral because it is merely justice. It is indeed just-- heck, for a lot of these guys on death row boiling in oil would be just-- but none of us would fare well if we were treated according to a calculus of strict justice.

We all fall short, and all need God's mercy. Some of us fall a lot shorter than others. But sinners who profess righteousness and demand harsh justice for other sinners earned the particular ire of our Lord.

Capital punishment should be abolished. A government that kills isn't a small government. Neither the state nor anyone (abortionists no less than executioners) should take human life.

That is what being conservative, Christian and pro-life is all about. 


  1. For once I agree with you - capital punishment should be abolished. But for different reasons.

    The main reason is because it's impossible to exclude the possibility that an innocent person might be executed. Such as the case of Todd Cameron Willingham who was executed in 2004 in Texas for the supposed arson murder of his three children.

    Forensic experts noted shortly before he was executed that the forensic evidence 'proving' that it was arson was deeply flawed. And the Texas governor refused to grant a 30 day stay of execution to test the forensic evidence. DNA testing wouldn't be of any help in proving innocence.

    There are many murder cases without DNA evidence.

    He might have been guilty - but it's impossible to state that with anything approaching certainty. And no person should be executed unless absolutely certain.

    Even in cases where guilt is certain, it's more expensive to keep someone on death row for 10 years or so, while the multiple appeals to the courts are exhausted, than in keeping someone in high security for life.

    Even a sentence of 25 years would be a deterrent. Potential reoffenders, such as psychopaths, could be imprisoned until they're so old and decrepit that they'd never be a risk to the public.

    1. Still gung-ho about abortion, though, I take it? Did it ever occur to you that it is impossible to exclude the possibility that an innocent might be aborted? Even you admit that they're people at some point in the continuum between fertilization and birth. You're very squeemish about pointing to an exact point on that line but you "draw the line" at 20 weeks. Are you absolutely sure that a twenty week old unborn child is not really a child?

      The difference here is that capital punishment doesn't have anything to do with your sex life so suddenly you care about human life.Hypocrite.


    2. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthMay 4, 2014 at 9:33 AM

      backfire the bolshevik: "it's more expensive"

      Yeah. Men's lives at stake, and it's always the money, eh? You're a good little utilitarian today!

    3. Trish,

      I'm not gung-ho about abortion. I've never benefitted from it. Never will. But I think that a woman has autonomy over her body. And that she has the right to abortion if she decides that's what she wants.

      20 weeks is a tradeoff between her rights and the foetus' rights. At 20 weeks, the foetus isn't viable and is unable to suffer.

      Senile old fart,

      One of the reasons why supporters of capital punishment advance is that it's cheaper. It isn't. And it's just as much a deterrent. In fact, probably a better one than execution, which is over in an instant - it's the years in Death Row waiting for the appeals to be exhausted that's the torture.

      Would you support immediate execution after the guilty verdict? Obviously that would be very cheap.

    4. bachfiend and other supporters of baby killing

      Abortion statistics

      How can you support such automated holocaust machine that never rests??

    5. Eugen,

      Quite easily. I don't believe that I have the right to dictate the autonomy of another responsible human. It's the woman's right to decide, not mine. I'm not a dictator.

      Are you a dictator, an authoritarian?

    6. Bach,

      Don't turn the issue of killing humans into an issue of choice, authority, dictatorship...I don't think I have to lecture you when the human life begins, you should know that.

      Statistics are so tragic and unbelievable that I had to ask another person to confirm that my English comprehension is correct. I had tears in my eyes, but I knew universe full of tears is not enough sadness for the innocent ones. They are silently and efficiently being eliminated by the automated killing conveyor.

      Media and government criminals are quiet about this holocaust just like they are about any important issue. Everybody gets the special day a year, secretaries, nurses, veterans, clowns, etc. Gays get the whole week!

      Nobody cares about aborted little humans. Anti abortion organizations should advertise and proclaim anti abortion day and media crooks should talk about it at least for one day a year instead of lady Gaga's latest platform shoes!

    7. Eugen,

      Well you care about abortion. I still insist that no one has the right to dictate to another person what that person does to her own body.

      It's not just a matter of abortion or no abortion, it's also of legal abortion or illegal abortion. Abortions were being performed before Roe versus Wade. They were just performed in unsafe conditions.

      Anyway. Who's lady Gaga?

    8. I wouldn't sort the abortion issue as the one of "choice" of what person can do. Choice is applicable when you are in doubt between having chocolate or strawberry ice cream, whether to wear boots or shoes, either have a nap or not. Decision whether little human will live or not shouldn't be left to picking and choosing.

      May I appeal to your logical, technical side, please keep in mind when human life begins and where it develops for a while.

      Lady Gaga is the latest and "greatest" pop singer, her music is a fashion of the moment but insignificant in a long term. TV and other trashy media's job is to obscure the real issues in our lives by constantly bombarding us with useless information about her and other celebrities life details.

      The more significant the issue is the more quiet media is about it! Simple logical thinking is they are somebody's instrument...I can't put my finger on it....

      Big corporations/government criminal symbiosis pushing some long term agenda.......maybe? Looking at the recent history, it appears there are some slow moving, quietly orchestrated negative trends propagating and anchoring in society.

      It is the great shame for human race to quietly allow such loss of lives through abortion.

    9. Eugen,

      Why is it a loss for someone not to have autonomy over her or his body? Such as whether to have chocolate ice cream or to have an abortion?

      Just because you don't like the idea that someone will make a decision that affects just what happens to her body.

      Anyway. It wouldn't have been a shame for the human race if Hitler's mother has chosen to have an abortion. Or Stalin's. Or Mao's. Or any one of the despots over history.

      By the way - stop pushing conspiracy theories to explain why you can't get your own way.

    10. Bach

      You atheists have such alien, scary worldview. Eliminating human life is casual affair to you. A simple choice, a whim , whatever you feel like doing today.....

      1. What do you base your morality and ethics on?
      2. Latest Hollywood fashion, whichever way the wind blows today or anything government says? 3. How many babies did you abort?
      4. At what time since conception should we be allowed to abort and why?
      5. Is it OK with you that every fifth baby is aborted in N.America, 99% of them because of inconvenience?

      Having choices is fine but will you make a right choice, Bachfiend!?

      Re conspiracy: are you stupid or naive?

      (All this being said I'm aware there are special and difficult cases when pregnancy is caused by rape or incest or when pregnant girl is very young. I'm grateful that I don't have to make decisions about such terrible situations.)

    11. Eugen,

      I don't think that I have the right to dictate to another person what she wants to do to her body. A person has autonomy.

      My answers to your questions. 1. Utility. 2. Whatever the evidence shows - I'm prepared to change my mind if it can be shown that 20 week gestation foetuses can suffer, in which case I' move the cutoff earlier. 3. None. 4. Up to 20 weeks, because there's evidence the ability to feel pain doesn't develop till 24 weeks. 5. I'm fine with elective abortions - babies should be wanted.

    12. Bachfiend

      you freak me out. Are all atheists thinking like you?

      You remind me (and I'm guessing other atheists) of HAL9000 from 2001 Space Odyssey movie. You juggle logic and setup reasoning contraptions and hula hoops just like HAL9000 to serve some "higher" purpose, in this case the right of a person to choose. Screw the human life!

      I could setup similar reasoning and logic so I can kill a few people ahead of me in a queue. They were causing me an inconvenience of waiting too long.

      We'll always be on diametrically opposite sides of this issue.
      I value human life over the right of a person to "choose". For me it's zero value to slip out of responsibility i.e. kill little human because of inconvenience.

      I guess that's what pro life means.

  2. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthMay 4, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    After many years of support for capital punishment, I, too, became opposed. And I became opposed because of my ministry work in prisons.

    Let me begin by saying that a given state prison population will contain some of the most vicious human beings on the planet. This is less true of Federal prisons, simply because most law concerning violent crime is state law.

    Because of the vicious and psychotically violent nature of some crimes and the criminals who commit them, many Judeo-Christian believers support capital punishment on the basis of Biblical law. However, that view suffers from historical myopia. Prisons, as we know them today, did not exist in Biblical times. Yes, there were prisons, but they were primarily used for political enemies and for detention prior to torture or execution.

    In fact, the modern prison is basically an invention of the utilitarians, and Jeremy Bentham himself designed the Panopticon, a prison floor plan that allowed one man to surreptitiously observe all prisoners simultaneously. That plan is still in wide use in modern prison pods.

    Now that society believes it can afford to house prisoners indefinitely, it is possible to have life imprisonment without possibility of parole as a punishment (the fiction that anyone is "rehabilitated" by the correctional bureaucracy is risible). The flip side is that convicts with life sentences become very powerful men (unless isolated, and even then can often exert influence) in the prison milieu. They sit at the top of the "food chain", and have nothing to lose. The more vicious they were in society, the higher they rise in the Hobbesian prison culture.

    I have witnessed the Christian conversion of such men. And they become the most powerful evangelists in prison. Why? Because of the contrast with their past lives, of course, but also because there is no possibility of scamming to obtain early release. Which, by the way, never happens anyway because of "conversion". Parole boards are not quite that callow. :-)

    And backfire is correct about age. Convicts released after 25-30 years of incarceration rarely commit violent crimes. They're just too old. In fact, it's almost unheard of. But, sadly, for most, release is no gift. Right now, I'm working with a man who will be released next year after 25 years of incarceration. He will be 59 years old. When he walked into the prison, it was a different world. He has no modern, everyday skills. He's never held a cell phone. He has no driver's license. He's never used an ATM, submitted taxes electronically, or even touched a laptop or a tablet. The internet, as far as he was concerned, didn't yet exist. All he knows of modern life is what he sees on television. Such me are totally institutionalized. There's even a word: prisonized. There is no "social safety net" that can "fast-forward" a 59-year old man from 1990 to 2015. As a result, these men often re-offend, holding up a convenience store or busting the window out of a jewelry store, so they can go back to prison where they can cope. No, for most of them, release is no gift. The psychiatrists (as usual) have even invented a syndrome: Post-Incarceration Syndrome (PICS).

    However, these men can provide a service to society. They can serve as institutional witnesses to younger felons in for shorter times. And penal institutions should make appropriate organizational arrangements allowing them to do so whenever possible. An in-house "halfway house" for them might be possible with appropriate security precautions.

    Killing men, children of God, who might even turn out to be a boon to society is not only wrong, it's stupid. And you never know which ones will turn out to be that man.

  3. I am alone in objecting to Reichsmarschall Barry unilaterally ordering the obliteration of Muslims using his fleet of Flying Robot Assassins?

    His Most Exalted Highness won't even be encumbered with reporting the tally of his killing spree: “The Most Transparent Administration In History”: Obama Administration Quietly Strips Senate Bill Of Provision Requiring Disclosure Of Annual Drone Kills.

    1. Commissar Boggs, Ministry of TruthMay 4, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      You are not alone. And "objectionable" doesn't even begin to cover my feelings about it, as I'm sure you agree.

    2. When you have a spare hour, watch this superb full-length feature documentary UNMANNED: America's Drone Wars.

      The film "...investigates the impact of U.S. drone strikes at home and abroad through more than 70 separate interviews, including a former American drone operator who shares what he has witnessed in his own words, Pakistani families mourning loved ones and seeking legal redress, investigative journalists pursuing the truth, and top military officials warning against blowback from the loss of innocent life."

  4. God disagrees with your whole thesis.