Death Penalty = Idolatry?

Food for thought. Those Christians who think they are comfortable with the state’s execution of criminals should read Joseph Bottum’s essay in First Things, “Christians and the Death Penalty”. The essence of his argument is that, as with the murder of Abel by Cain, the “crying out of the blood from the ground” is such a heinous crime as to exceed the state’s authority to carry out. Romans 13 notwithstanding.

From Mr. Bottum’s piece, some essentials:

Capital punishment may occasionally be necessary in a modern democracy, but it is never right, for the death penalty is not in a line with other punishments. A five-year sentence and a twenty-year sentence, even a life sentence, are related as more or less severe forms of imprisonment. Execution belongs to another order of punishment.

Without constant pressure from the New Testament’s revelation of Christ’s death and resurrection, the state always threatens to rise back up as an idol. And one sign of a government’s overreaching is its claim of power to balance the books of the universe—to repay blood with blood.

Highly recommended for any Christian who thinks they are in favor of the death penalty. Or for any Christian who thinks they are against it. Read it. You might be surprised; who knows, might even change your mind.

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