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Christianity and capital punishment

(187 Posts)
EdithSimcox Mon 07-Mar-16 22:39:32

Another dinner table argument. Basic internet research indicates we are both right. But that seems so wrong...

So, DP's view is that yet another reason why it makes no sense to be Christian is that Christians believe in things like capital punishment - citing a kind of US bible belt enthusiasm for the death penalty as being based on biblical authority ("an eye for an eye" etc) and modern secular human rights standards as the counter to that. But to me, and I admit I'm no biblical scholar (or scholar of any kind come to that), the very concept of capital punishment is inherently un-Christian. A religion which promotes loving your enemy, forgiveness, turning the other cheek, and God's infinite mercy cannot possibly be one which should also approve - in this day and age - of the death penalty. I also think that it is inevitable that the Bible is full of apparent acceptance of things we find abhorrent or irrelevant because it was written in different times. So it is not surprising that in those days the death penalty was more accepted. But now we have other ways of protecting the public, and rehabilitation and so on so there's no excuse.

So, in the 21st century, is continued support for capital punishment compatible with Christianity? Is it common amongst MOTR Christians?

FrancisdeSales Mon 07-Mar-16 22:45:54

One of the Ten Commmandments is : though shall not kill so it is hardly a new idea. In fact the story of Abraham and Issac where at the last minute God stays Abraham's hand and prevents him from killing his son is thought to be an explanation why the Jews stopped human sacrifice while cultures all around them continued it for hundreds I not thousands of years.

Different Christian demoninations have different interpretations but l know that Catholics teach that the death penalty is wrong and should be avoided at all costs.

FrancisdeSales Mon 07-Mar-16 22:47:03

Please excuse all my typos - on my phone!

niminypiminy Mon 07-Mar-16 22:49:08

IIRC the largest organisation campaigning against the death penalty worldwide is the Roman Catholic Church.

niminypiminy Mon 07-Mar-16 22:54:02

I would say that support for the death penalty is incompatible with Christian ethics - not just because of the commandment not to kill, but also because redemption is at the heart of Christian belief. There can be no redemption with the death penalty.

Bolognese Mon 07-Mar-16 23:40:14

FYI - I dont believe in any god.

The confusion here is that the bible is supposedly the inspired word of god. And in that book god commits and commands murder. He even kills his own son/himself. So when religious people say the death penalty is incompatible with christianity what they are really saying is I believe the bible is right but I disagree with what the bible is saying because I am interpreting it differently and using a better ethical code.

I would have more respect for christians if they disavowed the bible as two thousand year old barbarianism and resorted to personal revelation.

Quoting the pope being against the death penalty is as good as tossing a coin, given the vatican's history. America is majority catholic, where do they have the death penalty again?

Anyone ones very pious parents put the fear of god into them, using a belt??? Or if a priest, child rape?

Tuo Tue 08-Mar-16 00:30:23

I posted this passage the other day:

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’ (John 8, 2-11)

The Law of Moses (including the lex talionis - an eye for an eye, etc.) is superseded by the law of Jesus, which forgives and doesn't judge, which recognises that we are none of us in a position to judge another human being, and which always allows for second chances.

Bolognese Tue 08-Mar-16 00:52:23

Tuo - that's just the rantings of a cult leader. Why dont you actually say whatever it is you mean? Source, corroborating evidence?

Its pretty hard to figure out what your saying. From what I understand your saying a god decided it was ok to kill, then a few years later she changed her mind and decided it wasn't but she never bothered explaining why she changed her mind?

Does this new doctrine include animals? Its so nebulous, why do people believe this crap?

FrancisdeSales Tue 08-Mar-16 05:53:07

The USA is not majority Catholic, about 25% of Americans are Catholic.

Tuo Tue 08-Mar-16 08:09:23

Why don't I say what I mean? OK. Sorry if I wasn't clear.

I believe that capital punishment is wrong. I don't believe that it is acceptable under any ethical standard, but as a Christian I also believe that the teachings of the Gospel clearly indicate that it is wrong (hence the passage I quoted).

I do not take every word of the Bible literally, nor do I take it as a word-for-word rule book for how to live my life. I do take the teachings of Jesus (not the OT) as guidance (hence, again, the specific passage I quoted).

QofF Tue 08-Mar-16 08:11:22

edith what Tuo says.
My understanding of what my church (RC) teaches is that the circumstances in which the death penalty are permissible "are very rare, if not practically non-existent” and only if it is absolutely neccessary to protect human life from an aggressor. And so in today's world it is almost inconceivable to imagine a situation where an alternative isn't available so rendering the death penalty unacceptable in the modern age.
There is a lot that comes out of the Bible Belt which has me scratching my head in bemusement. To be fair and judging by some comments I have read online there is plenty of stuff that originates from Rome that has a similar effect on the Bible Belters smile.
Personally my view is that the death penalty doesn't fit with the teachings of Jesus. And nor does it sit well with my conscience, nor would it should the Pope do an about turn tomorrow and start campaigning to bring back hanging. I don't believe we should ever punish without the possibility of rehabilitation of some degree.

EdithSimcox Tue 08-Mar-16 08:27:42

Well I'm glad you all agree with me smile
But some people apparently think this and worse.
It's very depressing.

Another Christian who thinks the death penalty is wrong. The bible is neither a rule book or a book on ethics but a library of different works in different styles (poetry, letters, histories and biographies in the style of their day) which record encounters with and reflections about God. Some Christians believe that it is the literal word of God but they are at the conservative end of religious spectrum.

That webpage is an example of conservative American Christianity.

ApocalypseSlough Tue 08-Mar-16 08:33:15

I'm a Christian and I understand what Tuo is saying:
The Law of Moses (including the lex talionis - an eye for an eye, etc.) is superseded by the law of Jesus, which forgives and doesn't judge
Christians believe in what Christ said. The OT is of interest, but by definition it's not a Christian text.
Support for the death penalty is incompatible with Christianity. The Catholic Church is right on this one

ApocalypseSlough Tue 08-Mar-16 08:36:58

Edith that website is depressingly sloppy: here are some OT death penalty sources, here's what Jesus said with some sophistry to suggest he meant the opposite. It's theology lite and wrong.

AlanPacino Tue 08-Mar-16 08:46:45

The OT is of interest, but by definition it's not a Christian text.

Jesus quoted from 27 OT books so he thought it was fairly important.

I don't understand how people can believe in a god that has changed its idea on morality so much. Doesn't it start to become obvious it's all manmade?

For what it's worth Jesus wasn't immune to a little racism himself.

QofF Tue 08-Mar-16 08:49:59

Edith that website sums up everything I will never understand about ultra conservative Christians.

BigDorrit Tue 08-Mar-16 09:40:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Gingerdodger Tue 08-Mar-16 09:55:37

Plus the Old Testament Commandment 'Thou shalt not kill'. That is fairly clear!

The 'eye for an eye' stuff can be interpreted in many ways, it could mean figuratively, modern examples would be financial compensation for an assault or a fine. It may have been a way of saying that there should be processes for justice that are fair. Even if it is taken literally it is interesting that it does not say 'a life for a life'.

I think niminy has it spot on though in terms of redemption.

niminypiminy Tue 08-Mar-16 10:57:11

"The Law of Moses (including the lex talionis - an eye for an eye, etc.) is superseded by the law of Jesus, which forgives and doesn't judge
Christians believe in what Christ said. The OT is of interest, but by definition it's not a Christian text."

I'm sorry, but this is all completely wrong.

The Law of Moses is not superseded by the Law of Jesus. Jesus makes it completely clear that he comes to fulfil the Law, not to supersede it. The Old Testament is fundamental to Christianity not least because it was the scripture that was central to Jesus's own teaching. Jesus is clear that there will be judgement of sinners - forgiveness and judgement are not mutually exclusive. It's neither helpful nor true to say that the God of the OT is full of hate and anger and violence whereas the God of the NT is all about love.

FWIW the phrase 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth' occurs in the New Testament (Matthew 5.38) in the context of the command to forgive. In this passage Jesus is urging people to give up revenge and summary justice in favour of forgiveness and redemption. And of course, as Gingerdodger says, it doesn't say ' a life for a life' - to interpret it in that way is already to make a non-literal interpretation.

And again, FWIW, I think what Edith's DP is doing is to comparing 'my best with your worst'. It is all very well to compare the best of secular humanism and its opposition to the death penalty with the worst of American Christian fundamentalism. But, of course, the tables would be turned if she were to compare the murderous activities of the League of Militant Atheists with Christian opponents of the death penalty, including those who befriend and advocate for prisoners on death row in America.

ApocalypseSlough Tue 08-Mar-16 11:12:25

I shouldn't bite, but tell me about racist Jesus

niminypiminy Tue 08-Mar-16 11:24:02

(I'm guessing the Syro-Phoenician/Canaanite woman, ApocalypseSlough. Would be interested to hear how the problematic relationships between ethnically-identical groups are interpreted as racism. Also I predict alan will write as if no-one ever has noticed this incident and thought about its difficulties, and we're all going to fall over backwards in astonishment at this new revelation.)

Tuo Tue 08-Mar-16 12:55:38

And this is why I never post on these threads.. guaranteed to look and feel thick!

'Supersede' is the wrong verb of course. I meant only that Jesus goes beyond the very literal 'OT-style' application of the Law. (Just as the 'turn the other cheek' passage stands in direct contrast to the lex talionis.)

niminypiminy Tue 08-Mar-16 13:03:53

Not at all Tuo - it's just that I am doing a course on Christian-Jewish relations at the moment, and it's made me very alive to the history of supersessionist theologies.

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