Who Would Jesus Kill?

26 Oct

On the upcoming election day, Americans are going to make a lot of important choices. They’re going to choose a President, some governors, senators and representatives and other more local officials. They’ll also be voting on some propositions and laws. In honor of election day, my Facebook fans can even vote on which hat looks most fetching atop my head. November 6 is going to be a very crucial Tuesday!

As you might guess, I’ve got a few words to say about the Presidential election, but I’ll share those next week. Today, though, I wanted to say something about a specific proposition which will be voted on in California, Proposition 34. Here’s a summary:

  • Repeals death penalty as maximum punishment for persons found guilty of murder and replaces it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole.
  • Requires persons found guilty of murder to work while in prison, with their wages to be applied to any victim restitution fines or orders against them.
  • Creates $100 million fund to be distributed to law enforcement agencies to help solve more homicide and rape cases.

I know many are amazed that the death penalty still exists in America. When we look at the wide world, what countries share the death penalty stage with the US? China, Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Iran are a few—all famously countries the US really respects on a human rights level, yes? No. The US is happy to get up in the faces of these guys with “You’re bad,” “You’re mean,” etc, yet Americans enact the same ultimate punishment as these countries. What up with that?

Now before you start saying, “Oh, Agatha, don’t be so soft on criminals,” please let me clarify. There are lots of criminals who do horrible things and these things should not go unpunished. Not unlike Wolfie Smith, I personally have a list of those I’d gladly put first up against the wall come the Glorious Revolution and, quite frankly, not all of them have even committed illegal acts. But those who do murder, rape and torture—no doubt about it, those people deserve full punishment.

But what is full punishment? The Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution prevents “cruel and unusual punishment.” Here’s where it gets a little sticky. Is murdering someone cruel? Look at a murderer—I’m guessing you’d probably describe his act as cruel. So if murder is cruel, then murder is cruel, n’est-ce pas?

Many would say the difference is the murderer didn’t have a good reason to murder whereas the death penalty is a good reason to murder, because it acts as a deterrent. Yes, definitely. This is why in places where the death penalty is legal, there are never any murders.

But surely the death penalty is cheaper, you may say. Why should we pay to house those bastards—giving them three meals a day, health care and a television? Okay, first off, it ain’t cheaper. Look it up. Secondly, what does it say about a person that they see access to a television as a good life? Yes, I know that the person will never see the light of day again, never get to hug his child or go to his parent’s funeral, but he gets to watch television so life’s not that bad for him. Hmmm . . .

Of course, we cannot ignore the victims and their families. No one deserves the pain they have to suffer. I understand their desire for vengeance. I think we all do, even the Pope (I doubt he’d admit it). I’m going to be bold and even suggest that perhaps the desire for vengeance is human nature. Yet, should that desire be law? When do we draw a line? If we say a life for a life, do we also say an eye for an eye? If someone shoots me in the eye, should it be law that I get to shoot him in the eye (or the state can do it for me)? Would that really be the right thing to do even if we really, really wish it were?

Many Americans have one definite moral compass: the big G-o-d and his son, JC. The Bible is pretty clear that only God can judge. Jesus himself met a few murderers in his time—can you remember what he did to them? Did he strap them to a table or electrocute them until their blood boils? I’m no biblical expert, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t. I know you aren’t Christ, I know judges aren’t Christ, I know victims’ families aren’t Christ. I know it would be pretty damn hard to face a murderer and forgive, even if they’re sentenced to life in prison. But those bracelets remind us to consider ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ and I don’t think there’s a caveat that says “unless it’s really hard, then kill the person if it makes you feel better.”

I know not everyone who reads this will agree with me. I forgive you for that.

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