A Conservative Argument Against Capital Punishment

First of all, let me be clear. This is not a political argument. What I mean by that is that I don’t intend to argue against capital punishment from a political standpoint. To me, this is a theological argument. As a person of faith, as a Christian, I think capital punishment is abhorrent.

And as I make this argument, let me also acknowledge that I do not define myself as Conservative, neither politically or theologically. Nor do I want to vilify persons who identify themselves as either Conservative or Liberal. In fact, I present this Conservative Argument Against Capital Punishment as a place where faithful persons may agree. And I think that we can.

I begin with a video I saw of Kevin Swanson from a recent conference in Des Moines, IA. Swanson identifies himself as “the Generations Radio Broadcast. Speaker, Pastor, Father, Husband” (from his Twitter profile).

I won’t embed his video on my site, but any who wish to watch the segment may find it here: https://youtu.be/LgZU6pGKgRk

In the video, Swanson makes a number of theological statements about scripture related to same-gender relationships that I find distasteful, distressing, and dangerous. My own thoughts on these can be found here and here, though it’s not this scriptural understanding that I want to explore at this time.

Instead, I want to focus on Swanson’s urge not to follow through with his (misguided and dangerous) textual interpretation of the death penalty for the “sin” of homosexuality. Swanson notes that persons who have sinned must have the opportunity to repent.

I couldn’t agree more with this point. I believe that God’s grace and love are able to change even the hardest of hearts. And sometimes we who sin – and I believe that “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23) – are unwilling or unable to face our brokenness, to repent, and to right ourselves with our Creator. I think it can take time, not because God’s grace and forgiveness are insufficient but because we are broken, stubborn, faulted creatures and we don’t always accept the perfect love that is given.

gavelSo if no sin is greater than another (James 2:10 speaks to this),  why do we accept capital punishment in cases of other sins like rape and murder? Doesn’t this take away a person’s opportunity to repent, to accept God’s grace-filled love?

If we truly look at capital punishment from a faith perspective, its practice completely rejects God’s grace and forgiveness.

The United Methodist Church frames it well in this statement from our Social Principles:

We believe the death penalty denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore and transform all human beings. The United Methodist Church is deeply concerned about crime throughout the world and the value of any life taken by a murder or homicide. We believe all human life is sacred and created by God and therefore, we must see all human life as significant and valuable. When governments implement the death penalty (capital punishment), then the life of the convicted person is devalued and all possibility of change in that person’s life ends. We believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that the possibility of reconciliation with Christ comes through repentance. This gift of reconciliation is offered to all individuals without exception and gives all life new dignity and sacredness. For this reason, we oppose the death penalty (capital punishment) and urge its elimination from all criminal codes.

I couldn’t agree more. There’s enough death in the world. Let’s leave room for grace.

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