Troy Davis is dead, and nothing can bring him back. Was he guilty of the murder of which he was accused? I don’t know. The truth is, nobody knows for sure, and that’s very disturbing. The death penalty debate has been front-and-center recently, with gun totin’ Texans cheering for Cowboy Rick’s bloody record as governor, and former president Carter decrying Georgia’s execution earlier today.
There are many reasons I don’t support the death penalty, but the primary reason — the overwhelming reason — is that I’m a skeptic. It’s the same reason I’m an atheist, actually. I base my entire existence on the constant awareness that no matter how sure I am of a thing, I could be wrong. The death penalty is the only penalty for which there is no “undo” button. We can let wrongfully accused people out of prison. We cannot bring the dead back to life.
The death penalty is a Christian penalty. Oh, sure, it’s not exclusively Christian, but it is Christian nevertheless. Just open your Bible and look. God orders the death penalty for lots of people. Homosexuals, witches, adulterers, children, and bloody well anyone else who isn’t a god-fearin’ gun-totin’ warrior for Jesus is sentenced to death by Jesus himself. Or Yahweh. Or whatever face God happened to be wearing at the time. The Bible is full of death.
God doesn’t have much of a moral compass when it comes to meting out the “ultimate penalty,” either. Did you know that God condemned animals to death for their owner’s negligence? It’s true. If an ox gored someone through his owner’s negligence, the ox got stoned to death. Because… you know… oxen are notoriously immoral creatures with a highly developed capacity to understand human reciprocity. But then, God also sentenced children to death for back-talking their parents. Even in the Wild West States of Jesus, we have the good sense not to kill children. We know their moral faculties are not fully developed, and presumably God does too. But he doesn’t care. Stone ‘em anyway.
When you think about it, God’s “ultimate plan” is the ultimate demonstration of God’s moral turpitude. In the U.S., we typically only kill people for extremely high crimes like premeditated murder or treason. God has killed billions for simply disbelieving a wild story about a Jewish revenant. By comparison, it seems almost trite, executing one black man even though there were reasons to doubt his guilt.
It shouldn’t surprise us when a couple hundred million Jesus worshippers favor the death penalty. Christianity is a brutal religion that glorifies death. Those fancy little crosses all the Christians have on their necklaces and earrings? Those are constant reminders of their god’s gruesome execution. Their whole religion is the glorification of the death penalty!
And then there’s the evidence thing. God’s law doesn’t call for juries of peers, or preponderances of evidence, or DNA matching. It calls for swift sentence, often based on one man’s word. It makes sense, if you think about it. What’s that thing the Good Christians always say? Kill them all and let God sort it out? (The origin of this phrase, oft used by the U.S. Marine Corps, is in doubt, but it is widely believed to be a reference to 2 Timothy: ”The Lord knoweth them that are his.”)
Christianity is a black and white religion. There are good people (Christians) and evil people (everyone else in the universe). There is heaven and hell. Sin and Virtue. There is no room for wiggling. The death penalty is also black and white. Once the accused is dead, that’s the end of it. The two are natural bed buddies.
Oh… and there’s one more thing I’ve been thinking about with regard to Christianity and the death penalty. Some people argue that the death penalty is a money saver. It’s so expensive to keep killers alive, they aver, that it’s better to kill them so that you and I, gentle taxpayer, can have a few more pennies to get a Starbuck’s Latte. I find it rather ironic that people who are so vehemently “pro-life” when it comes to fetuses are willing to kill a full grown human to save a buck or two. Talk about screwed up morals!
Now, let me head off the boringly predictable objections: Yes. I know that not all Christians support the death penalty. I know that your grandmother is the sweetest lady in the world, and that she has been a Christian all her life. I know that other non-Christian countries have the death penalty. I know that I can’t pin the entire death penalty debate on the Bible. I know all of this. Let me say this very clearly so that at least I can point back to it when people object anyway. If you are a Christian and you oppose the death penalty, you’re a bad Christian. You’ve been skipping over giant sections of your Bible. God doesn’t give you the option of making up your own mind. He’s called for the death penalty, and that’s the end of it. So if you’re a Christian and you want to argue with me that you’re against the death penalty, I don’t care. You’re a hypocrite.
The death penalty isn’t an exclusively Christian thing, but it is most definitely a Christian thing. The entire religion is the symbolic glorification of the death penalty. And that’s just one more reason I think it’s one of the most repulsive belief systems in the world.
In case you’re interested, here’s a link to a website with the names of all the people executed in the United States of Jesus.