My first response would be to ask is my answer to come from a moral, philosophical, political or spiritual perspective?
The question is direct, yet undefined, therefore I will endeavor to answer from each perspective with salient points that could stand alone in a debate. Morally, I believe the punishment should be determined by the crime. Philosophically, Jefferey Reiman's premise of lex talionis, the idea that the punishment should fit the crime, based on the equality of persons, strongly influences my political perspective. The Golden Rule theory of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” inspires my life choices not only as a philosophy, but also as a moment-by-moment guide to everyday life.
Matthew 7:12 clearly expresses my spiritual standpoint of living my life in accordance with the word of God: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” The question that creates the great divide in determining if capital punishment should be abolished or enacted is: Are mercy and justice compatible?
My answer is that regardless of abolitionist or retentionist views respecting human dignity, not killing and punishing the guilty are fundamental principles that can be agreed upon.
Beverly Mattox, Word Alive International Outreach
Death is not the best option
As a second-career pastor who spent most of my life in law enforcement, I bring a different perspective to the table.
I consider three things when looking at the death penalty:
1. The number of persons who have been exonerated through DNA testing.
2. The recidivism of those who cross the threshold of harming another human being, which must be a consideration to protect the innocent.
3. How acts of God’s grace can bring transformation into a person’s life.
Within the Methodist Church, faithful people hold differing views on many issues. Officially, in the Social Principles (a guide for United Methodists), we oppose the death penalty.
Crimes that result in capital punishment are not just data points, they represent lives that will forever be changed. Unfortunately, the victims did not receive mercy. The victims’ families, along with the assailants’ families, are adversely changed forever. While we prefer life without parole, we can all cite examples of criminals so heinous in their acts of brutality that we cannot afford the risk of their escape from confinement.
As a Christian, I believe we should insist that the death penalty is the very last resort, with life without parole being the best option. People need to be protected from those who harm others, life without parole meets that standard. As a United Methodist I believe in grace and forgiveness, however, and as I tell people who are in abusive relationships — forgive from a distance.
Peter Hawker, First United Methodist Church, Anniston