Justice Stevens, Jesus, and the Death Penalty

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens recently wrote a review of a new book titled Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition by legal scholar David Garland. I haven’t read Garland’s book, but I appreciated Stevens’ review. One highlight for me was “the death penalty represents ‘the pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes.’”

While reading this article, my mind was flooded with the many reasons to abolish the death penalty in the 21st century. Perhaps first and foremost, there is the false hope to victim’s families. They really want the deceased back and their lives back, but the death penalty offers only the “Myth of Redemptive Violence.” On this point, I’ve found the experiences and testimonies from the organization “Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation” incredibly powerful (http://www.mvfr.org/).

There’s the bumper sticker reason: “Why do we kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong?”

There’s the cinematic reason: watch (and ideally also read) Dead Man Walking.

There’s the ethical reason: as a citizen of the United States, I oppose being made an accomplice to state-sanctioned murder funded by my tax dollars.

There’s the scientific reason: the better our methodology and technology gets, the more we find out we may have executed innocent people. As a recent Washington Post editorial highlighted ‎”Since 1973, some 130 death row inmates have been exonerated, largely through the use of DNA evidence. Yet not every state allows death row inmates access to such testing.”

There’s the the socio-economic reason: disproportionate numbers of poor and racial-minorities are on death row.

Finally, there’s the Christian reason: Jesus died by capital punishment. Think about it. The Christian symbol of the cross was first a tool of Roman state execution. If Jesus had died in the French Revolution, we’d have gold guillotines around our necks instead of crosses. If Jesus had been assassinated like MLK, then we’d have bullets on top of our steeples. If Jesus had been executed in Texas, we’d have an electric chair or hypodermic needle on our Communion Tables.

About Carl Gregg
  • Dudley Sharp


    I would ask you to “think about it”, as well.

    Justice John Paul Stevens: Facts & Victims Overlooked
    from Dudley Sharp

    1) A factual deconstruction of Judge Stevens’ death penalty claims

    Justice John Paul Stevens’ Hysteria: The Death Penalty

    2) A legal deconstruction of Judge Stevens’ death penalty writings

    Justice Stevens’ Odd Death Penalty Review
    December 4, 2010 8:00 AM, Kent Scheidegger,

    3) A breakdown of Justice Stevens decisions

    The “Moderate Republican” Death Penalty Values of Justice Stevens: Do tormented victims matter?
    Lester Jackson Ph.D.,

    4) What the media isn’t telling us.

    The One-sided media coverage of Justice Stevens, Lester Jackson. Ph.D.

  • Dudley Sharp

    Carl writes:

    “Why do we kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong?”

    We don’t. Even with no sanction, most folks know that committing murder is wrong.

    We execute guilty murderers who have murdered innocent people.

    The difference between crime and punishment, guilty murderers and their innocent victims is very clear to most.

    The moral confusion exists when people blindly accept the amoral or immoral position that all killing is equal.

    The anti death penalty folks are just looking at an act — “killing” — and saying all killings are the same. Only an amoral person would equate acts, without considering the purpose behind them.

    For those, like some anti death penalty folks, who believe all killing is morally equivalent, they would equate the slaughter of 6 million innocent Jews and 6-7 million additional innocents with the execution of those guilty murderers who committed that slaughter. They would also equate the rape and murder of children with the execution of the rapist/murderer.

    This is what the anti death penalty folks do, morally equate killing (murder) with the punishment for that murder, another killing (execution).

    For such anti death penalty folks to be consistent, they must also equate holding people against their will (illegal kidnapping) with the sanction for it, the holding people against their will (legal incarceration) or the taking money away from people (illegal robbery) with a sanction for that, taking money away from people (legal restitution).

    Most folks understand the moral differences.

    Some anti death penalty folks are either incapable of knowing the moral differences between crime and punishment, guilty criminals and their innocent victims, or they are knowingly using a dishonest slogan by equating killing (murder) with killing (execution).

  • Dudley Sharp


    1) “The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents”

    2) Opponents in capital punishment have blood on their hands, Dennis Prager, 11/29/05, http(COLON)//townhall(DOT)com/columnists/DennisPrager/2005/11/29/opponents_in_capital_punishment_have_blood_on_their_hands

    The false innocence claims by anti death penalty activists are legendary. Some examples:

    3) “The Innocent Executed: Deception & Death Penalty Opponents”

    4) The 130 (now 138) death row “innocents” scam

    5) “A Death Penalty Red Herring: The Inanity and Hypocrisy of Perfection”, Lester Jackson Ph.D.,

    6) Sister Helen Prejean & the death penalty: A Critical Review”

    7) “At the Death House Door” Can Rev. Carroll Pickett be trusted?”

    8) “Cameron Todd Willingham: Another Media Meltdown”, A Collection of Articles

  • Dudley Sharp

    Synopsis of Professor Lloyd R. Bailey’s book Capital Punishment: What the Bible Says, Abingdon Press, 1987.

    All interpretations, contrary to the biblical support of capital punishment, are false. Interpreters ought to listen to the Bible’s own agenda, rather than to squeeze from it implications for their own agenda. As the ancient rabbis taught, “Do not seek to be more righteous than your Creator.” (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7.33.).

    “Death Penalty Support: Christian and secular Scholars”

    Christianity and the death penalty

    God: ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Whoever curses father or mother must certainly be put to death.’ Matthew 15:4

    Jesus: “So Pilate said to (Jesus), “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?” Jesus answered (him), “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above.” John 19:10-11

    Jesus: Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Jesus) replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23: 39-43

    Jesus: “You have heard the ancients were told, ˜YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER” and “Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court”. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, “Raca”, shall be guilty before the supreme court and whoever shall say, “You fool”, shall be guilty enough to go into fiery hell.” Matthew 5:17-22.

    The Holy Spirit: God, through the power and justice of the Holy Spirit, executed both Ananias and his wife, Saphira. Their crime? Lying to the Holy Spirit – to God – through Peter. Acts 5:1-11.

    The Word of God: Numbers 35:16-21. Note the words “shall” and “surely”. What do you think they mean?
    ‘But if he struck him down with an iron object, so that he died, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. ‘If he struck him down with a stone in the hand, by which he will die, and as a result he died, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. ‘Or if he struck him with a wooden object in the hand, by which he might die, and as a result he died, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. ‘The blood avenger himself shall put the murderer to death; he shall put him to death when he meets him. ‘If he pushed him of hatred, or threw something at him lying in wait and as a result he died, or if he struck him down with his hand in enmity, and as a result he died, the one who struck him shall surely be put to death, he is a murderer; the blood avenger shall put the murderer to death when he meets him.
    full context http://nasb.scripturetext.com/numbers/35.htm


    Saint Paul, in his hearing before Festus, states: “if then I am a wrong doer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die.” Acts 25:11.

    St. Augustine: “The same divine law which forbids the killing of a human being allows certain exceptions. Since the agent of authority is but a sword in the hand, and is not responsible for the killing, it is in no way contrary to the commandment “Thou shalt not kill”, for the representative of the State’s authority to put criminals to death, according to the Law or the rule of rational justice.” The City of God, Book 1, Chapter 21

    St. Thomas Aquinas finds all biblical interpretations against executions “frivolous”, citing Exodus 22:18, “wrongdoers thou shalt not suffer to live”. Unequivocally, he states,” The civil rulers execute, justly and sinlessly, pestiferous men in order to protect the peace of the state.” (Summa Contra Gentiles, III, 146

    St. Thomas Aquinas: “The fact that the evil, as long as they live, can be corrected from their errors does not prohibit the fact that they may be justly executed, for the danger which threatens from their way of life is greater and more certain than the good which may be expected from their improvement. They also have at that critical point of death the opportunity to be converted to God through repentance. And if they are so stubborn that even at the point of death their heart does not draw back from evil, it is possible to make a highly probable judgement that they would never come away from evil to the right use of their powers.” Summa Contra Gentiles, Book III, 146.

  • Dudley Sharp

    “Dead Man Walking” & Sr. Helen Prejean: A Critical Review (1)
    from Dudley Sharp

    ” . . .makes you realize the Dead Man Walking truly belongs on the shelf in the library in the Fiction category.” “Being devout Catholics, ‘the norm’ would be to look to the church for support and healing. Again, this need for spiritual stability was stolen by Sister Prejean.” (2) The parents of rape/torture/murder victim Loretta Bourque.

    “(Sr. Prejean’s) certainly not after giving anybody spiritual advice to try to save their soul.” “I wouldn’t have had as much trouble with (Prejean’s) views if she would have told the truth, if she would have researched the (rape/torture/murder of Faith Hathaway).” ” (Sr. Prejean) certainly didn’t interview me, didn’t interview any of the witnesses in the case.” ” . . . (Sr. Prejean) based her book on what was in I guess a defense file and what Robert Willie telling her.” ” . . . she’s trying to mislead people in the book. And that’s something that she’s going have to work out with herself.” (3)

    (1) “Sister Helen Prejean & the death penalty: A Critical Review”

    (2) Dead Family Walking: The Bourque Family Story of Dead Man Walking,

    (3) Angel on Death Row: An Interview with Detective Vernado in the case of Faith Hathaway