Christians and the Death Penalty
In this episode of Christian Mythbusters, Father Jared debunks the myth of what Christians actually do—and actually should—believe when it comes to the death penalty. You can hear Christian Mythbusters in the Grand Haven area on 92.1, WGHN, on Wednesdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 8:50am.
The transcript of the episode is below, or you can listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.
This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith.
Now that the electoral college has voted, it is finally clear to almost everyone that we are in the lame-duck presidency of Donald J Trump, while we await the inauguration of
President-elect Joe Biden. The final weeks of a lame-duck president are always filled with final actions taken without regard for political ramifications, as there are now no more elections to be won… or lost.
One of the most troubling though, and, frankly, precedent-breaking lame duck actions of President Trump has been his approach to the death penalty. Before the Trump administration, the federal government had not executed someone since 2003, nearly twenty years ago. In 2019, Attorney General William Barr announced a new execution protocol and dates for five executions of death row prisoners. After some legal back and forth, the federal government executed Daniel Lewis Lee on July 14, 2020. In these past five months, the administration has had ten people put to death with three more planned before President Trump leaves office. Just so you know, the last time an outgoing president did anything remotely similar to this was over a century ago, in 1889, when President Grover Cleveland ordered three—yes, not thirteen, just three—executions during his lame duck weeks.
Since we have yet to hear an outcry of opposition to these killings by this lame duck administration—at least, not among Trump’s white Christian base, I think this is a good week to break the myth of what Christians really do believe—andreally should believe—when it comes to the death penalty.
In the most recent polls, only 55% of our country supports its use and 43% oppose it. And while support in the US goes down slowly, the actual use of the death penalty has been increasingly disappearing around the globe. As of 2019, only twenty countries were known to have executed people, only nine of those countries executing more than ten people. What countries make that list, you might ask? In order of how many executions they have had, the list is: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, the United States, Pakistan, Somalia and South Sudan.
Yes, that is right, we rank sixth in the world for killing our own citizens. And look at the countries on that top ten list with us. Yikes.
Increasingly, various Christian traditions around our country have become more vocal in their opposition to the death penalty. Historically pacifist groups, like Quakers, have opposed it for years. They are now joined by the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and my own Anglican Communion, represented by the Episcopal Church in the US, whose Lambeth Conference of bishops wrote in 1988, “This Conference… urges the Church to speak out against: …all governments who practice capital punishment, and encourages them to find alternative ways of sentencing offenders so that the divine dignity of every human being is respected and yet justice is pursued.” Other groups, like the Southern Baptist convention,