I have a good friend who was executed despite his being innocent. His death always reminds me how broken the justice system is. He was such a loving man and I suppose the real reason he was executed was because his life and the message of his life spoke about a different kind of world. He believed, truly believed, that all people deserved mercy. He was a religious leader (actually a Rabbi) and I remember that his country had the death penalty for adultery. I remember one time him arriving on the scene as some really judgemental men were about to put a woman who was caught in the physical act of committing adultery to death. You really could not argue with the evidence. He said something really profound which still resonates with me. His argument was basically that the woman could only be executed by people who had never done anything wrong themselves basically pointing to the idea that only a perfect being (God) should have power over life and death.
My friend, as a rabbi, often spoke about those Old Testament "eye for an eye" texts and repeatedly taught instead about loving our enemies.
It is ironic that despite one of the authorities at my friend's trial saying out loud that he finds nothing wrong with him, my friend was still executed.
I remember when my friend was executed he was still practising what he taught. He prayed for those who had executed him asking God to forgive them.
I draw a lot of inspiration from my friend and also want to follow in what he taught while he was around. This is one of the main reasons why I don't advocate for the death penalty.
There are many other reasons as well (like there being no evidence that it works as a deterrent,or the fact that race and poverty play important roles in deciding who gets chosen to be executed). To argue that it is cheaper to execute people is not only morally questionable, it is factually incorrect (for fairness many legal safeguards are needed and this is expensive).
It is interesting and noteworthy that in the first 300 years of Christianity, the church opposed state-sanctioned killings. As early church father, St. John Chrysostom said "Our warfare is to make the dead to live, not to make the living dead”.
It is also noteworthy that according to a recent Barna poll only five percent of Americans believe Jesus would support the government’s ability to execute the worst criminals. This includes 2 percent of Catholics, 8 percent of Protestants, and 10 percent of all practising Christians. Christian leaders, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have also been some of the most outspoken opponents of execution.
Despite believing Jesus would not support the death penalty, many still support it themselves. I suppose this is one of the reasons why in another Barna study when non-Christians were asked to describe Christians the number one descriptor was the word Hypocrite.
We really can change this by practising and advocating for what my friend taught. A world where justice and mercy mingle together through love.