Monday, December 05, 2005

Kirkpatrick on capital punishment

Kirkpatrick on capital punishment:
"LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), issued a statement on capital punishment on Dec. 2, shortly after the death of the 1,000th person executed in the United States since 1976.

Kirkpatrick, noting that the PC(USA) and its predecessor denominations “have long been opposed to capital punishment,”said: “Capital punishment is wrong because it is impossible to know that a person who has murdered can never be redeemed or restored. As a matter of faith and faithfulness, this possibility must be left open for every human being.”

The statement was mailed to the governors of all states that still have capital punishment...."

Follow the above link to read the full text of Kirkpatrick's letter.

My feelings on capital punishment have evolved over the past 35 years from full support as a college freshman in 1970, to starting to have doubts in the mid-1980s, to believing that it is morally indefensible in any circumstances.

I do not use the rhetoric of some who say it is murder -- murder is defined as the unlawful taking of a human life. It is, however, killing, and I tend not to use euphemisms to describe it. By the same reasoning neither can abortion be called murder.

I do not always agree with what Kirkpatrick says (or what he has leaves unsaid), but here he says what needs to be said, and I am thankful for his witness.


Gruntled said...

What do you think of Calvin's support, albeit with grief, of capital punishment?

Denis Hancock said...

Calvin's position, at least, involves regret. It seems that people today are far more interested in "closure", not to mention pure and simple revenge. Do they really achieve "closure"? Is the apparent glee with which the news of a dead criminal is greeted a Christian response?

Was it Justice Harry Blackmun who finally decided he could no longer tinker with the "machinery of death" due to the many problems with how it was applied and to whom it was applied?

If I recall my history correctly, Calvin gave Michael Servetus every opportunity to escape the consequences of his heresy (and Servetus was clearly a heretic). Servetus persisted, and since heresy at that point in history was a capital offence, he paid for it with his life.

We don't kill people for heresy any more, thanfully. In fact, by claiming that there are no hard and fast "essentials" of the Reformed Faith, we seem to have eliminated heresy as a factor in ordination.

After looking at my original post, I may have seemed a little dogmatic about my opposition to capital punishment in so far as I left little room for honest debate. I alluded to abortion as another issue where life is taken without regard to the potential of such life. Another area I dodged entirely was war. I am still struggling with that issue.

A truly consistent "pro-life" stance would require me, at least, to be opposed to abortion, capital punishment, and war. I realize that many people who otherwise are consistently pro-life will make exceptions in all three areas. The propblem with general principles and specific instances is that if you start adding exceptions, the principles tend to be diluted.

I notice that someone on Presbyweb did question why Kirkpatrick failed to mention anything about abortion in his opposition to taking life that God has given.