Casting the First Stone


An article I wrote for my high school newspaper a few years ago responding to a student published piece advocating capital punishment. The hypocrisy of a Catholic high school endorsing the death penalty while the church they belonged to condemned it bothered me so, and since the newspaper published the pro-capital punishment article and not mine it was apparent that this was the case.

“An Incontrovertible Reality”: a response to “A Controversial Topic”

“If the man who murdered my grandmother was executed, it wouldn’t bring justice for her murder, nor would it bring her back.”. These are the words of Joanne Lynch, whose grandmother, Marion Carr, was murdered in Philadelphia in 1980.

Jesus, an innocent victim of institutional capital punishment, openly and profusely opposed the justification of human beings having the right to take each others lives. Jesus clearly stated this in the Gospel of Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil doer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also”.

Being politically right-wing and a genuine Christian is a paradox, because there is a contradiction between the morally conservative support of capital punishment and the teachings of Christianity. The quintessential example of this is when Jesus defends a woman condemned to death by proclaiming in Gospel of John 8:7“Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to [execute] throw a stone at her.”

Capital punishment is a social injustice because it puts society on the level of the criminal(a more percipient version of the banality “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”). A cliché argument is that capital punishment is necessary as a deterrent, but it is psychologically absurd to assume a criminal would take into account the death penalty as a consequence of their actions.

Even if the deterrent argument was valid it would not justify the horrifying reality of when the judicial system is at fault in the prosecution of a person and the accused face the consequence of innocently being put to death. In 1985 a Texan minor named Ruben Cantu was put on trial for murder and sentenced to death without any physical evidence supporting the case. After his execution by lethal injection in 1993, it was found out that even the circumstantial evidence of the prosecution was false and the lone witness of the murder lied. A friend stated “Texas murdered an innocent person”(Houston Chronicle).

The argument that lethal injection is painless, which therefore makes it not in violation of the right against cruel and unusual punishment guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment, is only a one-dimensional view of the words. Such an argument only attempts to nullify the physical cruelty of lethal injection, which is a preposterous assumption because no one has ever lived to tell how it felt. The “painless” argument is wrong because there is a cornucopia of unusual emotional cruelties inflicted upon not only the person being put to death, but on their friends and family also.

Catechism of the Catholic Church (p.605) states that “…executing a person is only necessary if there is absolutely no way to make sure the offender could do any more harm, the cases of which(because of modern imprisonment technology), “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”(Pope John Paul II, 1995).

The misguided notion that capital punishment saves money for taxpayers is wrong because according to a Californian death-penalty commission, “Using conservative rough projections, the Commission estimates the annual costs of the present (death penalty) system to be $137 million per year.”(Death Penalty Information Center) The commission found that the alternative of life in prison without parole was substantially cheaper mostly because of less court costs. “The cost of a system which imposes a maximum penalty of lifetime incarceration instead of the death penalty would be $11.5 million per year.”(Death Penalty Information Center)

With these arguments, and compassion for all human life, a complex issue such as capital punishment can be simplified into four words. “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. The Fifth Commandment is so simple, yet the issue of capital punishment is deemed controversial by so-called Christians who cannot understand four words given to them by their own God.

Sources

The Holy Bible John 8:7 Matthew 5:38
Catechism of the Catholic Church (pg. 605)
Lise Olsen- Houston Chronicle “The Cantu Case: Death and Doubt” http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/3472872.html
Priests For Life Organization
Death Penalty Information Center

About Sean William Lynch
Sean William Lynch is a poet from New Jersey who was born in 1992. Lynch's first book of poems "the city of your mind" was published in 2013 by Whirlwind Press. Frank Sherlock, the poet laureate of Philadelphia, called Lynch's debut poetry book "visionary." CA Conrad claimed that the book was "marvelous!" S.W. Lynch's writing has been featured in numerous publications online and in print, including Milkfist, Poetry Quarterly, and Tincture Journal.

23 Responses to Casting the First Stone

  1. A blogger after my own heart. I never believed in the death penalty, and I’m still wondering why Christians defend it.

    • Sean Lynch says:

      It used to infuriate me that so many people think in such an ignorant way that is contrary to what the written word of their own faith commands them.

      • speaking of written word, in judaism (my religion), we had a law once, in the Talmud, that stated that when a capital punishment case came up (rarely), you needed 70 scholars and judges to try it. and if there was a conviction, all 70 judges couldn’t convene together again for a certain number of years. talk about reluctant to kill.

  2. dizzy says:

    “Thus do I counsel you, my friends: distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful!” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

    • Sean Lynch says:

      Some people just get a kick out of having that much control.

      • dizzy says:

        I never ‘got’ the control thing. Everything is WAY more interesting if allowed to flourish, to be spontaneous and organic. In and of itself. Naked to the world.

        Everyone and everything is much more beautiful and fantastique than anything I or they might conjure, manufacture, hey? It’s sublime perfection in all its imperfection in my humble estimation. I mean, what kind of narcissist would even want to mess with that? With true nature? Go figure.

  3. Excellent. Lovely blog by the way!

  4. elskenewman says:

    That is a great and powerful post! To be honest, I am not a christian however I thoroughly believe in “thou shalt not kill”! It is the basic principle everyone should be living their lives by, no exceptions!

  5. Very nicely written and your thoughts mirror my own.

  6. It has always puzzled me how those who favour the death penalty oppose abortion; and those who favour abortion oppose the death penalty.

  7. Whilst my outright abhorrence for the death penalty does not have christian values behind it; I believe that institutional murder is wrong. Can you bring back the innocent man who died for something they didn’t do?

    • Sean Lynch says:

      Unfortunately there has been an untold amount of innocent deaths, especially of blacks from the death penalty in America after it was reinstated. Who the hell knows how many innocent were murdered by the government before that.

  8. dizzy says:

    Hey. I like you’re new theme. I liked the old one, too.

  9. It’s like telling murderers, “Do as I say, not as I do.” How can we justify killing ANYONE when it is supposedly against the law? It’s completely irrational. Great post.

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