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Polly_Math's avatar

Why do many people who consider themselves Christians believe in capital punishment?

Asked by Polly_Math (1738points) December 17th, 2009

I am wondering about how Christians feel about the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” as it relates to capital punishment.
Non-Christians please feel free to comment.

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30 Answers

Pretty_Lilly's avatar

I see your point but this is also in the bible link

75movies's avatar

Thank Not God our legal system isn’t based on that linked passage. I realize ours is flawed but that is seriously fucked up.

Anon_Jihad's avatar

I do not know. Their Bible says all are deserving of death when they are born into the world, and that God sees no two sins as any different from one another, so they shouldn’t really root for the death penalty for others without wishing it upon themselves.

Well at least that is how I see it. But I’m totally for the death penalty.

laureth's avatar

John 8 verses 1 – 11

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Blondesjon's avatar

There are a lot of folks who consider themselves Christian that don’t even know what being a Christian means. They are like folks who call themselves Conservative because they listen to Rush Limbaugh and Shaun Hannity or folks who say they are Liberal because they have black friends.

75movies's avatar

My black friends are awesome.

Gossamer's avatar

it also says and eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth…

AstroChuck's avatar

Because many people are hypocrites.

gradyjones's avatar

When I was a child my grandfather was brutally murdered. The prosecutor in the case was seeking the death penalty. My mother, a christian, was hoping that he would get it too. Prior to that I don’t think my mother had ever been a proponent of the death penalty. I think that her position changed in the moment because of her anger. It put her a little bit at odds with our church, which was truly sympathetic to the situation, but was against the death penalty. In this situation, the christian (my mother) was allowing emotions to guide them instead of the principles of christianity.

I don’t know why christians would be for the death penalty. I know some are but it just isn’t where I or my church stands.

SeventhSense's avatar

But according to the new law, that has been usurped:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
—Matthew 5:38–42, NIV

A parallel version is offered in the Sermon on the Plain in the Gospel of Luke:

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
—Luke 6:27–31. NIV

Isn’t it funny that society takes the one line from the last sentence alone to be the
Golden Rule
We have claimed it more as do unto others as you would have them do unto you when more aptly it’s give unto others as you would have done unto you from context.

barbiedoll's avatar

I think we are tired of violent crimes where the criminal lives and their victims, and families, had no choice and are desperately missed.

Baggins's avatar

The correct translation of the commonly mistranslated “Thou shalt not kill” is “Thou shalt not murder”. Those who murder shall be put to death if convicted by a jury of his/her peers. I am not a practicing Christian. I believe in God and I value life. But I value innocent life before I would the life of someone so evil that they would murder, rape, torture, and molest.

Berserker's avatar

I suppose it’s one of them benefit of the doubt things. Or pedo catholic priests giving rise to said loophole and the need to stick their dick in it, so to speak.

Irony- Going to church basement meetings to deal with trauma which occurred in church basement buildings.

Also we all know that abortion is the only way fundies refuse to kill, anyway.

SeventhSense's avatar

True but that that was expanded on as well when Jesus’ followers would stone a man by the Law of Moses and he expressed that “He who is without sin may cast the first stone”. He went even deeper when he said that ” If you have hatred in your heart you have already committed murder”. There is no justification for murder, killing or revenge based on the teachings of Jesus. His ideals are closer to the Dali Lama’s teachings than anything representing the organized Christian Churches in America.

texasescimo's avatar

No biggie SeventhSense, but John 7:53–8:11 was a late addition to the Bible. The older manuscripts don’t include it. It fits with Jesus personality though, so it sounds believable, unlike the addition at Mark 16:17–18 that talks about handling snakes to prove you believe that contradicts so many other verses.

SeventhSense's avatar

Yes you would be hard pressed to raise an argument that Jesus was in any way in support of violence or retribution from the Roman Soldier at his arrest to his willingness to be executed at the hands of his enemies

texasescimo's avatar

I don’t really haave much of an opinion about the death penalty, but I feel that the Governments do have their relative positions. There are some scriptures that could lead one to believe that they may have that right.

Do you believe in a literal Hell fire? It seems that many who believe that God would not kill someone for murder and such would torture them forever once they died.,%204;%201%20Pet2:13,%2014;Acts%2025:11&version=NASB;ESV;HCSB;YLT;KJV
(Romans 13:1) Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God.
(Romans 13:4) for it is God’s minister to you for your good. But if you are doing what is bad, be in fear: for it is not without purpose that it bears the sword; for it is God’s minister, an avenger to express wrath upon the one practicing what is bad.
(1 Peter 2:13–14) For the Lord’s sake subject yourselves to every human creation: whether to a king as being superior 14 or to governors as being sent by him to inflict punishment on evildoers but to praise doers of good.
(Acts 25:11) If, on the one hand, I am really a wrongdoer and have committed anything deserving of death, I do not beg off from dying; if, on the other hand, none of those things exists of which these [men] accuse me, no man can hand me over to them as a favor. I appeal to Caesar!”

SeventhSense's avatar

No I believe in a compassionate God. And interesting that those scriptures were not attributed to Jesus but mostly Paul. Paul and Peter both had fundamentalist leanings.

texasescimo's avatar

So you don’t believe in a literal Hell Fire? You don’t believe that the books written by Peter and Paul were inspired?

SeventhSense's avatar

No because there is no justification for it either from the scriptures. References to Hades or the areas outside of Jerusalem where there were fires burning refuse gave rise to most of these. The original Hebrew texts and Greek likewise held no reference to such thoughts. It’s actually a perversion of the compassion of God to make him in man’s image as a despot. Fundamentalists don’t seem to comprehend metaphor nor the power of man’s imagination and hallucinations.

texasescimo's avatar

Well I’ll be a monkeys uncle. We do agree on something. What about the writings of Peter and Paul?

Here is an answer that I gave on answerbag.
God is love and burning people in a literal fire never even came up into his heart.

The God of the Bible does not do that. “The wages sin pays is death”(Romans 6:23),not an immortal soul burning in Hell. “The soul that sins itself will die”(Ez 18:4)

Matthew 5:22 speaks of those liable to “hell fire” or “Gehenna”. To use “hell fire” gives a false idea, for in the original Greek it reads gehenna of fire; gehenna is the Greek for the Hebrew ge′i-Hinnom, meaning “valley of Hinnom”. This valley lay to the west and south of ancient Jerusalem. During the time of the later kings of Judah it was used in the idolatrous worship of Molech, human sacrifices being offered to this god by fire. (Josh. 15:8; 2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6; Jer. 7:31, 32; 32:35) To prevent its use again for such horrible religious purposes faithful King Josiah had it polluted and it came to be the dumping place and incinerator for the refuse of Jerusalem. (2 Ki. 23:10) The dead bodies of animals were thrown in, to be consumed by the fires kept burning there and to which sulphur or brimstone was added to assist the burning. Even bodies of executed criminals thought too vile to have a resurrection were disposed of there. If the bodies did not reach the fires but lodged on a ledge of the deep ravine worms consumed them.
Have you ever noticed how one translation might say hell and at the same verse in another translation might say grave?
Link to several translations of Psalms 16:10
Link to Acts 2:27 Notice that the Greek Hades is the same as the Hebrew Sheol. Translators try to translate Sheol, Hades, and Gehenna as Hell to support that idea. The Douay Rheims actually has Job praying to be protected in Hell.;Jer7:31;2Kings23:10;&version=15;45;9;77;31; /././ /././

Also see my answer at:

SeventhSense's avatar

Believe me it tormented me for many years until I realized that this tradition was really more of the projected fear of a child from generation to generation of parental figures and probably the most primitive areas of the brain as well. We suffer gravely from our errors and it’s plain that this splitting off from original wisdom is hell itself. The idea of a schizophrenic God was just impossible for me to swallow for so many years because it was just a lie. Even the most neglectful parent held more compassion than the God I grew up with. It would be like us throwing a 2 year old in a room with broken glass in the corner and saying “Be careful!”...

bricklayer's avatar

Definitely don’t think “Thou shalt not kill” has anything to do with the death penalty (other than being a law that, if broken, could result in a penalty of death). This seems analogous to asking how “Thou shalt not kill” relates to vegetarianism.

As far as Christian views of capital punishment, at least from an OT perspective, it seems ok. NT verses like the golden rule, etc., I would categorize under interpersonal relationships. Governments are not individuals we relate with on a day-to-day basis. They are authorities “set up by God to punish the wicked” (Romans?). So, the question is one of what is suitable punishment for crimes like murder. I’m not sure if the NT has an answer for that one. But, if you were to ask how a murderer might restore what he/she stole or destroyed, if human life is priceless, it would seem that only the giving of one’s own life could make up for it. Maybe this is too simplistic, though. I’m certainly no expert on the Christian philosophy of punishment.

Edit: One more thing I thought of. The golden rule would apply in that we would not personally enforce justice, i.e. revenge. Thus, whereas governments have authority to enforce capital punishment, individuals do not have that authority. That would be in line with Jesus’ teachings, I think.

mattbrowne's avatar

I’m a Christian and I think the death penalty is wrong, knowing that there are also good reasons for it. There’s less crime in Europe and we don’t have the death penalty.

The commandment in the bible reads “Thou shalt not murder.” I believe that under very unusual circumstances war can be a last resort when it saves thousands of lives. An example would have been the intervention in Rwanda. Not sending soldiers meant that far more people were killed. In Kosovo the slaughter of innocent people was stopped. Darfur is another example and too many people died because the powerful nations on Earth did not intervene.

SeventhSense's avatar

I watched Pooty Tang…need I say more?~

texasescimo's avatar

Some good points. I agree with bricklayers edit:[Edit: One more thing I thought of. The golden rule would apply in that we would not personally enforce justice, i.e. revenge. Thus, whereas governments have authority to enforce capital punishment, individuals do not have that authority. That would be in line with Jesus’ teachings, I think.]
I agree with narrbrowne’s “Thou shalt not murder”.

texasescim's avatar

Quote from bricklayer: “One more thing I thought of. The golden rule would apply in that we would not personally enforce justice, i.e. revenge. Thus, whereas governments have authority to enforce capital punishment, individuals do not have that authority. That would be in line with Jesus’ teachings, I think”
I think that makes sense.
Mattbrowne, sorry for mis-typing your name as narrbrowne. My left hand must have been one button too far left when I started typing.

mattbrowne's avatar

@texasescim – No problem :-)

SeventhSense's avatar

But this is the exact sticking point of fundamentalists and lawyers alike. They look for a definition and a clear and concrete definition devoid of context. Yet even the law is subject to argument and interpretation. Jesus being a good rabbi and teacher and the leader of the Christian faith takes the Law of Moses(the Ten Commandments) and expounds upon it in such a way as to be even more forgiving not less. His example of laying down his life was not because he preached a gospel of hatred, retaliation and evening the score. His forgiveness of the woman caught in adultery, the thief on the cross beside him and countless others represents a most profound and quantum leap of social awareness.
An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind. But holding up a mirror of passive resistance allows one to see their true nature devoid of an imagined enemy. But make no mistake. Passive resistance is not passive. It is bold and beyond courageous
It’s the path that Gandhi and Martin Luther King followed. Eventually the blood lust is abated and balance is had because truth is the only thing that stands. Fire can never be extinguished with more fire.

How about the words of this fine Arab man who was far more than a poet:

Crime and Punishment from the Prophet- Khalil Gibran

…...You cannot separate the just from the unjust and the good from the wicked;

For they stand together before the face of the sun even as the black thread and the white are woven together.

And when the black thread breaks, the weaver shall look into the whole cloth, and he shall examine the loom also.

If any of you would bring judgment the unfaithful wife,

Let him also weight the heart of her husband in scales, and measure his soul with measurements.

And let him who would lash the offender look unto the spirit of the offended.

And if any of you would punish in the name of righteousness and lay the ax unto the evil tree, let him see to its roots;

And verily he will find the roots of the good and the bad, the fruitful and the fruitless, all entwined together in the silent heart of the earth.

And you judges who would be just,

What judgment pronounce you upon him who though honest in the flesh yet is a thief in spirit?

What penalty lay you upon him who slays in the flesh yet is himself slain in the spirit?

And how prosecute you him who in action is a deceiver and an oppressor,

Yet who also is aggrieved and outraged?

And how shall you punish those whose remorse is already greater than their misdeeds?

Is not remorse the justice which is administered by that very law which you would fain serve?

Yet you cannot lay remorse upon the innocent nor lift it from the heart of the guilty.

Unbidden shall it call in the night, that men may wake and gaze upon themselves.

And you who would understand justice, how shall you unless you look upon all deeds in the fullness of light?

Only then shall you know that the erect and the fallen are but one man standing in twilight between the night of his pigmy-self and the day of his god-self,

And that the corner-stone of the temple is not higher than the lowest stone in its foundation.

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