Commentary: WWJD about the death penalty? Uh, a question or two, please!
Commentary: WWJD about the death penalty?
Uh, a question or two, please, from cdh!

Feb. 7, 2001 News media contact:
Thomas S. McAnally
(615)742-5470·Nashville, Tenn. 10-71B{061}

A UMNS Commentary
By John C. Goodwin*

NOTE: Sorry -- couldn't resist raising some questions throughout brother Goodwin's commentary, and so they will appear in red, and I will try to send these on to him a bit later. As we well know, there is a bit of conflict among the "death penalty abolishers" and the "abortion on demand abolishers" within the ranks of United Methodism! cdh

The bumper sticker asks, "What Would Jesus Do?" Regarding the death penalty, the answer seems clear. I cannot imagine him saying yes to an execution. In John 8:1-11 he spoke against the prescribed penalty of death for the woman caught in adultery. "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her," he said (NRSV).

OK -- there could be some pretty widespread agreement on that matter as to whether Jesus would say yes to an execution -- now then, can you imagine Him saying yes to the deliberate act of destroying an unborn child in the womb? And there are quite a few more unborn children "executed" in a year's time in this country than prisoners on death row, are there not? And of course, the United Methodist Church in its Social Principles indicates a reluctance to approve the option of legal abortion, but goes ahead and does so anyway!

Yet there are many persons who profess to be followers of Christ who also profess to favoring capital punishment. The paper trail of Methodist opposition to the death penalty extends at least to the 1950s, long before United became part of the name. Of the major Christian denominations in the United States, only the Southern Baptist Convention supports the death penalty. Here in the Northeast most denominations clearly oppose capital punishment.

And how many denominations support the "legal option" to destroy unborn children?

On Nov.17, 1998, Bishop Alfred Johnson joined nine other New Jersey Protestant leaders in signing "A Pastoral Statement: the Death Penalty." Part of the statement reads: "It is time to state our position as clearly and unambiguously as we can. The death penalty is incompatible with Christianity." Soon afterwards, Bishop Johnson established the committee formally known as The New Jersey Area Church and Society Task Force to Abolish the Death Penalty and I am privileged to serve as co-convener. The task force is working to raise the consciousness of 115,000 or more United Methodists in the Greater New Jersey Area and works with New Jerseyans for a Death Penalty Moratorium on legislative issues ( Members of the task force hope that United Methodists will agree with the denomination's position and communicate that viewpoint to their local, state, and federal legislators.

Do you believe that the good bishop and the nine other Protestant leaders would also sign another pastoral statement with a slight word change? "....It is time to state our position as clearly and unambiguously as we can. The aborting of unborn children is incompatible with Christianity." Hey, I kind of like that...don't you?

New Jersey has 15 persons on death row; New York has six. Neither state has executed anyone since 1963, but unless the laws are changed, executions could be resumed within two years. Pennsylvania's death row houses 238 persons. Three have been executed since 1976. My mother, at age 13, was fascinated and horrified by the 1927 Massachusetts executions of two Italian immigrants, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. When I was 12 years old, I was also fascinated and horrified by a double execution, that of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg in 1953.

Being from the state of Pennsylvania, I can tell you that a person on death row has a far greater chance of dying from old age than by execution! The appeal system works very well in PA and judges at the Supreme Court level are more likely to say, "Don't inject the drugs!" or whatever it is that they plan to do with the candidate slated for execution. However, Pennsylvania abortion mills in places like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia execute thousands of unborn children every year! The tally is a bit unbalanced between the unborn victims of execution and those on death row in PA prisons!

My father felt that my mother's obsessive reaction to the Sacco-Vanzetti execution contributed to her 1964 suicide. My reaction to the Rosenberg case certainly was a contributing factor in my commitment to end the evil that is the death penalty. Here is my short, partial, personal list of reasons to oppose the death penalty:

1. It is wrong. Murder by the state is still murder and is contrary to the Sixth Commandment.

Is the deliberate destruction of a child whom God is in the process of forming in a mother's womb a violent act of murder? In case you may be a bit confused about this and whether it is appropriate to use the word "violent," take a look at United States Holocaust Gallery

2. Killing the killer cannot restore life and will not bring closure to the living. Increasing numbers of families of murder victims, including many of those who lost loved ones in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing incident, are voicing their opposition to the death penalty and are seeking restitution and reconciliation instead of death.

Killing the unborn child cannot restore life and will not bring closure to the living. Increasing numbers of families of abortion victims are voicing their opposition to abortion on demand, including Norma McCorvey who was directly involved in the Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion on demand in January 1973!

3. Executions cause more families to grieve, creating more victims.

Executions of unborn children cause more families to grieve, creating more victims, particularly the potential mothers and sometimes the fathers!

4. I am a citizen of the state. For the state to execute someone in my name makes me a killer.

I am a citizen of the state. For the state to license establishments and certain individuals and by that licensing approve the destruction of unborn children in my name (being that I pay taxes to support the state and its officials) makes me a killer!

5. Increasing numbers of prison officials, those involved in the actual carrying out of executions, are experiencing stress disorders. It is unfair to turn our correctional facility professionals into hired killers.

There are those persons ("doctors" and nurses) involved in the destruction of unborn children who have or are experiencing stress disorders. It is unfair to turn medical professionals who have vowed to do all they can to enhance and preserve life into salaried killers! See the reaction of one nurse on this matter at Nurse Testimony

6. Studies have shown that the death penalty is not a deterrent. Ten of the 12 states with no death penalty have lower murder rates than the national average.

Well now -- how do we respond to this one? Can it be said that statistics show that the practice of abortion isn't a deterrent -- they just keep on slaughtering the innocent week after week piling up totals of over 1 million or more a year -- grand total since 1973 is well over 40 million! How many death row executions have happened in that period of time? Looks like the abortionists are winning!

7. It is primarily the poor and persons of color who are in danger of receiving the penalty of death.

Ah, something can be said about the poor and persons of color being victimized by the abortion providers...some interesting information on percentages of the poor and persons of color on this one!

8. Death is irreversible. Innocents have been executed and innocent people have died of disease while living on death row. The governor of Illinois declared a moratorium on executions when it was brought to his attention that innocent prisoners in Illinois have come within days or hours of their execution.

Abortion is irreversible. Innocents have been executed and mothers have died from botched abortions while lying on the table! Should we press for a moratorium on this before more innocent lives are lost?

9. Capital punishment is more expensive than life in prison. Studies have shown that the average cost of incarceration for a life sentence is between $400,000 and $850,000. The death penalty process costs millions -- an estimated $22,800,000 annually for New Jersey.

Abortion is more expensive than allowing a child to be born. It's more expensive than any of us humans with our very limited intelligence can calculate -- what is the price to be paid when some individuals intentionally choose to interfere with what God is forming, and to have destroyed the high and wonderful purpose He has for that life on earth which He has identified long before conception ever took place? Oh, you say God doesn't do any identifying of that kind? How about pondering the first 5 verses of Jeremiah 1.

10. Much of the world, including all of Western Europe, has forsaken use of the death penalty. There is growing international pressure for the United States to give up what is considered to be a barbaric practice by much of the world.

Much of the world is engaged in the practice of destroying the unborn. As a result there is no real pressure at the international level for the United States to give up what is considered to be the barbaric practice of abortion! Only a minority group of persons in this present world recognize that indeed God identifies each human before conception and birth and has a very special plan for that person in His purpose for His creation!

11. Christian Theology places life and death in the hands of God. The Christian faith teaches us that it is never too late for a person to repent of his or her sins.

Why is it that there is a "Christian Theology" that places the life and death of unborn children into the hands of an individual called an "abortionist?" The United Methodist Church at one point in its "theology" states that it is "reluctant" to approve the "legal option of abortion" but in spite of professed reluctance, goes ahead and gives the green light anyhow! Have you ever had the disturbing thought as to how many of the 40 million unborn victims of extreme violent acts would have made a positive contribution to the work and ministry of the United Methodist Church had they been permitted to live? And we United Methodists cry because our ranks have been reduced by a few million since the big merger of 1968 -- might there be a connection here somewhere? Still contending (Jude 3 & 4) -- cdh (I can be contacted

*Goodwin is a member of the Demarest (N.J.) United Methodist Church, a lay member of the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference and co-convener of the Church and Society Task Force to Abolish the Death Penalty of the New Jersey Area.

Commentaries provided by United Methodist News Service do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of UMNS or the United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church officially opposes capital punishment and urges its elimination from all criminal codes. See 2000 Book of Discipline, Para. 164A , or the denomination's Web site:

United Methodist News Service
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