Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Eighth Amendment from a Christian Viewpoint

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

A cursory reading of the Declaration of Independence would confirm the English crown's practice of charging excessive bail amounts for those who, while they didn't have enough evidence to successfully convict someone, the bail set would bar any chances they might have of ever being released. Tending to the wounds of your neighbor injured in battle could end up costing an individual their home, land and livelihood. (if, that is, your neighbor was fighting on the side of the rebels.)

It is here we have to look at the 'cruel and unusual punishment' phrase. In this time period it would have meant similar to the biblical precedent of an 'eye for an eye'. In other words, let the punishment fit the crime. Capital punishment for stealing was not uncommon in colonial times. Capital punishment, (yes the death penalty) for murder or heinous acts of violence was not considered either cruel or unusual.

There are good Christian people who believe that the death penalty is wrong. Personally, I am in no way opposed to the death penalty. The Bible makes it clear that although 'murder' is wrong, that an apt punishment for murder is the taking of the life of the person responsible. I would hope that those who are on death row use their final weeks, months or years to learn of the love God has for them through Christ. And I would hope that they would accept the forgiveness of sins and obey the Gospel.

But if they are being punished for bank robbery, or drug use we don't advocate their release from incarceration because they repented or are sorry. The debt to society must be paid, they must accept that and be willing to pay the price for the sin they committed.

It's frustrating seeing those who we know are absolutely guilty seemingly getting away with murder as their punishment gets forestalled again and again. We have to look at it in two different ways. As an American, our rights are protected up to the end of our lives and if that means a twisted individual lives a little longer on death row we have to know that if we were accused, we would have that same protection.

As a Christian, the murderer has taken a life, for which he deserves death. Each day of life he is given is a chance for him to realize the error of his ways and repent and obey the Gospel. I don't have the right to rob that person of a day God has given him to repent. If it were my loved one who was killed, in all honesty, I would want to end his life, but that's why these decisions are up to the state, not to a grieving loved one.

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