As we deal with the aftermath of the tragic school shooting in Texas, we also face predictable and insensitively timed cries for gun control.
I’ve always been surprised and bothered that Conservatives don’t respond with their own policy suggestions. In the face of such wickedness, when our laws seem to fail at deterring crime, we must ask what needs to change and return to the source of our principles: God’s justice.
How does God command we deal with murderers? The death penalty is actually the second command God gives humanity in the Bible. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God did God make man” (Gen 9:6). If a case is too difficult for a lower court, it is sent to a higher court. God considers murder so terrible that He commands human courts to send such criminals directly to His perfectly holy court.
Yet our society seems to have largely agreed that it’s not civilized to execute even the worst of criminals - as if it’s civilized to murder children en masse and then feed the criminal on taxpayer dollars for the rest of their lives.
Now, Alabama does have capital punishment, but the federal government's court system has placed a moratorium on capital punishment and no executions were carried out since 2003 except during the end of Trump’s presidency.
Even those who follow biblical principles often pass judgment on God’s law as too harsh. Imagine if in our earthly court system, a lower court claimed to follow the decrees of higher courts but when told to send a case on up, decided they didn’t like the upper court’s methods and refused. Could they still say they followed the higher courts?
Likewise, Christians claim to obey God’s law and apply its principles to governance. Many of America’s laws were indeed built upon God’s definitions of right and wrong. Yet we have decided execution is too cruel. God should relegate Himself to being a God of love and forgiveness. We ignore the elephant in the room - the terrifying justice of a perfect God.
Yet in cases such as the Texas shooting, God’s justice should afford us the greatest comfort. In the horror, rage, grief and confusion over such loss, where can we turn except to God?
The Psalms teach us to rejoice in God’s righteousness: “Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; Let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity” (Ps 98:8-9).
Yes, God also calls His people to love and forgive their enemies. But it should be up to the victims to forgive the culprit and suggest the judge pass over the death penalty, perhaps in concern for the perpetrator’s eternal salvation. No outsider should inform a victim that they must forgo true justice to give the criminal a second chance.
But Americans don’t like the idea of punishment. We pretend the law exists only to rehabilitate criminals and prevent future crimes. But penal codes also exist to punish the perpetrators of crimes - to provide restitution and retribution to victims. The bill of rights protects us from cruel and unusual punishment, not from punishment. Punishment in and of itself is not cruel.
Why didn’t outlaws shoot up one-room schoolhouses on the prairie in the days of the Wild West? Because law enforcement would drag criminals to the public square and hang them as they deserved. And they would call upon the justice of God as their reason for doing so.
Many shooters do kill themselves rather than allow themselves to be arrested, so the threat of death itself may not stop them. But the justice of God should do what we cannot. Still, many say that the death penalty does not actually deter crime. Of course, it doesn’t. Few ever see an actual execution. We talk more about making sure execution is painless, spending huge amounts of money worrying about the criminal. But if we are going to enforce capital punishment, and with it God’s definition of justice, then we should actually examine God’s method of enforcing the law. He is very specific, and for good reason.
God selected stoning as the method of execution for his people. Why? First, stoning was public, which served to warn off other criminals. Second, it was a painful, just retribution. Third, stoning required witnesses to cast the first stones, which served to prevent perjury. You had to look in the eye of the person you helped convict. Fourth, stoning shed blood, which symbolized Christ’s eventual payment for all sin through His blood. Fifth, it was participatory. The whole community took on the responsibility to uphold the law together. Finally, stoning was cheap - stones are plentiful. Why should a community, burdened and broken by a crime, be further burdened by an expensive execution method?
As carried out today, does capital punishment actually help fulfill any of these principles? I don’t think so. Liberals claim the death penalty doesn’t work. Well, in its current form, it doesn’t - because we’ve kept the skeleton of the concept, without understanding any of the reasons behind this method of justice.
Now, I’m not advocating that we all grab a boulder and bash open the head of the child murderer in Texas. Our society wouldn’t want executions carried out downtown in the same places our artists and businesses set up tables to sell puppy paintings and fried pickles.
God Himself encourages us to interpret His principles and apply them as they fit our current situation. We see this in Scripture through Nehemiah, who made adjustments to the law when he rebuilt Israel after being conquered by Babylon. God does not command us to just copy-paste His law verbatim into the 21st century.
But if our enforcement of the law is not effective, if the same crimes keep occurring and criminals don’t think twice about committing mass murder, we do need to ask what isn’t working in the status quo.
Liberals think we should confiscate the weapons of all people, including the law-abiding. Conservatives tend to agree that people commit crimes because of our broken human hearts, and that those who wish to commit evil will find a way.
To address the chronic shootings in our country, I think we must return to the teachings in God’s law: let us hang murderers and open executions to the public to deter future crimes and cultivate a communal dedication to justice.
Caylah Coffeen is the host of Prayers For Life Radio in Huntsville, and a millennial who speaks up for truth and a future as bright as the stars. Her column appears every Friday in 1819 News. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected].
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