Death penalty.

Pastor pointed out something really interesting last Saturday. We were talking about what it means for man to be made in the image of God, the respect we therefore need to have for all people. The question came up about the death penalty, where that fits in with respecting others as the image of God.

Pastor pointed us to an interesting verse, Genesis 9:6 – “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” That verse is absolutely fascinating. But the idea is, because man is made in the image of God and worthy of respect, if you kill another man, you’re worthy of the greatest punishment, death. Murderers deserve death because life is so important.

I dunno, it sounds oxymoronic but it kind of makes sense, and in any case, it’s written as a direct command of God, which carries a little bit of weight. I have no idea where that fits in with the new covenant, no more eye for an eye stuff but it’s just interesting to me that respecting men as the image of God and the death penalty are philosophically compatible.

That said, I’m against the death penalty. Not for philosophical reasons though, just practical ones. It’s well known that there’s a huge racial imbalance on death row. Not just in absolute terms, but in relative terms, i.e. percentage of murder convictions that lead to death penalty for each race. Which is somewhat troubling. What bothers me most though is the statistics on the number of false conviction on death row, like the ones overturned by new DNA evidence, whatever. It’s totally frightening. Given the rate of error, I have no idea how to defend a penalty as irrevocable as death.

Have I mentioned this already? Salon a while back had a great interview with Scott Turow about the death penalty. It’s worth going through the day pass thing to read.