The Common Good

The Death Penalty Denies the Gospel

He was taken before the authorities and subjected to abuse and beatings. No one arose to defend his case with the integrity it deserved. Others will later criticize the prosecution for its thinly-veiled biases. Finally, after a farce of a trial, this afflicted and trampled man was sentenced to die.

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Jesus Christ is not the only one in history who has suffered at the hands of such horrifying injustice. Reggie Clemons, a 37-year-old African-American man from Missouri, is now on death row for a 1991 double murder sentence that is full of errors and scandals. The case against him was built entirely on witness testimony (which many studies have shown can be unreliable), and there was no physical evidence whatsoever to link Reggie to the crime. While Reggie's June 17, 2009, execution date has been temporarily stayed, his execution could be reinstated at any time.

As a Christian, I condemn capital punishment in general (regardless of if the accused committed the crime or not). Murdering someone for a crime they either did or did not commit denies the atoning power of Christ's death and resurrection. If Jesus has already died for all of the wrongdoings of humanity throughout history, then why does someone else have to die? Does execution really bring peace to the loved ones of the victim?

The death penalty also denies the transformative power of the gospel. If we as Christians believe that the Holy Spirit can restore even the worst of sinners (2 Corinthians 5:17), then who are we to deny anyone the chance to become a new creation in Christ?

I question the justice of any verdict that ends in a death sentence, and I pray for the eventual abolishment of the death penalty. In the immediate future, however, we can advocate for the highest level of justice under the current laws for those facing execution.

Though Reggie Clemons is not the Incarnated Son of God, the injustice of his situation may be almost as outrageous as that of Christ's. Urge the appropriate authorities to re-investigate the cases of Reggie and others like him, such as inmate Troy Davis. Our faith compels us to seek justice through rehabilitation, not extermination.

Melanie Weldon-Soiset is a summer associate at Sojourners.

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