When Governments Kill

On most public policy matters, Jim Wallis and I disagree. Both of us, however, do believe that the death penalty should be abolished—although we may not agree on how that should be done.

I’m a Catholic. Because of my Christian faith, and because I am a follower of Jesus Christ, I oppose the death penalty. I’m a conservative as well, and because my political philosophy recognizes that government is too often used by humans for the wrong ends, I find it quite logical to oppose capital punishment.

I have been criticized by some conservatives for my opposition to the death penalty. On the other hand, some conservatives have told me they question capital punishment or even oppose it, but believe that the conservative “position” is to support it. Fortunately for me, even if someone were to question my conservative bona fides (I’ve never been called not conservative enough, trust me), I wouldn’t care.

The fact is, I don’t understand why more conservatives don’t oppose the death penalty. It is, after all, a system set up under laws established by politicians (too many of whom lack principles); enforced by prosecutors (many of whom want to become politicians—perhaps a character flaw?—and who prefer wins over justice); and adjudicated by judges (too many of whom administer personal preference rather than the law).

Conservatives have every reason to believe the death penalty system is no different from any politicized, costly, inefficient, bureaucratic, government-run operation, which we conservatives know are rife with injustice. But here the end result is the end of someone’s life. In other words, it’s a government system that kills people.

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Sojourners Magazine July 2009
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