1. The church to which I belong seems to be in support of capital punishment because of the tyranny of those miscreants who perpetrate those crimes and because it is believed that when someone disrespects the sanctity of life by taking it, then the Bible supports if their life is taken in return. Capital punishment, according to the church can be traced in the Bible. The Old Testament gives room for capital punishment when the law was broken. The state has the power to execute justice and it does not tantamount to murder, in the case of a civilian taking the life of another.
2. Even though the church’s stance may seem justifiable and supposedly supported by scripture, I am vehemently against capital punishment because of many reasons including my treatment with biblical evidence that seems to present counter arguments for capital punishment as well as ethical and legal ramifications.
3. Though many Bible carrying Christians seem to refer to verses in the Bible to support the cruelty of capital punishment, internal biblical evidence seems to convey a message of forgiveness and restitution more than the “eye for an eye” concept. In fact the same cluster of laws to which they refer to justify capital punishment included ceremonial laws, moral laws and religious laws. Persons could face the death penalty for things like bearing false witness or sexual acts that were inconsistent with the beliefs of the time. Can you imagine if the death penalty was retained for the same purpose and intent that it was upheld in Old Testament? Then womanizers, thieves, fornicators and adulterers would be punished by death. What we have posited, therefore, in the Old Testament; a different period and culture from our own, is descriptive of a practice rather than a prescription of the practice. Furthermore, the overarching theme of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, seems to be one of forgiveness and restitution. Though the penalty for eating of the tree knowledge of good and of evil was death, God himself, after giving the two convicted felons a hearing, sought to dispense grace by the slaying of the animals to make clothing for the two. The shedding of blood is symbolic of the shedding of the blood that is necessary for salvation and forgiveness. Jesus himself condemned the Mosaic law that is found in Leviticus 24:19-20: If anyone injures his neighbor, whatever he has done must be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. As he has injured the other, so he is to be injured. He said in Matthew 5:38–39: You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. Jesus said he fulfilled the requirements of the Law in Matthew 5:17. It means that having fulfilled the requirements of the law there remains no power in the letter of the Law to condemn anyone (Galatians 3:19-25). Furthermore, the conversion of the Apostle Paul serves as a testament of God’s interest in taking the most heinous of criminals and transforming them. Those who are unyielding, God himself promised to avenge (Romans 12:17-21). These may be difficult sayings in scripture to accept, necessarily because our human tendency is to accord evil, evil recompense. That is our view of justice but according to God we must do the opposite hence the Bible as a whole and the New Testament in particular cannot support capital punishment.
4. I think that the recommencement of capital punishment in Jamaica is an ethical and spiritual indictment on the Jamaican society and judicial system. Firstly, not even the state has the right to disregard the sanctity of life. If the rational for capital punishment remains that life had been disrespected then it is somewhat antithetical to disrespect life in the dispensation of justice. Secondly, the practice goes against the biblical teachings of forgiveness and restitution. Forgiveness and restitution are not enemies of justice. They do not ignore the crime that has been committed they hold the perpetrators accountable but make effort to reform and rehabilitate. In fact this may be a more just alternative when we consider the greatly corrupt justice system that we have in Jamaica. It is very likely that innocent people are convicted and executed. We have had police officers confessing to fabricating evidence or poor, alleged criminals being unable to afford proper legal representation is another factor that compromises the dispensing of justice.
5. Capital punishment does not deter criminals. An effective justice system, where criminals get caught does. Crime will continue to increase in the presence of capital punishment if the system itself is not effective in capturing criminals. Capital punishment has not deterred murderers in Trinidad. In fact there has been an increase in the crime of murder in the presence of that law and the practice itself.
6. The absence of Capital punishment in Jamaica does not necessarily contribute to the crime of murder. On the contrary, I believe the lion’s share must be attributed to: perversion of the justice system, the advent of relativism and erosion of family values and guidance, the apathy of the church, the victimization of the poor by the political directorate and the irresponsibility of the media have all contributed to the problem of murder in Jamaica.
7. There is no justification for capital punishment. None! It is my impression that we make no provision in our justice system for rehabilitation and reform. There must be a reason for the crimes perpetrated. Has anyone researched the reasons and sought to facilitate behavioural change? Instead there is the concept of lock them away and throw the keys away or even more draconian measures like kill them.
8. The Bible does not contradict itself on capital punishment. Our varying interpretations are what become contradictory. There is information in the Bible that is descriptive rather than prescriptive. When that which is descriptive is made to be prescriptive, then there is an apparent contradiction. To avoid this contradiction, one has to compare their interpretation of that particular text with the wider context of biblical teaching. The rules to biblical hermeneutics (interpretation) include: context, context, context, and context (cultural context, historical/situational context, literary context, grammatical structure of the text). Should this scientific approach of interpretation be effected, then one should not arrive at so many contradictions.