Is Capital Punishment Just?

Christian views on the death penalty are changing, and I can no longer remain neutral.
Is Capital Punishment Just?
Image: VIEW APART / SHUTTERSTOCK

On March 2, 2015, Georgia death-row inmate Kelly Gissendaner had what she thought was her last supper. That same day, death-penalty opponents gathered on the stairs of the Georgia state capitol and at the Georgia Diagnostic Prison in Jackson to protest Gissendaner’s execution. But it was a false end: Later that day, Gissendaner returned to death row due to a cloudiness in the pentobarbitol, the drug that causes respiratory arrest in a lethal injection.

Then, in the early morning of September 30, 2015, Gissendaner became the first woman in over 70 years to be executed in the state of Georgia. She had admitted her guilt: She plotted to kill her husband, though her boyfriend, Gregory Owen, was the one who executed the murder, stabbing Douglas Gissendaner multiple times in 1997. (Owen is serving a life sentence, though he could seek parole in seven years.)

For her second last supper, Gissendaner ate cheese dip with chips and Texas nachos. In her final statement, she said: “I just want my kids to know that love still beats out hate. And I want the Gissendaner family to know that I'm sorry and because of me a good man lost his life. And I want to tell my kids I love them so much and I am so proud of them.”

As Gissendaner’s execution began, she sang “Amazing Grace.”

The Death Penalty in America

In 2015 the National Association of Evangelicals changed its 1973 resolution on the death penalty with this statement:

Evangelical Christians differ in their beliefs about capital punishment, often citing strong biblical and theological reasons either for the just character of the death penalty in extreme cases or for the sacredness of all life, including the lives of those who perpetrate serious crimes and yet have the potential for repentance and reformation. We affirm the conscientious commitment of both streams of Christian ethical thought.

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Joy-Elizabeth Lawrence

Joy-Elizabeth Lawrence (MCS, Regent College) is a TCW regular contributor and blogger for Reformed Worship. She tells biblical stories, speaks about worship, and cares for her young children in Willowbrook, Illinois. Find her at PathlightStories.com.

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May 25

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