At the end of July, Relevant Magazine posted a really interesting blog post titled Can You Be Pro-Life and Pro-Death Penalty? - Examining the tension between defending life and condoning death. I haven't actually read the post yet because I wanted to figure out my own opinions and thoughts and talk about them here on The Reader without watering everything down by repeating the blog's message with different wording.
First off, let me state my stance on both of the subjects. Essentially, I consider myself pro-life when it comes to my own body and I feel very strongly about this statement. I believe that every single child has a right to life and that right should not be taken away no matter what. That being said, I also consider myself pro-choice when it comes to other women because ultimately it is not my decision whether someone wants to have an abortion or not. It is the mother's choice. This may seem to be a weird view coming from a Christian but I firmly believe that God loves each and every one of us for who we are right now at this very moment and will love us during every moment of our lives. While I believe life occurs right after conception and that every single living soul has the right to life, that is not something I struggle with. I can not make this decision for anyone. It is extremely personal.
The death penalty is something I only recently began to grasp my opinions on. For a while, I believed in it because I believed that people should be killed for doing bad things. But now that I am older and have read many books and have come in contact with many varieties of people, I think the real question we need to ask is - what is so bad about death? Our culture constantly portrays death as this horrible thing and they paint it in such a black and white light but death is much more complicated than we have been taught. Is death really the worst punishment? No - I don't believe so. Do two wrongs make a right? No - not at all. I now believe that, as I mentioned in my review of Torn by Justin Lee, that sin is sin. I believe that murder holds the same amount of weight as a child purposefully stealing from a candy store. Sin is sin. Do we have a right to kill? No. Therefore, I do not agree in the death penalty. What scares me most about America sometimes is that we seem to like celebrating the death of those we hate or are afraid of. The night Osama bin Laden was killed, my entire college campus erupted in loud applause and riots throughout the quad and on campus began. Sure, I was happy too that the threat this man posed was gone but I began to wonder - is it really gone just because this man is dead? Not at all. And then I wondered how we could celebrate taking a human life. Thinking about this really started putting things into perspective for me.
Donald Miller points out in his brilliant novel Blue Like Jazz that America is run by a system of checks and balances. As a Christian, this system just doesn't work. Christianity sits on the idea that our being is reflected in Jesus Christ. God is love and in Him we are forgiven. He removed all of our sin when He died on the cross. Whatever I have done or will do, He has forgiven me as long as I put my identity in Him. America, and organized religion for that matter, believes that when someone does something wrong they should be punished. The bigger the crime, the bigger the punishment.
To be pro-life means that you believe in new life. It means that we should save the ones who don't have a voice and deserve a chance in this world. To be pro-death penalty means that life should be taken away because of wrong doings. To be both of these things is just downright hypocritical in my opinion. To say you believe in life in some cases but not in others is an oxymoron. Either you believe in life or you don't. Now let me be clear - I'm not saying that those who are pro-choice don't believe in life. Many pro-choice people believe in saving a woman's life and giving her the right to choose. But this stance is about saving a person who is already alive. What connects those who are pro-life and those who are pro-death penalty is that they are both speaking about a life entering this world and a life leaving this world. It isn't about choice or about health risks. It is purely about life.
This idea of life can even tie into the gun control discussion that has been widely talked about over the past several months. The question seems not to be about how to restrict guns but how to teach children the sanctity of life. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. And with that in mind - if a pro-life person claims that we do not have a say in an unborn humans life, who is to say that we have a say in the lives of those who are already alive?