The Death Penalty – Justice or Revenge?

From today’s New York Times: “After executioners in full-face balaclavas pulled black hoods over the two men’s heads (Saddam Hussein’s half brother and the former chief judge of his revolutionary court), tightened nooses around their necks and pulled the heavy lever opening the trapdoors, both fell like weights. But the hangmen’s calculations of weight, gravity and the momentum needed to snap their necks…appeared, in Mr. Ibrahim’s case, to have gone seriously awry.”

Yes, apparently: “The video showed his head being snapped off as the rope went taut, and ending up, still inside the hood, lying in the pit of the gallows about five feet from his headless body.”

An Iraqi staff member reported from Basra, “Some people noted that Barzan’s head was separated from his body during the execution, and said that this was God’s punishment for his crimes.”

Can there be any doubt that the point of the death penalty is revenge, not justice? How can people of faith support it?

How can the United States remain on the same list as Iraq and Iran as countries retaining this barbaric practice?

7 Responses to “The Death Penalty – Justice or Revenge?”

  1. Jeanne Says:

    I read your blog and appreciate its eloquence and truth. When I heard the news of the mishap with that hanging, my first reaction was sheer horror and revulsion, then something like, ‘well, one can expect these kinds of things when you get into the business of killing a person.’ Capital punishment has nothing to do with justice (making things right); it is all about revenge. When will we learn?

  2. ecubishop Says:

    Thanks, Jeanne! I’m just beginning to learn how to use the Reply/Comment section. Indeed, as you say, “when will we ever learn?” with respect to the death penalty. Or any violence?

  3. JLS Says:

    First welcome to the blog world Bishop. I would hope that you would also come out equally hard on the idea of killing unborn babies.
    I am one who is opposed to all forms of killing, death penalty, abortion and assisted suicide.
    In recent years, the stance of the Episcopal Church on the evil practice of abortion has gone basically untalked about in the church.
    As one who opposes the death penalty I hope to hear you taking the lead in ending the Episcopal Church’s open support of the greatest evil of our time.

  4. JCF Says:


    I just discovered this blog, opened the first comment section, and already tendentiousness is the order of the day.

    Well, let’s return to the topic at hand: killing *human beings* (as opposed to the *imputed* humanity of cell blobs that JLS intro’d to the thread). Moving on!

    When it comes to the death penalty, Christians OUGHT to have a special insight into the matter (after all, we follow an Executed Lord). Yet when we look at the culture of the “Bible Belt”, we see that this is where MORE executions happen, than almost anywhere else on Earth! :-0

    Christians supporting the death penalty do a great disservice to the claims of the Gospel of Life. We cannot seriously expected those who DON’T follow an Executed Lord (as Muslims honor Jesus, they do not believe he was crucified), if we Christians don’t set an example in this regard. We “physicians must heal ourselves”, before we go tut-tutting the Iraqis about it. I’m glad that TEC has a clear record of opposing the death penalty—now, how can we convince other Christians (at home and abroad) of this witness?

  5. ecubishop Says:

    Well, thanks, friends. Just so you’ll know: I am “liberal” on the death penalty issue; “conservative” on the abortion issue.

    Life is life. And should not be taken by human beings.

  6. JLS Says:

    Thank you Bishop for your faithfulness on the abortion issue. Those who support abortion and yet are against the death penalty are to my in the most tenuous position of all on these life and death issues.
    To consider life in the womb as “cell blobs” demeans the Truth of God’s creation and the point where we all once began. Remember that God brought us all into the world as “cell blobs” to begin with.
    The emotional damage done to women who have had abortions is the biggest and most evil secret kept in this country. We need to care for those women, pray for them and seek to restore them to emotional, physical and spiritual health.
    Again, thank you Bishop for your faithfulness and consistency on the issue of life. Can you please try to encourage the new Presiding Bishop to separate the Episcopal Church from its outward support of abortion?
    Again, I’m enjoying your new blog.

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