Is Capital Punishment Barbaric, Uncivilized & Always Wrong?
It is the issue that simply will not go away. No, not that issue. The other one—or should I say, one of the other two. In any case, it is less intrusive into our daily lives than homosexuality and abortion. But it is nonetheless recurring. Yesterday it revolved around what to do with people like Karla Faye Tucker, Timothy McVeigh, and the "Unabomber." Today it concerns our response to the Boston Marathon bombings, the D.C. mansion murders, the Memphis mother who (as I write) has just slit the throats of four of her children under five years of age, and—of course, more mundanely—death penalty referenda such as that of the state of Nebraska. Tomorrow, rest assured, we will be confronted with it once more, if not by individual states rushing in a fit of moral clarity to abolish capital punishment, then by the very people who are presently clamoring to normalize abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex everything.
But the dogged fact remains that people do evil things to their fellow human beings, and this because of our fallen nature. Psycho-socio--pharmacology, brain research, and preventive bio-genetics—it is hoped—will alter that stubborn reality, but in the end these preemptive strategies will only make us less -human. The question, at bottom, is whether a civilized culture will tolerate those who murder in cold blood and whether we are willing to clear our throats and make moral judgments.
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J. Daryl Charles is the Acton Institute Affiliated Scholar in Theology & Ethics. He is the author or editor of twenty books, including Retrieving the Natural Law (2008), Natural Law and Religious Freedom (2018), and, most recently, Just War and Christian Traditions (forthcoming). He is also co-editor of Abraham Kuyper, Common Grace: God's Gifts for a Fallen World, Volume 3 (2020). He is a contributing editor to Touchstone.
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