Tuesday, June 7

Heartache Management

This is part ③ of terrette's death penalty discussion.
terrette: I left uncommented one part of your appreciation of the death penalty. I quote you once more, underscoring the part that I neglected to address:

Did you see the news on the lady from Florida that was executed? Apparently it was her desire to get the execution over with. She knew she was guilty, felt that if released she would kill again, and didn't want to cost taxpayers any more money, or the families any more heartache.
I am bewildered at the thought that this assumption--that someone else's very existence can cause "heartache" for another citizen--has been made by a self-professed Christian. Would you, please, help me to find the Christian reference or support for such a thought of justifiable, death-willing vengeance?

I also find highly problematic the assumption that destroying the body of the criminal who had killed someone's loved one can lessen that person's "heartache." I am not saying that in all cases, such heartache would persist despite the destruction of the other's body (since there are too many perversions in the world for one to be able to take account of them all), but I find ludicrous the implication that the government should be responsible for managing such "heartache" by destroying others' bodies. Since when is the government responsible for managing "heartache"? Is there a Committee of Heartache Management in the Congress, perhaps? Even if it were true that in a majority of cases the government's destroying someone's body were an effective means of lessening another citizen's "heartache," I find that instituting such a practice as law plays into the basest, least defensible, least justified urges that humans (and humans acting within governments) exhibit. Moreover--and this is an entirely different point--the state-sponsored destruction of a criminal's body has the unhappy consequence of seeming to repeat, at least symbolically, the event by which the Christian God was put to death, and thus of reactivating the fantasy or spectacle of heroic martyrdom. Heroic martyrdom is the last thing someone such as Timothy McVee deserved, but certainly not always the last thing he and people who act like him desire and, in some cases, receive.

Beth: Starting from the end of your letter, we were not talking about the same woman. All of the comments that I included about the Florida case were from her mouth, not from mine. I saw her speaking on television, and I later read her comments in a news magazine. She said that it was her desire to get the execution over with, that she knew she was guilty, that if released she would kill again, and that she didn't want to cost taxpayers any more money, or the families any more heart ache.

You are in violation of one of our ground rules which was that you would not attribute to me any statements that seem to you to be what I would say. I did not add any of my personal opinion to her statement, nor did I express my opinion regarding her comments.

On to your other questions.

Capital punishment does not 'increase ' the value of human life. Human life is of ultimate value because human beings are created in the image of God. The death penalty is an expression of the value of human life in that the highest penalty that could be imposed on a violator is required of one who would take someone else's life without just cause. Again, I don't see the criminal justice system as the big, bad guy here. The murderer gives over his right to life when he commits the crime.

I didn't say that God alone has the power to 'take' a life (I don't like the word 'take' here because I argue that the murderer gave over his life, but neither do I want to trivialize execution). I said that because God creates life, not all cases in which God takes life are relevant to the question of whether men ever have authority to do so.

Did you miss the part that I found most compelling about Anderson's essay? The Old Testament law code was tied to a kingship of a particular people. The principle behind that law code is without fault - human life is of ultimate value. No one in the United States is lobbying to extend the death penalty to fortune tellers.

If the execution is the right punishment for premeditated murder, based on the principle on the God-ordained value of human life, then it is right.

If it is wrong, based on the same principal, then it is wrong. Issues of timing, expense, ’heartache’, or other cultures seem less important.