Faster, Sister Exodus! Kill! Kill!

There’s a 67% “recidivism” for murder in America. I know this. Sister Exodus told me so. “67% of murderers who are released from prison will kill again,” she insisted.

Just to clarify: Sister Exodus isn’t a nun. She’s my sister in Christ, and we’ve been emailing back and forth recently. Sister Exodus is all for the death penalty, which, she tells me, should be the sentence for every convicted murderer. And rapist. Every single one.

Kill ‘em all.

According to Sister Exodus, it wouldn’t be fair otherwise. They shouldn’t be “rewarded” for murder (or rape) with the privilege of living (...because once you’ve taken someone else’s life, you don’t have a right to your own?). Countless innocent lives would be spared if we’d please just kill these irrevocably sick convicts.

I could see the logic. But I couldn’t see the Judeo-Christian logic.

My decision to cite the Ten Commandments didn’t come without hesitation. As a general rule of thumb, when I make the choice to bring in the Word of the Lord for the purposes of arguing my point, I try to thump wisely.

I told her that it’s made very clear in those basic Ten - so basic to the faith that some say those very Ten are written on our hearts - among them: Thou shalt not kill.

Sister Exodus answered that God makes it very clear (couldn’t be any clearer, she said) that he wants murderers to die. She cited Exodus 21.12: “Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death.” (NIV) To that 33% who statistically won’t kill again, tough tittie. The Bible tells us so.

The Bible also has its fair share of dinner party scenes.

Allow me to tweak the general idea of inclusion at these dinner parties in order to illustrate what I understand to be the pillar of Sister Exodus's capital punishment theology:

Just like in the real Bible, Jesus broke bread with tax collectors, Pharisees, prostitutes, Gentiles... Jesus didn’t discriminate, except for, apparently murderers and rapists. Sure, those other people around the table sinned, but some transgressions are just plain too despicable.
This is a Warhol. He did a whole series of them.

Does that sound right to you?

Don’t get me wrong.

If one of my loved ones was murdered or raped, in my anger, I’d crave some significantly damaging comeuppance unto the head of the soul responsible (which is NOT the way of peace, by the way). The fulfillment of such a craving would be destructive and unsatisfying to say the least.

I made a suggestion to Sister Exodus, “What about life without parole?”

“That’s not how the American Judicial System works,” she corrected. “Prisoners can get out of jail on parole.”

In these fantasy solutions, Sister Exodus, as long as you’re entitled to your hypothetical death camps, may I please have my hypothetical life camps? Because if I lived in a country where the government not only had no trouble with killing off hella people, but also wove it into their law as The Right Thing To Do, I would be sickened and sad. I realize Sister Exodus desires protection over the lives of the potential victims on the outside. I do, too. But I also want protection for the criminals on the inside.

Those we judge to be hermetically despicable… in this case, to the point where it’s insisted that their bad choices have disqualified them from life itself... even they are God’s children. Irredeemable, hard-wired killing machines unable to change their ways ever? We don’t know that. That’s between them and God.

Far earlier in the same email thread, Sister Exodus expounded to me, with as much vehemence as mere text on a screen can convey, that I am made perfect in Christ Jesus. (In all-caps, too: PERFECT.) I’ll say now that I, every single fiber of me, is no more or less human than anyone who has ever murdered, ever raped, ever collected taxes, or cast lots with their purity. The sins remain unacceptable, but those people - those murderers, those rapists - are also made perfect in Christ Jesus.

What do you think?

UPDATE:  A relevant note on Ten Commandments translations can be read here.


  1. It is a difficult topic! There are so many unknowns, variables, and claims of justice.

    And pulling from the Bible piecemeal doesn't help either.

    In the OT, you have a lot of directives that we find unjust. For example, if a guy rapes a girl, he has to marry her. Or the raped girl is protected if it happened in a field, but not in a city, because she should cry out. And we're like, "HUH?!" But given the laws of the cultures surrounding the Israelites, these laws provided way more protection to women than they had previously experienced.

    The law your Sister Exodus quoted was given, but so to was the creation of fugitive cities that protected rapists and murderers.

    In the NT, Jesus says to turn the other cheek, but many very intelligent, wise people can't bring themselves to believe that this means you don't resist evil actions, citing "All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing."

    And we live in a justice system where there is a difference between killing (manslaughter) and murdering, and you have to look at this and ask if it is just. I personally think it is. From all the different directives of the OT, I think God does too.

    The recidivism rate has a lot to do with culture and socio-political-economic structure. I say this because the recidivism rate is not constant throughout the country or the world. Carl Honoré examines the success if the low Norwegian recidivism rate in a chapter of his "The Slow Fix," in which he notes the entire culture is designed to reduce recidivism. But the rate still exists, even if small.

    Then you have a case like Anders Breivik. He stated at the beginning of his trial that the twenty-year maximum sentence was a joke: either he was right, and should go free, or he is a serial mass murderer, and should be killed. I agree with him.

    Should Hitler be given life without parole? Should an elderly man who lost control of his car and killed my friend on a bicycle be given the death penalty? Our justice system is very powerful (and imperfect) because it considers motive. You have to ask yourself: what would this person's execution solve?

    There is a great difference between murdering and killing. I need to make a deeper study of the Ten Commandments to satisfy myself which God meant.

    I believe that governments have the right to protect their people by removing evil from among themselves. That being said, there are infinite discussions on the definition of "evil" and "removal." While I would like to believe most of the people in our country believe that trafficking children for sex slavery is Evil, a large portion sees homosexuality as Evil as well.

    And of course there is the point that we do not have a Christian justice system. There are many Christian elements within it and forces that shaped it, but we are NOT in a Christian government and we are NOT in a Christian society. We, as Christians in a free and democratic society, can certainly influence our systems and structures, but we are also called to obey the laws if the land and the leaders over us. We should endeavor to spread justice and mercy into our systems (political activism shoutout!), but we should not reject a system because "It's not Christian enough." What is "Christian enough" has varied widely in the last two thousand years, and has not necessarily been progressing linearly...

  2. (continued)...
    I do believe that some people have been so twisted in their pursuit of evil that they have forfeited their right to live. If sin has consumed the sinner, then you need to purge the sin from your society and leave the mercy up to God. It is up to the very human and broken justice system to determine whether or not the sinner has forfeited his or her life.

    Murderers will be in heaven, as will rapists and pedophiles. Some people who have never broken a law may not be. You cannot accept the forgiveness of God without accepting that Hitler *could* be in Heaven.
    When it comes down to it politically, there is the question of whether I think the death penalty is just (ideologically) and whether I think it is just (given the practical situation). It's impracticality could create more injustices than the execution because of our culture and systems.

    Ultimately, God calls us to do justice and to love mercy. Justice is the natural consequences of our actions. Mercy is the freedom from condemnation. We have to do the best we can and trust that God will sort everything out in the end. Which is, after all, only the beginning.

    1. Thank you, Noel! Very astute! Maybe you'll be the Consistently Astute Time Machine Mechanic!

      What is and is not worth killing over is so subjective. One would have to feel passionately justified to do it (or at least, I'd hope, in the heart of the judges/executioners capital punishment isn't a casual affair), which is whey citing Scripture comes in handy. You can stop as many arguments as you can start with "the Bible says so."

      In arguments, Bible-citing either can be or is a fallacy depending on how it's used.

      I once mentioned "turning the other cheek" to Horatio, and I got yelled at. For a very long time. This is among the reasons I try to thump wisely.

      I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on "turning the other cheek." What do you think it means?

  3. The thing I always used to fret about when I was Christian and prone to fretting over things like the death penalty was that in instituting the death penalty, you make it the job of someone to kill/murder the convict. What about the soul of the guard who pulls the switch? I don't believe s/he is somehow exempt from the damage killing someone does to one's soul, no matter how justified.

    But these days I am not Christian, so I tend not to think of these questions in the same terms. Instead, I prefer to look at Constitutional history, the interpretation of things like the 8th Amendment, the court cases that have come up... questions of false conviction rates and over-representation of certain races behind bars, etc.

    1. Someone should write a novel written from the perspective of a devout-Christian executioner in like, the hella-long-agos... circa Anne Boleyn's head or something.

      Ever wondered what that's like from the perspective of the executioner his/her self?