Kenneth Foster, Jr.

Get to know this name: Kenneth Foster, Jr. You are going to be hearing a lot of it the next 30 days because I have a personal stake in this matter.

You see, one night in August 1996 one of my best friends, Michael LaHood, was murdered by Mauriceo Brown. And Kenneth Foster, Jr. was driving for Mauriceo that night. I don’t know what the circumstances of Kenneth’s involvement were beyond the fact that he was still in the car when Mauriceo pulled the trigger that sent a bullet through my friends brain, ending his life immediately.

Was he being forced to drive? Or was he along for the ride? I don’t care. Kenneth deserves and is receiving punishment for his role in the tragedy that occurred that night. But whatever punishment Kenneth does deserve for his role in my friends cruel murder, execution should not ever have been (or be) an option. He did not pull the trigger, or encourage Mr. Brown to pull it in any way, nor was he even aware that the murder was being contemplated or had been committed until after the fact. His punishment should not be execution.

But we are in Texas and in Texas barbaric laws prevail, like something out of Beowulf or the Old Testament or Reservoir Dogs–one of the very few movies I could not watch to the end for its unspeakable cruelty. Never mind that we are in the 21st century. Never mind that we are supposed to be modern.

I miss Michael, my dear friend, whom I nicknamed ‘Chainsaw.’ He was a big, musclebound, softhearted jabber-mouth, always talking and always cracking jokes. Mike was full of life. And although he was a body builder I never saw him angry and I never saw him so much as hurt anyone. His joy was infectious–everyone wanted to hang out with Mike and the ladies loved him, although he didn’t quite have the confidence to take advantage of it (yet). Why he chose a long-haired, poetry writing, guitar playing miscreant and reformed pot-head/high school dropout like myself I will never know. But I loved him dearly. The only time I ever cheated in college or university was for Mike. He hated poetry and asked if he could use one of my poems for his Freshman Comp? How could I say no?

I still remember eating chicken fried steak with him and D-Day–the third and most successful leg of our triumviral friendship–at Maggies at 3:00am after clubbing, back when the three of us attended the local junior college, were obsessed with the opposite sex but too stupid to realize they were just as obsessed with us as we were with them. God how I’d give anything to have him back. Thinking of him brings a tear to my eyes even now. What makes it worse is that I’d returned from living out of the country a few months before he was killed. A new career kept me busy. We kept postponing getting together. My last words to Mike–two weeks before he was murdered–were a cliché for all clichés: “we’ll do it next weekend, buddy, we’ve got all the time in the world.” I couldn’t hear the clock ticking. I wish I’d listened closer.

And for that I hated Mauriceo and his gang even more, and for a long time. But the execution of a young man who didn’t even kill Mike? That’s not justice. It’s senseless vengeance, a barbarism cloaked in the black robes of justice.

Never knowing that a friend of one of the men involved in Mike’s murder might reach out to me for help I wrote this two years ago about the death penalty:

Whenever people ask me about the death penalty I always reply: when you make it to the Pearly Gates, and Saint Peter asks, “justice or mercy?” Which will you choose?

Usually they sputter or blurt something out like, “the death penalty doesn’t have anything to do with that.” I reply, “the death penalty has everything to do with that. You just can’t see it.”

Then they say, “what if it happened to someone you know.” And I reply, “In 1996 one of my best friends, Michael LaHood was murdered. And I don’t want his killer to die. I want his killer to repent. And then spend the rest of his life in prison helping other prisoners with less onerous sentences to see the light.”

That’s when they say, “you’re a softy, wishy-washy feel-good, self-helping liberal wimp.” By that time its too late to ask them, “what requires more courage: revenge or forgiveness?”

I prefer mercy, wimp or not.

Kenneth did not ask for my help; he’s already accepted his fate. Someone he helped asked me to help him. I cannot live with myself if I don’t try. Wimp or not.

He is scheduled to be executed on the 30th of August.

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Sean Paul Kelley

Traveler of the (real) Silk Road, scholar and historian, photographer and writer - founder of The Agonist.

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  • except for the poor to fear the arbitrary wrath of the state’s moral corruption.

    “Death before being dishonored any more.” – Col. Ted Westhusing

  • As i was told in the sixties before my hair grew long; “you can’t teach a man anything by killing him”.

    repressive governments mix administrative clumsiness & inefficiency with authoritarian tendencies.

  • “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all argument, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance. This principle is, contempt prior to examination.”

  • that was a most effecting post to read, S-P. What can we do, writing from MA where virtually no one can tell you when the last execution was carried out?

  • …to the death penalty. There are people too far gone to effectively punish any other way.

    This case, however, I’m surprised is not in the news, even in Texas. This is flat-ass abuse of the law’s intent if I ever heard it. This quite simply, is Senor Rick Perry trying to gather up as much of the tick vote as he can. Your state, I’m afraid, is run by a Philadelphia (Dallas?) lawyers that think they’re Judge Roy Bean.

    And I’ve noticed that Texas’ crime rate is nothing to crow about either.

  • First, I am sorry for the loss of your friend. Secondly, the death penalty is a blight on this state and on America as a whole. When you look at the criminal justice system in Texas it becomes very clear that is not about justice, reconciliation or even restitution; it is most often about revenge and retribution. It is about the least admirable in us as a people aimed at the least admirable of people. We as a state gain nothing by executing the guilty and we injure ourselves by executing those who might be innocent. I wish you luck in turning the heads of the press and Perry.

    As a side note Mr. Foster must have been convicted of murder by party, where all who participate are held equally culpable. I am unaware if states other than Texas have such statutes, but it as well is an example of our lack of commitment to justice; just our lust for revenge.

  • And, I speak from experience. A wonderful woman, who was like my second Mother, was brutally murdered in her home one morning 23 years ago. I missed possibly saving her life by approximately 3-5 minutes. It took several years for me to find the courage to forgive the person that committed this heinous crime against another, let alone her own sibling. Kudos to you Sean-Paul for extending a helping hand and forgiveness to this person. It is my hope that Kenneth has the opportunity to pay his debt to society by helping others. Good luck in your efforts.

  • …What makes people think killing someone is a punishment. For all we know, what lies beyond this ‘mortal coil’ is a big party, and you’re actually doing them a favor!

    If punishment is really the intention, let those who cause our loved ones to be taken from us live a long, long time. Let them see the passage of days into years, and look back on a life of unfilfilled hopes and dreams. Of time with loved ones lost to them forever. Let them rise with the sun, and toil everyday until the Lord, fate, or Cosmic Muffin decides to take them from this earth. That is punishment. And if a punishment awaits them beyond this life, they’ll still get that, too.

    But more importantly, why isn’t it ok to rape rapists? Why isn’t it ok to steal from thieves? Is it because these things are wrong, no matter who does them or why? Then what is it that makes killing somehow different?

  • …you could be threading the needle. Nevertheless, my personal feelings tell me there are individuals that are such a menace that the state and its people should not be obligated to maintain them at its expense.

    No matter what awaits you, when you kill a person, you take away all their possibilities. You rob them of essence, and deny them any further growth. And yes, I believe some people deserve that.

  • that as I understand it, executing a prisoner actually costs more than “maintaining” him.

    There are additional psychic costs (to the prisoner) to keeping him around – I just read this in the August Harpers magazine…

    Purgatorio

    From a May letter to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, signed by 310 prisoners serving life sentences for murder, the only crime that carries a life sentence in Italy, which banned the death penalty for all crimes in 1994. Translated from the Italian by Stefania Heim.

    Dear Mr. President of the Republic,
    We are tired of dying a little bit each day. We have decided to die once and for all, and we ask that our penalties of life imprisonment be converted to penalties of death. To be not dead but not alive either – life imprisonment turns light into shadow, it kills you inside bit by bit: a death in small doses. It renders life useless, makes the future seem the same as the past. It crushes the present and takes away hope. To a life prisoner, only life remains. It is flat and everlasting. Life imprisonment is the invention of an Antichrist with a malice that transcends the imagination. It is a victory of death, stronger than death itself.

    If revenge is the goal, life imprisonment might just be worse than death.


    “Vanity, Vanity, all is Vanity.”

  • …revenge isn’t the goal. If it was, we wouldn’t have invented the gas chamber, electric chair, lethal dose, or guillotine. We’d still be using the rack, iron maiden, disembowelment, etc.

    The goal should be the preservation of the Law’s rule. In actuality, the goal is showing your constitiuents that you’re “tough on crime.”

  • Having grown up mostly in TX I first learned to be something other than a republican and then learned the death penalty was wrong only after I moved out of state. The death penalty is nothing more than playing god and harkens back old testament law. Which is why, mho, that we see such support for it in the south and amongst the more fundie and calvinistic sects.

    Justice seems to be what society decides it is and our society purports to be a christian one. Unfortunately it appears to be more of an old testament, eye for an eye brand of christianity than what Jesus preached and taught. Gandhi had it right with his remarks about the eye for an eye mentality eventually leaves everyone blind.

    “I beseech you in the bowels of christ think it possible you may be mistaken.”

  • When I was younger, there seemed to be a consensus that the death penalty should be reserved for particularly heinous murders – serial killers, sadistic crimes, and stranger-murder (the smallest group of crimes). It was not to be used for crimes of passion, accidental/negligent homicide, or “simple” murder. (If murder could ever be simple!) The standard also seemed to be that there was absolutely NO DOUBT as to whether the killer was 100% guilty (eyewitnesses, admissions, etc.)

    But the evolution of the death penalty in this country has prosecutors not looking to limit which crimes are “deserving” of the DP, but rather to find ways to include MORE crimes as DP cases. They have sought the DP in cases where there is nothing but circumstantial evidence, no body, and even crimes that do not include murder.

    No one “deserves” to be killed – whether by an individual or the state. If it is to be done, there needs to be an understanding that the crime, and particularly the criminal, is guilty of something that is so beyond redemption, and has committed a crime that is so absolutely heinous, that the state has no other choice.

    Some of the SAGs in the “Attorneygate” scandal were targeted precisely because they felt that the state should apply some sort of standard as to who is actually eligible for the death penalty, rather than folloe the new “Justice” Dept. guidelines stating that all cases should be looked upon and pursued as potential death penalty crimes.

  • whether you are actually for or against the death penalty is the day you have a loved one murdered.

    I always knew this to be true, but never thought that I would have to learn that lesson myself. Then my stepfather of 28 years was kidnapped and murdered.

    That was the day that I realized that no matter how much I had loved him, or how horribly I felt about it, advocating for the death of others was not going to help/change any of that.

    The real truth is that most crimes are committed by sad or desperate people, and even though they were in the process of doing bad things, they never actually had ever planned to kill someone. It just kind of “happens”.

    Of course this never excuses them from responsibility for their crimes, and of course there are notable exceptions by people that are so sick and twisted that they actually plan and enjoy the crime, but most criminal deaths are truly sad affairs for both sides of the act.

    I miss my stepfather terribly, and he did not deserve what happened to him, but killing two more people to avenge his death would just be adding another crime to the pile.

  • called the “felony murder” statute.

    Hunter S. Thompson very famously got involved in the Lisl Auman case, in which she was not present for the murder, and had not asked or paid the people who did the actually killing to do the deed.

    Her case was finally overturned, but unfortunately not until after Thompson’s death.

    How many people do we have to find out were unfairly convicted, or completely innocent of the crime they wre sent to death row for, before we, as a society, decide that we are better than that.

    I remember the old political mantra “If we could save just one child” to justify a whole range of reprehensible state intrusions. I think that in this case it is actually true – If we could save just one person from being executed for a crime they didn’t commit, then we should halt the death penalty.

    I don’t want to be responsible, however remotely, for the death of an innocent human being.

  • You claim Foster didn’t “encourage” the murder or was “even aware” that a murder was being contemplated. Actions speak louder than words ever could. Foster–the ONLY driver of the car that night just as he was the ONLY driver a few nights before when those same “men” robbed a tourist–pursued those cars over FIVE miles from Blanco into a secluded, wooded neighborhood. He says there was a dead end and that’s why they turned around. There’s no dead end in that entire neighborhood. His story for why they ended up at Mike’s keeps changing to suit his latest and most current defense. Foster “encouraged” and should’ve been “aware” of the murder when he stalked them those 5 miles and STOPPED the car with a loaded .44 magnum with hollow points in front of Mike’s house. Foster claims he wanted them to STOP robbing. He was the driver. He could’ve ended it anytime that night, but instead, he STOPPED all right–with Mike’s murder.

    I don’t doubt your affections towards Mike. I, too, called Mike my friend. I can respect someone who doesn’t believe in the DP, even one against Mike’s killers. But to falsely claim innocence is an insult to Mike, his memory, and those who love him.

  • “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all argument, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance. This principle is, contempt prior to examination.”

  • of? If you really believe your beliefs strongly, then tell me who you are. Let’s meet face to face? Or we can talk it out on the radio?

    “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all argument, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance. This principle is, contempt prior to examination.”

  • Based upon the law, it is assured that Foster had much more to do with the murder and the connected criminal activety than has been described herein.

    Under the law of parties, a person is criminally responsible as a party to an offense committed by the conduct of another if the person acts with an intent to promote or assist in the commission of the offense, and solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid another person to commit the offense. Tex.Pen.Code Ann. § 7.02(a)(2)(Vernon 2003). In evaluating whether a defendant is a party to an offense, the court may examine the events occurring before, during, or after the offense is committed and may rely on the defendant’s actions showing an understanding and common design to commit the offense. See Marable v. State, 85 S.W.3d 287, 293 (Tex.Crim.App.2002). Mere presence at the scene of a crime does not implicate an individual as a party. However, participation in a criminal offense may be inferred from the circumstances. Beardsley v. State, 738 S.W.2d 681, 684 (Tex.Crim.App.1987). Circumstantial evidence alone may be sufficient to show that an individual is a party to an offense. See Miranda v. State, 813 S.W.2d 724, 732 (Tex.App. San Antonio 1991, pet. ref’d).

  • The prisoners know that it is impossible to executed them for their crimes. This is simply a trasparent effort to get life sentences reduced. Nothing more.

    In the US, about 1% of death row inmates “volunteer” for execution, by waiving their appeals.

    99% do not.

    Do you think death row inmates would rather live on death row or be executed?

  • the most obvious cases would be someone who hires a hit man to murder someone.

    Or cases of terrorism whereby the leadership trains, supplies and assists the actually bombers,

  • Who gives forgiveness for murder?
    July 10, 2007 – Victoria Advocate

    BY DUDLEY SHARP

    Cornelus Garza told the murderer of his wife, Janie Elizabeth, “I don’t forgive you”(“You should be locked up forever,” July 07, 2007, Victoria Advocate).

    Even if he wanted to forgive the murderer, does he have that right?

    It is not up to Mr. Garza to forgive the murderer. It is up to the principal party harmed – Janie Elizabeth. No one disputes that all of those who loved and knew Janie Elizabeth were terribly wronged and hurt, severely, by her murder.

    If my uncle was robbed, what does it mean for me to forgive the robber? If anything, it is an insult to the harm my uncle has suffered.

    The act of forgiveness is quite unique.

    If we go by biblical instruction, it includes that the wrongdoer confess his wrong, find honest sorrow and remorse and state that he will do all he can to not harm again – to change his ways, prior to any forgiveness being given, by the specific party harmed.

    To forgive those who have not repented is to give approval of what they have done, while rejecting the importance of responsibility and atonement. It would not be mercy, but insult.

    Murder is unique, both biblically and humanistically.

    Biblically, the crime of murder is viewed as, exactly, a crime against God, because man is made in the image of God. It is an eternal crime. Murderers can take responsibility for their crimes, they can work to change, but there can be no atonement for murder.

    Humanistically, meaning, with no expectation of a godhead or afterlife, it is only this earthly life that we have, so murder curtails an even greater portion of our lives.

    Can murderers be forgiven by God? Biblically, the answer is clearly yes. Can murderers receive true forgiveness on earth? The answer is clearly no.

    Contact Dudley Sharp at sharpjfa@aol.com. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O’Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author. A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and extensively debated the death penalty.

  • 3)  St. Augustine: “The same divine law which forbids the killing of a human being allows certain exceptions. Since the agent of authority is but a sword in the hand, and is not responsible for the killing, it is in no way contrary to the commandment “Thou shalt not kill”, for the representative of the State’s authority to put criminals to death, according to the Law or the rule of rational justice.” The City of God, Book 1, Chapter 21
     
     
    4)  St. Thomas Aquinas finds all biblical interpretations against executions “frivolous”, citing Exodus 22:18, “wrongdoers thou shalt not suffer to live”. Unequivocally, he states,” The civil rulers execute, justly and sinlessly, pestiferous men in order to protect the peace of the state.” (Summa Contra Gentiles, III, 146
     
     
    5)  St. Thomas Aquinas: “The fact that the evil, as long as they live, can be corrected from their errors does not prohibit the fact that they may be justly executed, for the danger which threatens from their way of life is greater and more certain than the good which may be expected from their improvement. They also have at that critical point of death the opportunity to be converted to God through repentance. And if they are so stubborn that even at the point of death their heart does not draw back from evil, it is possible to make a highly probable judgement that they would never come away from evil to the right use of their powers.” Summa Contra Gentiles, Book III, 146.
     
     
    6)  Saints Thomas Aquinas and Augustine. In addition to the required punishment for murder and the deterrence standards, both Saints  find that executing murderers is also an act of charity and mercy. Saint Augustine confirms that ” . . . inflicting capital punishment . . . protects those who are undergoing capital punishment from the harm they may suffer . . . through increased sinning which might continue if their life went on.” (On the Lord’s Sermon, 1.20.63-64.) Saint Thomas Aquinas finds that ” . . . the death inflicted by the judge profits the sinner, if he be converted, unto the expiation of his crime; and, if he be not converted, it profits so as to put an end to the sin, because the sinner is thus deprived of the power to sin anymore.” (Summa Theologica, II-II, 25, 6 ad 2.) 
     
     
    7)  Pope Pius XII:  “When it is a question of the execution of a man condemned to death it is then reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned of the benefit of life, in expiation of his fault, when already, by his fault, he has dispossessed himself of the right to live.” 9/14/52.
     
    8) “Catholic scholar Steven A. Long says in “Evangelium Vitae, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the Death Penalty” (The Thomist, 1999, pp. 511-52), “It is nearly the unanimous opinion of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church that the death penalty is morally licit, and the teaching of past popes (and numerous catechisms) is that this penalty is essentially just (and even that its validity is not subject to cultural variation).” Most recently, Avery Cardinal Dulles says both Scripture and tradition agree “that the State has authority to administer appropriate punishment to those judged guilty of crimes and that this punishment may, in serious cases, include the sentence of death” (First Things, May 2001). Moreover, Cardinal Dulles admits that opposition to the death penalty in Europe since the Enlightenment has gone hand in hand with a decline of faith in eternal life. In the nineteenth century the most consistent opponents were groups hostile to the churches.” “Anglican theologian Oliver O’Donovan has noted that the moral-theological tradition of the Church is “almost unanimously permissive of the death penalty” (“The Death Penalty in Evangelium Vitae,” in Ecumenical Ventures in Ethics, p. 219).” (“Capital Punishment, Justice, and Timothy McVeigh”, Keith Pavlischek. The Center For Public Justice, May 21, 2001, www(dot)cpjustice.org/stories/storyReader$444

    9)  Pope (and Saint) Pius V: “The just use of (executions), far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this (Fifth) Commandment which prohibits murder.”   “The Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent” (1566).
     
     
    10)  St. Thomas Aquinas: “If a man is a danger to the community, threatening it with disintegration by some wrongdoing of his, then his execution for the healing and preservation of the common good is to be commended.  Only the public authority, not private persons, may licitly execute malefactors by public judgement. Men shall be sentenced to death for crimes of irreparable harm or which are particularly perverted.” Summa Theologica, 11; 65-2; 66-6. 

    11)  “St. Thomas Aquinas quotes a gloss of St. Jerome on Matthew 27: “As Christ became accursed of the cross for us, for our salvation He was crucified as a guilty one among the guilty.”  “If no crime deserves the death penalty, then it is hard to see why it was fitting that Christ be put to death for our sins and crucified among thieves.” “ That Christ be put to death as a guilty person, presupposes that death is a fitting punishment for those who are guilty.” Prof. Michael Pakaluk, The Death Penalty: An Opposing Viewpoints Series Book, Greenhaven Press, (hereafter TDP:OVS), 1991 

    12)  Paul, in his hearing before Festus, states: “if then I am a wrong doer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die.” Acts 25:11. “Very clearly this constitutes an acknowledgment on the part of the inspired apostle that the state continued to have the power of life and death in the administration of justice, just as it did from the days of Noah (Gen 9:6)”.
     
     
    13)  God, through the power and justice of the Holy Spirit, executed both Ananias and his wife, Saphira. Their crime? Lying to the Holy Spirit – to God – through Peter. Acts 5:1-11. By executing  two such devoted Christians for lying to Him, does the Holy Spirit show confirmation of His support for His divinely instituted civil punishment of execution for premeditated murder or does it show His rejection of capital punishment? And read all of Revelation. 

     
    14)  Jesus “You have heard the ancients were told, ËœYOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER” and “Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court”. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, “Raca”, shall be guilty before the supreme court and whoever shall say, “You fool”, shall be guilty enough to go into fiery hell.” Matthew 5:17-22. Should any explanation be necessary, Jesus is saying that even as execution is the required punishment for murderers, as per the Old Testament, He tells us that those who speak ill of others and have hatred in their heart shall suffer in hell. Not only does Jesus never speak out against the civil authorities just use of execution for murder, He prescribes a much more serious, eternal punishment for those who hate and speak ill of others. And what price does God exact for any and all sin? Death. (Romans 5:12-14)
     
     
    15)  Pontius Pilate said to Jesus, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above.”(John 19:10-11). “Jesus reminds Pilate that the implementation of the death penalty is a divinely entrusted responsibility that is to be justly implemented. Prof. Carl F.H. Henry, 45th Annual N.A.E. Convention, “Capital Punishment and The Bible”. Jesus confirms that the civil authority has the lawful right to execute Jesus, and others, and that this right has been given to that authority by God.

     
    16) Biblical scholar Dr. Baruch Levine ” . . . pronouncements about divine behavior (in the Hebrew Bible) correlated in the judicial context to attitudes toward death as a proper punishment.  Quite clearly, the New Testament carries on the earlier mentality.” As Jesus described in the Sermon on the Mount, “Obedience will be rewarded with life; disobedience will be punished with destruction. A God who rewards with life and punishes with death is One whose laws provide for death as a judicial punishment.” “Capital Punishment,” p 31, What the Bible Really Says, ed. Smith & Hoffman, 1993. 
      

    17) Biblical scholar Dr. Carl F. H. Henry “The rejection of capital punishment is not to be dignified as a higher Christian way” that enthrones the ethics of Jesus. The argument that Jesus as the incarnation of divine love cancels the appropriateness of capital punishment in the New Testament era has little to commend it. Nowhere does the Bible repudiate capital punishment for premeditated murder; not only is the death penalty for deliberate killing of a fellow human being permitted, but it is approved and encouraged, and for any government that attaches at least as much value to the life of an innocent victim as to a deliberate murderer, it is ethically imperative.” Twilight Of A Great Civilization, Crossway, 1988, p 70,72.
     
     
    18)  Father Pierre Lachance, O.P. : “There is no question but that capital punishment was not only allowed but mandated in the Old Testament. In the New Law (New Testament) (St.) Paul recognizes the legitimacy of capital punishment . . . “It is not without purpose that the ruler carries the sword. He is God’s servant, to inflict his avenging wrath upon the wrongdoer”. Romans 13:4.(TDP:OVS, 1986, pg. 84) .
     
     
    19)  Quaker biblical scholar Dr. Gervas A. Carey. A Professor of Bible and past President of George Fox College, wrote a landmark essay on the death penalty entitled “A Bible Study”.  Here is a synopsis of his analysis: ” . . . the decree of Genesis 9:5-6 is equally enduring and cannot be separated from the other pledges and instructions of its immediate context, Genesis 8:20-9:17; . . . that is true unless specific Biblical authority can be cited for the deletion, of which there appears to be none. It seems strange that any opponents of capital punishment who professes to recognize the authority of the Bible either overlook or disregard the divine decree in this covenant with Noah; . . . capital punishment should be recognized . . . as the divinely instituted penalty for murder; The basis of this decree . . . is as enduring as God; . . . murder not only deprives a man of a portion of his earthly life . . . it is a further sin against him as a creature made in the image of God and against God Himself whose image the murderer does not respect.” (p. 111-113) Carey agrees with Saints Augustine and Aquinas, that executions represent mercy to the wrongdoer: “. . . a secondary measure of the love of God may be said to appear. For capital punishment provides the murderer with incentive to repentance which the ordinary man does not have, that is a definite date on which he is to meet his God. It is as if God thus providentially granted him a special inducement to repentance out of consideration of the enormity of his crime . . . the law grants to the condemned an opportunity which he did not grant to his victim, the opportunity to prepare to meet his God. Even divine justice here may be said to be tempered with mercy.” (p. 116). Essays on the Death Penalty, T. Robert Ingram, ed., St. Thomas Press, Houston, 1963, 1992. 

  • This whole business of the “justice” system has been a puzzle to me most of my adult life.

    About the only thing I think I know for certain is that man is a killer. We fight wars, whose primary objective is to kill until one party surrenders. We kill lesser animals on an industrial basis because they can be eaten or are just nuisances. We kill because someone doesn’t believe the same things we do–even when our beliefs appear to be irrational. We kill because someone isn’t “like us”. Our entertainment glorifies killing.

    I could hold with the idea of incarceration if the purpose was to keep the public out of the reach of those who would do it harm.

    But we take this weird idea of “justice” and overlay it with all sorts of other things, such as hate, retribution and righteousness. As if killing someone could ever put things right. Or locking someone away for years serves as punishment or rehabilitation.

    In the process, we forget the victims of the accused’s actions. If someone wrongs me, I’d be willing to call it even if perpetrator covers my losses and apologizes. But if that person is caught up in the “justice” system, I’ve got little to say about things. We lock him away or kill him–that’ll fix things. That’s justice.

    We defend our made-up rules of conduct with ancient documents such as the Ten Commandments. So who’s doing prison time for coveting their neighbor’s ass? Our leaders bear false witness much of the time, yet I don’t see anyone advocating for their incarceration. I suppose we pick and choose for maximum effect. So what “commandment” does possession of more than one ounce of marijuana fall under? Why can a soldier kill a hundred civilians and be rewarded for “doing his duty”? Why could one go to prison for believing that communism has some redeeming features–or that democracy does? We even put people in prison for refusing to kill.

    The whole affair is a puzzle I’ll likely take to my grave.

  • Are you assuming it’s always a Christian perp and a Christian victim?

    Let’s say a Sikh thief kills an Indonesian Muslim in a Dallas gas station. You seriously gonna point to Christian reasoning to argue for/against the death penalty? Don’t make me laugh, you might as well point to Penthouse Forum. Why should people who don’t believe in your God have their fates decided by a court that derived its legal reasoning from a religion they don’t subscribe to? Is Christianity a sotto voce precondition of American residence?

    Come on. That sort of reasoning might have been relevant in 16th Century Spain, but let’s grow up here. Your nation is too big and too diverse to cling to quaint notions of homogeneity. Modern liberal democracies, populated by people with a wide range of beliefs, can’t make rules to please a sectarian interpretation of God – they make rules to protect themselves. Hunting for God is up to you to do in your free time; society guarantees that it’s forbidden to murder you while you’re looking. This prohibition has the benefit of not immediately looking like it was thought up by a complete retard when a Christian murders a Buddhist or a Hindu murders a Sikh.

    for any government that attaches at least as much value to the life of an innocent victim as to a deliberate murderer, it is ethically imperative.

    This is gibberish.


    “The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential.”

    – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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