Abortion and the death penalty

Here I am, once again, feeling like I’m all alone. What put in me in such a funk? Pick one:

(You can click to make this larger if you need.)

Does this common partisan stance on abortion and the death penalty confuse anyone besides me?

Thou shalt not kill means thou shalt not kill. The idea that it’s ok to kill because your party’s platform decided just doesn’t mean much to me. And to be honest, it’s still one of the reasons I have a problem with the Republican party. And the Democratic party.

So, which do you choose? Save the unborn or save the convicted? Surely at least one of you feels the way I do on this subject.

The descriptions above are from the new JSOnline.com choose your candidate feature. I think we may have to do more of these.


  1. no comment at all on abortion. legally, the death penalty equates to a conviction in a court of record, not reversed on appeal, of a person who was found guilty, by plea or by trial. federal and states courts differ on both the penalty and the mode of determining the penalty of life or death: i.e., by the court or the jury. most commonly the death penalty arises after a person is convicted of a felony for which a penalty can be death. most are murder 1 cases. the bible, no matter what religion, is not legal precedent for such a legal matter. the death penalty in states is written in by legislation that is state law. the only possible way to bring in religious belief of life is by closing argument from a licensed lawyer, if the judge agrees and there is no objection.the general rule in closing argument is to stick to the facts and do not misstate the law.

  2. But what if they are wrong? There’s story after story of a convicted felon being released when another is found to be the guilty party.

    I would not want that hanging over my head as a juror. Of course, under our system, I would have likely been struck before then.

  3. Cindy,

    There are really more nuances to the commandment not to kill, which you are not providing appropriate context.

    The commandment refers to the taking of innocent life; this is clear from the death penalty promulgated firmly in the Torah.

  4. cindy. great question. last nite there was a tv show about that about an arson case and in the beginning my reasoning was that there was a reasonable chance the defendant was not guilty of that crime. there are some wonderful law student, legal volunteer and lay person groups that are dedicated to review closed cases where they think another look is needed. modern technology is superb, dna cases almost always decide the guilt or innocense of a person. police investigations in some cases are not complete because of the wrong suspect, a gut feeling about gulit of someone or a lying witness to mention a few. in some cases a person with a prior record or who makes a confession is marked for conviction. the entire criminal justice system has a tough job to see that justice is done. innocent until proven guilty is the best way to think. there are even cases where an innocent person takes the fall for someone else.however most conviction stand up due to the superior investigative power of the prosecution not limited by funding handicaps.

  5. Oh, so once again, Aaron, you are right and I am wrong. Thanks for that.

    (I am seriously LMAO right now. I may not be a theological expert, but I’m betting there’s a good chance the ten statements – you know, the Moses guy did all that – are mentioned in the Torah, too. Christians kind of do the first half of the Bible thing from those other guys.)

  6. Randy in Richmond says:

    “thou shalt not kill” is the King James Version of the 6th commandment. Other versions, based on older sources not available in the 17th century, state “thou shalt not murder”. For example my Bible is a New International Version (NIV) and Exodus 20:13 reads “you shall not murder”. This is an example where one word makes a huge difference in the meaning of one Bible verse. Obviously the two translations mean two very different things.

  7. Cindy. Have you read Truman Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood’? I have struggled with the same dilemma as you, but erred to side of being against abortion of the innocent, and accepting the governmental killing of the convicted. The inconsistency of the value of life in politics was and is still bothersome to me.

    Then, several years ago I decided I was inconsistent and decided I was against the death penalty. That is, until I read Capote’s book, which exposed the reality of ‘hardened criminal’ in a way I had never comprehended. Now (shades of Scott Walker) I may flip back and see a need for the death penalty. So, yes, I get your funk.

  8. Ok. Explain to me the difference between kill and murder in the context of this discussion.

    RL – I didn’t read the book, but I saw the movie. Does that count? Besides, Capote wasn’t what one would call a stable personality. I’m not sure I’d bank a core belief on his writing.

    No one is discussing the pro-choice, save the human side of this argument. You guys all sleeping?

  9. Randy in Richmond says:

    I see no moral or legal justification for murder. Killing may be morally or legally justified even though individually we may disagree.

    The abortion debate is not about murder or killing but about when life begins.

    If a society (state) approves capital punishment
    then it is killing–not murder. To be a part of a nation of laws has to be to accept that it will not be a perfect system.

    In the context of this discussion murder will always be killing. However, killing will not always be murder.

  10. Cindy,

    This is an issue that we can agree on.

    Some things are simple. They don’t take several paragraphs to articulate. Killing the unborn and killing the condemned are morally wrong. We have no right to do such things.

  11. Cindy, the movie was scripted for entertainment, the book was based on interviews with the parties involved and tracked the actual murders, trials, and imprisonment. I’m not sure it would be considered ‘typical’ of Capote. Regardless, it didn’t impact my ‘core beliefs’, but exposed a harsh reality of what seems to be an un-redeemable society. I found that disturbing.

  12. J. Strupp, I am just wondering what you feel about killing in war? Or intelligence ‘strikes’ on terrorists. Is that in the same simple category?

  13. “But what if they are wrong? Thereโ€™s story after story of a convicted felon being released when another is found to be the guilty party. ”

    This is true and a fair argument. But what I find interesting is no one ever makes the obvious counter-argument.

    If the pro-death penalty backers have to accept the moral weight for the possibility that an innocent man or woman may be put to death (and I agree that they do), the obviously the anti-death penalty folks have to accept the moral weight for murderers who, with the death penalty, would have been put to death, but instead live and attack or even murder prison guards or other prisoners. Or escape from prison and murder or rape or assult more innocents. While these sorts of incidents are not common, they happen MUCH more frequently than mistaken executions and anyone who takes the position that all murderers should be kept alive should acknowledge that their position ensures that these sorts of tragedies will happen at a higher rate than they otherwise would.

  14. Also, since Randy brought up The Bible, here is an interesting fact I have rarely heard cited:

    There is only one law/commandment that is mentioned in each of the first 5 books of the Bible….. It is that murderers should be put to death.

  15. Nah, Ryan, I don’t buy that one. What about those awaiting Death Row who escape, etc. Under your scenario, a guilty murderer should be killed right away instead of giving them years in the process.

    I guess if we must, we drop the what ifs and move straight back to the first question. Is it right to play God on one end but not the other?

    Interesting bit about the Bible. I really don’t know enough to pretend to quote it well, only what I was taught. (Ergo the KJV quote in the original post.)

  16. J. Strupp says:

    “Is it right to play God on one end but not the other?”


    “I am just wondering what you feel about killing in war?”

    I think this is a bit different than the systematic execution of a prisoner don’t you?

  17. J.Strupp. It is a bit different, I agree. That is my point. As different as killing the enemy in war is from prisoner execution in your mind (prior is acceptable, I assume, latter is not) I can see a case made for executing hardened criminals who have taken another life but never taking the life of an unborn human.

    I detest the taking of any life, but see fighting in war and criminal justice as responsibilities of our government related to individual and national protection of the people. It is a system of justice in both cases. I don’t evaluate abortion in the same way.

  18. To your implied question: I feel the same way you do. I find most of the positions presented above have validity. I wrestle with the paradox as well. I guess we all struggle with that little voice inside, our moral compass, if you will. No answers here, just more questions.

  19. “Nah, Ryan, I donโ€™t buy that one. What about those awaiting Death Row who escape, etc. Under your scenario, a guilty murderer should be killed right away instead of giving them years in the process.”

    Yes, they absolutely should. I think it is awful that we keep murderers on death row so long. After someone has been convicted of murderer and sentenced to death and the appeals have been exhausted, they should be put to death within a year. We shouldn’t have inmakes on death row for 20 years. I agree entirely.

    “I guess if we must, we drop the what ifs and move straight back to the first question. Is it right to play God on one end but not the other?”

    Interesting… here’s one to think about…. please explain how if the state takes away all of a person’s possessions and kidnaps them and forces them to live in a small cell where big, strong men are likely to assult them (and perhaps do much worse) and they have to stay here every day for the rest of their life and if they ever try to escape they are likely to be shot, that is NOT “playing God”….. but if the state administers a painless lethal injection, that is “playing God”.

    In other words, “playing God” is not the “first question”… rather, it is a largely meaningless cliche. In my view, the safety of innocents IS the central issue, and it is the main reason I support the death penalty…. a place the sends the clear signal that murderers are put to death is likely to have less murder, and that is the sort of society I want for my family and friends.

  20. And I’d say the most important part of that question was “at one end and not the other.”

    I still think it’s an inconsistent stance by both parties. We aren’t likely to change any opinions here, but I’m glad for the discussion.

  21. I would argue that a good chunk of life is an effort to “play God” the best we can. We decide how many children we want to bring into the world and raise and help them to grow from helpless children into adults. We see our old, dying parent who can no longer speak and decide if we should try one more procedure to extend their life or pull the plug. We decide what causes to give our time, talents, and money, to the exclusion of millions of others, including many incredibly worthy ones that would save and/or improve lives. We serve on juries and determine if someone will be free or forcibly kidnapped and spend years in a dank cell. And, in the spirit of this blog, we try to influence others in the determination of what people we want to lead our city, state, and nation.

    All these are HUGE decisions. No human has full understanding or information or perfect certainty that the decisions they make are the right ones. But it is clear to me that this “playing God” is something we do in a variety of contexts, not only at both ends of life, but also all throughout it.

    We should not be scared of “playing God”, for we cannot avoid it. But we must do it humbly and wisely, to the very best of our abilities.

  22. the new iraq mistreatment story reminds me that in war the Geneva Convention governing treatment of enemy prisoners , although not always enforced, gives a type of amesty to those who seek to destroy, or at least gives them fair treatment to survive. also, the religious ideals would not go far according to the US Supreme Court standards of the rule of law and legal precedent. we all can agree, as i do, that morals are sacred.

  23. A few years back a dear friend and I discussed the same. He is a strong proponent of the belief that our God is an all loving and forgiving God, and in the hereafter every soul is treated with grace and mercy. For that reason, he believed even the worst of murderers were forgiven and granted eternal life in heaven. Now, he also believes in varying degrees of heaven that I won’t go into, but his bottom line was it’s better a murderer is punished by rotting in jail than to be sent prematurely to their salvation. While I don’t necessarily agree with his beliefs I have to admit it moved my death penalty stance. I’ve been strong pro-life ‘on both ends’ since.

  24. If god is all loving and forgiving there’s no need for final judgement. No hell. Free admission for everyone … including Hitler.

    Ignore Revelation 20:12-15

    “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”

  25. If there’s one thing I learned long ago from growing up in the South – Bible quotes can be used to argue ad infinitum. There’s no way I’m going there.

  26. I’m with you on that, Cindy. It is difficult enough to discuss Biblical theology in person…I can’t fathom prooftexting the Bible cyberly.

    That said, though, I do believe Grace has a part of the salvation equation, as individually, our miserable accumulation of the ‘bads’ and the limited ‘goods’ don’t add up to a redeemable bottom line for a final judgment, for anyone.

  27. I was taught that redemption/salvation is a gift outside our human understanding and that it can come at any time. It certainly muddies the death penalty argument.

  28. ” redemption/salvation is a gift outside our human understanding”

    Cindy, I couldn’t agree more, and hence my belief that fallible human beings should not attempt the infallible and ‘play God’ as Ryan would suggest, there is no way to ‘play God’ humbly and wisely. That probably drives my current thoughts on the death penalty more than anything else. I definitely don’t see eye to eye with my aforementioned friend on the all loving and forgiving God, so wouldn’t want to argue the Bible here. But… I do find it odd Dan R would quote Scripture, yet use a small ‘g’ ๐Ÿ™‚ I won’t go there with Hitler being in Heaven, but who’s to say that someone we all have found morally repugnant might not just be in Heaven? I’d hope not, but do I know for a fact? No, I don’t, because I don’t/can’t/won’t/wouldn’t ‘play God’.

  29. I suspect, due to sequence of information that I’ve been privy to via a network of prison ministry workers, that Jeffrey Dahmer died a saved soul. As despicable as I find his person, I am humanly and judgmentally, conflicted over the potential salvation of his soul, and the true relief (dare I say contented justification?) I briefly felt when I heard that such a gruesome murderer was murdered, himself. Analyze that. ๐Ÿ™‚ No, really, please, don’t!

    But it goes to original post, Cindy…not a clear cut issue, that life and or death thing.

    I think the two governing authorities in this matter are (in ascending order) our government, and God. The first is accountable to the latter.

  30. If God were infallible he would have created the World Wide Web before he created man. Think about it. It took 1600 years for his message to reach the New World. If Jesus had access to the web the Big Guy’s* message would have reached all corners of the world within milliseconds. But no, God sends one guy! How smart is that?

    And on top of that he doesn’t have the good sense to send a clear concise message. He instead relies upon fallible humans to put together a book that is open to a gazillion different interpretations. God is communication challenged.

    If I could play God for a day I’d undue that thing called evil. I mean really, who needs it?

    * Note: Big Guy and Jesus are one and the same. It’s a Catholic thing.

  31. Bdad- by the way you were in my Scott Walker dream last night. Granted I don’t have a clue who you are, but you had set up a party for readers so that you could come out of the mists. (You should be darn glad I didn’t choose to say closet there.)

  32. “God is communication challenged.”

    That’s kind of cute. Except: I believe there’s a direct method of communication allowed. It’s just not that everyone chooses to use it.

    This is where I look like a complete nutter and suggest once again that mankind has forgotten much of what they originally knew. I pretty much think that’s the summary of the story of Adam and Eve. Who knows what we’ll figure out eventually.

  33. You have an active imagination, Cindy. Is your house all decked out for Halloween? Or isn’t there a Michael J. video that triggers that imagery? Thriller?? teehee. B-Dad, do you moonwalk?

  34. No, no Halloween this year. What a job someone has done marketing that one, huh?

    I do think the idea of Bdad waltzing out to Thriller would be a good one. We’ll work on that.

  35. Halloween. Second in sales to Christmas, first in candy sales. I have not one pumpkin at my house in protest. I do have a bucketful of candy, though.

    BDad is becoming my favorite ‘imaginary’ friend.

  36. BrkfldDad says:

    Let’s just say I’d be moonwalk-challenged ๐Ÿ™‚

    Dan R – perhaps, but who are we to know, maybe it’s all part of God’s plans? You assertions remind me of a fairly interesting set of books – Conversations with God http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversations_with_God In there as I recall, one series of questions centers around the Big Bang. The resultant answer(s) are that the Big Bang was God essentially ‘exploding’, or maybe better termed creating an infinite set of copies of Himself, each of which is being allowed to evolve and grow independently. It’s all part of God’s process of learning.

  37. BrkfldDad says:

    Oh and yes, Cindy I am glad you didn’t use closet!

  38. You know, I never had imaginary friends as a child. I guess I saved all that for being a grown up.

    Thanks you guys. I’ve enjoyed this discussion. I still think our tone is what separates us from all the other blogs in Wisconsin. I’m really happy to be a part of that.

  39. What? There are other blogs in Wisconsin?

  40. Ryan posted this great argument on the subject on his Facebook page today.


    I may have to rethink this one.