Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Peculiar Institution

A Peculiar Blog...okay a sub-par blog.

     For this blog the aspect of the death penalty being a catharsis for society is the issue I would like to discuss.  Many societies has public executions for that reason. Rome had gladiator combat, feeding people to the lions, France had the guillotine, biblical era societies had stoning, or today in Afghanistan. This was to quell any tension, or blood lust, as society had. While the public execution may have been in place to set examples and keep order, this may have evolved into the catharsis release for society, like the Hunger Games.

     In modern times, we still view the death penalty as catharsis. Yes we do no actually want to see the execution, but the trial, because the trial determines the sentence. In my life, I have encountered many who, upon hearing of a awful murder, murder-rape, etc. wanted themselves to hurt the individual who committed the crime. Their desire for their perceive just judgement increases if the suspect gets away. Look no further than the first O.J. Simpson trial, or the a Casey Anthony trial. Upon hearing and seeing these crimes, people wants someone to die. The idea that that someone could murder a child and still breathe seems unjust to them, that is why many turned to the Casey Anthony. That is why the idea that the death penalty as a catharsis for society makes sense.
    I could sue this in my class  to connect it to my students lives. How many of them had a friend who was cheated on, or done wrong by a close friend, strangers, former boyfriend or girlfriend? How many of them wanted something to happen to that person, and when something did happen, how many thought "serves them right."  I would ask how they felt if they found out that boyfriend or stranger etc. actually didn't do anything wrong and was a mistake, how would they feel then?  I would also try to connect it to the question of should society use the death penalty as a release? Is it healthy? Is it human? can society have catharsis at the expense of a potentially innocent person? How can society experience catharsis if the procedure takes decades? Which is more humane, the quick procedure to end a life thus keeping someone rotting away in a cell, or the prolonged procedure to give the system a chance of finding out they have the wrong person and releasing him/her?

On a side note, I know my analogy is not exactly correct, but I would come up with a better one as I prepare the lesson for my class.

Section 2:
 I am going to tackle question number 4, regarding how the christian countries seem to have the death penalty. I spoke of this a little bit in the BBB session but perhaps I can create something a bit more coherent in this blog.
     I think part of it comes from what Danielle said in the BBB. Maybe it is a coincidence that Christianity is part of the overall culture that features the death penalty. Also, if one were to look into the bible, there are numerous cases of Jews and Christians doing the exact opposite of what they are suppose to do.  They are, after all human. Therefore a Christian living in a culture that features the death penalty, may not like it, but may still support it, because of their human side. To sum it all up: Christians, like everyone else, are hypocrites, myself included. Just because someone is a Christian, that does not mean they will live up to the standards they have to live up to because they are human. The church supported crusades one the basis of "Just War."  Christians served in the roman army, some killing other men, and hated doing so. To me it is the earthly vs heavenly pulls on the conscious.
     On another level, while we are a nation founded on Judea-Christian values, we do not have a government designed for one faith; there is no state or "official" religion. If I were to speculate, if Christians opposed to the death penalty rose up and set forth laws banning the death penalty, citing religious beliefs, and even using the cruel and unusual punishment found int eh constitution, there would be many who would see it as an attempt of Christians to rule by theocracy. That is not to say  the opposite could happen; the reaction could be all well and fine. Obviously there are many holes in this instance , but it is just one scenario.
     I can go on and on about why a Christian may support the death penalty, or not be against it, but this is not a theology class, and if I have to go into metaphysics and other such things I might be getting a little bit off topic /sarcasm. I think it comes down to what Danielle said about Christianity being one aspect of the culture that has the death penalty.

Let me know if you agree, disagree, do not care, or think I am a right wing christian fanatic who has an altar of Ronald Reagan holding an assault rifle, with Jesus carrying a with an American flag ,in his closet....what? have I said too much?


  1. Craig, I see what you are saying about executions and death penalty as being a catharsis for society. Indded, that is the intention of the death penalty, it is used as a detterent by fear and for retribution, the same today as it was during the French Revolution or any other time where killing was used to instill fear. I also agree with your point that people are emotional and want revenge when something happens to the ones they care about, but I would argue that this is the very reason we have the justice system. Without the justice system much of society would live by "an eye for an eye' and just because people are emotional and want revenge doesn't make the death penalty just.

  2. Exactly, the justice system, trial by jury, and ideas such as "beyond a reasonable doubt" tries to take the emotion out of it, make it a rational cold decision based on the law. Perhaps it is meant as a catharsis for those involved and a way for people to "uphold the law" who do not have an emotional investment in the case.

  3. I've got to agree with Alton, although you make a very reasoned argument, Craig. As I mentioned on another blog, I wonder (and of course I can't possibly know at this point) if it would be more cathartic to see the murderer locked up and the key thrown away as an act of finality, rather than waiting and waiting and having the wound reopened every time there's some new drama in the death penalty odyssey. Look at what the families of Ted Bundy's and Danny Rolling's victims had to endure every time those two sickos got an opportunity to flap their gums and get more attention. The alternative is to speed up the capital murder process and along the way lose our principles of due process and equal protection.

  4. Craig, I have struggled with my views on the death penality too (I also am a Christian). After reading this book and talking with many of my Christian friends, I really thought about it and have come to a conclusion. As you mentioned, there are examples in the Bible of Jews doing the exact opposite of what they are supposed to do. But does that make it right today? There are numerous occasions in the Bible where people try taking things into their own hands and it ends up terribly. As Christians, we should try and spread Jesus' teachings, which state not to kill and love thy neighbor. It is one thing to lock them up for peoples safety, but quite another to have them killed.