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September 22, 2011

After Troy Davis: The Religious Belief Breakdown on the Death Penalty

The execution of Troy Davis last night in Georgia has reinvigorated public debate over the death penalty. Davis was convicted in the 1989 murder of Georgia police officer Mark MacPhail. The execution made headlines because there were questions raised about the evidence in the case, including recantations by seven of the nine witnesses against Davis.


The execution was condemned by Pope Benedict XVI, former president Jimmy Carter, and governments around the globe. In the U.S., most Christians support the use of the death penalty to punish murders. Unlike Catholics and mainline Protestants, evangelicals support for capital punishment remains high even among those who say their views are shaped most by their religious beliefs.

Public opinion on the death penalty has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades. According to polls by Gallup, support for the death penalty was highest in the late 1980's and early 1990's. At that time, 80 percent of Americans said they favored executing murderers. Since then, support has dropped to 64 percent.

A 2010 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found support for the death penalty was very high among white evangelicals. Much of these differences were due to race or ethnicity. Three-quarters of evangelicals favor the use of capital punishment. White Mainline Protestants had a similar level of support. Only 60 percent of Catholics approve of the death penalty, but this lower level of support is due to Hispanic Catholics. (only 43 percent support). Black Protestants are the most opposed to the death penalty, with only a third approving of the death penalty.


Many Americans say their views on the death penalty are shaped by their religious beliefs. Pew asked what was the most influential on people's thinking on this issue. Catholics were the most likely to say their beliefs were the most important (34 percent). Around one-quarter of evangelicals and Black Protestants also said their beliefs were most important. Mainline Protestants were the least likely to cite their beliefs.

There is almost no difference between evangelicals who say they are influenced by their beliefs and those who do not. Around 70 percent of both kinds of evangelicals support the death penalty. Evangelicals who cite religious beliefs are most influential to them are the same as those who say their views are shaped most by personal experience, education, the median, family, friends, or anything else. For other Protestants and Catholics, religious beliefs make them more opposed to the death penalty. Catholics who say they are most influenced by their beliefs oppose the death penalty. Only a third of these Catholics support the death penalty. Support for the death penalty doubles if a Catholic does not cite religion as most influential on their thinking. Similarly, one-quarter of Mainline Protestants who are influenced by religious beliefs support the death penalty. The vast majority of other Mainline Protestants favor capital punishment. For both groups, those who see their beliefs as influencing their views are much less likely to support the death penalty.


Would Jesus support the death penalty? Please cite Biblical references in your answer.

The Death Penalty is Both Moral and Just - http://withChrist.org/CI.htm

Jesus (Second Person of the Trinity) established the Noahic Covenant (Genesis 9) with the entire Earth until the end of time and delegated the imperative of capital punishment to society.

The Risen Lord Jesus Christ (via the Apostle Paul) acknowledged governmental authority to punish wickedness: Romans 13:1-8 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10.

Read "The Confession" by John Grisham ... puts an interesting light on the issue of Capital Punishment.

Cain murdered his brother yet was allowed by God to live. David ordered the murder of Uriah yet he was not put to death. Paul was an accessory to the murder of Stephen yet he was not put to death. Why would any Christian use religious reasons to support the death penalty?

7 of 9? This is sensationally and factually incorrect. Has CT decided to avoid digging into particulars? How many witnesses were brought forward in the trial? what is the veracity of those vs the 7 that recanted?

Of course black Christians oppose the death penalty. Black men are executed for crimes that earn white men jail sentences. Are you 100% positive that every person executed in the US was guilty of the crime for which they were killed? Of course that's a trick question. If you are 100% certain of anything you are either a child or a fool. But please, keep up the killing and rejoice in it.

I'll tell you what: You Christians who are opposed to the death penalty but seem , so often, to favor abortion---let's make a deal.
We'll give up the death penalty if you'll give up infanticide. Fair enough?

To Des Moines Decon, who writes: "I'll tell you what: You Christians who are opposed to the death penalty but seem , so often, to favor abortion---let's make a deal.
We'll give up the death penalty if you'll give up infanticide." Done. Both are the taking of a life created in the image of God. Let's start taking seriously Matthew 5, 6 & 7.

I don't know any Christians who favour abortions over the death penalty. Murder is murder is murder. There is nothing in the bible to suggest that our human decision to end any life is agreed by God.

We are made in the image of God (Genesis 9:6), we are made love and forgive. We are instructed to not judge, we are instructed in commandments to not commit murder, Exodus 20:13. The old testament includes killing for various crimes. As the New Testament is our covenant with God, herein still lies the officials to extend appropriate punishment for crimes, including sometimes "bearing the sword".

However, most people who declare themselves of the secular mindset wish to distinguish themselves from the "archaic" mind-set of the Christians. Therefore, as the majority of Amercians consider themselves so vastly superior to anyone else in terms of education and so separated from the Bible and religion of any kind, then it would make much more sense for the overwhelming majority of public opinion to be opposed to the death penalty.

I, as a Christian, practicing daily, living as best I can for the Lord, do not in any way support the death penalty. I do not support abortion either. I do not hate upon those who commit either. But I do not support their decisions either.

The question not asked in the survey was do you own a gun? I think the US gun culture probably sways a lot of thinking because it becomes amore personal attitude not shaped by faith.

For an outsider to the US scene I thnk the questions should have also included "Do you own a gun and for what purpose" The seemingly gun culture of the US may influence peoples attitudes.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Christians mourn the execution of an innocent man every year, on the Friday before Easter. The judicial system makes mistakes. Why risk the death of an innocent? Even when a person is 100% known guilty, what does an "eye for an eye" achieve? Christ didn't say it was wrong - but says instead there is something better - love of the sinner. Why love the murderer? Because Christ loves us - righteous and unrighteous.

While under the Law, Jesus states the judgment for anger to be the same as the judgment for murder, not to punish both equally but to have Mercy triumph over both. The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ covers all capital offenses.

Yes it very much so, with Romans 13 being the major canonical support passage. Caesar's sword is meant to maintain order and sanctioned by Paul to use force to preserve its will.

What is important to remember is execution is the role of State, not private citizens, which would be considered murder.