Is hanging following the Christian way?
Guardian Senior Reporter
Published: Sep 19, 2013
The subject of capital punishment can be morally conflicting for Christians or anyone else with strong ideals. How does one justify the killing of another even if he is a barbaric murderer, rapist or some other type of criminal?
It goes without saying that crime has many in this country in a state of fear. With reports of murders and robberies grabbing newspaper headlines nearly every day, it’s no wonder that many are afraid that the violence that was once concentrated in the inner city will storm through their gated communities.
And it seems that with every new report of a murder, robbery, shooting or rape, some members of society again raise the call for the government to hang murderers.
But for a country that calls itself a “Christian nation”, it must be asked if capital punishment violates Christian doctrine.
Matthew Sweeting, pastor at New Providence Community Church, said he supports capital punishment in principle as a society’s recourse for dealing with criminals. However, he does not believe that Christians should use biblical scripture, written thousands of years ago, as a handbook for modern living and justification for executions.
Instead, Sweeting said we should look at scripture as instructional and gauge how well these teachings worked in that era.
“If we’re going to use the Bible as a basis [for capital punishment] then we have to acknowledge as they also did, hundreds of years later, that maybe there is another way of doing it,” Sweeting said.
“Because Jesus comes along hundreds of years later and says, ‘You’ve heard it said, don’t commit murder, but now I’m telling you that murder is something you even commit in your mind.’”
“If that’s the way that you start thinking about morality, then you can no longer draw a distinction between those who go through with it and those who think about doing it and haven’t done it physically.
“That’s not to say we get to use the Bible as an instance where there is no punishment for enemies or there is no punitive response. It’s just simply saying if you only go through life thinking that every time a wrong is committed the most important response is to make them pay, then I would say our society is going to fail.”
Sweeting thinks the recurring call to hang murderers, in a bid to deter crime, is fear based. The pastor said this measure will not lower crime in the long term and does nothing to rectify the social ills that contribute to society’s decay.
“We have to get to the root,” Sweeting said. “It’s an easy way out to say let’s make them afraid because we are afraid.”
Sweeting added that punishment and fear-driven policies will not stop criminals. Instead, he thinks the church should lead by example through community-based ministries and show those who are likely to turn to a life of crime that there is a better path.
“Once you lose your own sense of value, someone else’s life is not that valuable. You’re going to take from them what you think was stolen from you,” Sweeting said.
“I think if you can turn that around and show our young people that not only do they have value, but here’s what we’re going to do to help them find their value, I think even crime is going to be impacted.”
There are many religious leaders who unequivocally believe capital punishment is the Christian way of dealing with the perpetrators of violent crimes.
One of them is Bishop Walter Hanchell, pastor of Great Commission Ministries. He cited two scriptures to substantiate his argument: Genesis 9:6, “Whosoever sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed”; and Exodus 21:12, “He that smiteth a man so that he die, shall be surely put to death.”
“Capital punishment was established by God for the protection of society and to eliminate the offender completely from society,” Hanchell wrote, in a statement he sent to Guardian Religion.
“Human life is sacred and no man has the right to take another man’s life except in self-defense or during a war.”
Hanchell goes on to argue that Biblical teachings protect the rights of victims of violence, which have been neglected by modern human rights activists and some religious leaders.
“No matter how gruesome a murder might be, the government, because of pressure from outside forces and the plutocrats in our society, has denied justice to countless murder victims, whose blood cries out daily for justice,” he said.
“These misdirected conspirators, who have perverted the word of God, take extreme measures in an effort not to enforce moral laws that were instituted by God. They claim that it is inhumane and barbaric for the state to administer capital punishment even on persons who are convicted of brutally and savagely torturing and raping innocent children before viciously taking their precious lives.”
The last execution in The Bahamas was on January 6, 2000 when David Mitchell was hanged.
In March 2006, the Privy Council ruled that the mandatory death sentence in The Bahamas was unconstitutional.
Five of the 50 men hanged in The Bahamas since the 1920s were hanged under the FNM administration; 13 were hanged during the 25-year rule of the late Sir Lynden Pindling, and the remaining 32 were executed between 1929 and 1967, according to prison records.