The Two Different Cases Regarding Capital Punishment

Essay, Research Paper

The Two Different Cases Regarding Capital Punishment

Maria Hall

English 112

Thesis : In principle a case can be made on moral grounds both supporting and

opposing capital punishment.

Two different cases can be made. One is based on justice and the nature of a

moral community. This leads to a defense of capital punishment. The second is

based on love and the nature of an ideal spiritual community. This leads to a

rejection of capital punishment.


A central principal of a just society is that every person has an equal right to

“life, liberity, and happiness.” Within that, an arguement for capital

punishment forms along the following lines: some acts are so evil and so

destructive of a community that they void the right of the perpetrator to life.

A community founded on moral principals has specific requirements. The right to

belong to a community is not unconditional. The privilege of living and

pursuing the good life in society is not certain. The essential reason on which

community is built requires each citizen to honor the rightful claims of others.

The precious live in a moral community must be so highly honored that those who

do not honor the life of others void their own right to membership. Those who

violate the personhood of others, especially if this is done persistently as a

habit must pay the ultimate price. This must be done for the sake of the

community which was violated. We can debate whether some non-lethal alternative

is a suitable substitute for the death penalty. But the standard of judgment is

whether the punishment fits the crime and if it honors the nature of the moral



Christian live, is unconditional. It does not depend on the worthiness or value

of those to whom it is directed. It is persistent in seeking the good of others

regardless of whether they return the favor or even deserve to be treated well

on the basis of their own wrongdoing. An ideal community would be made up pf

free and equal citizens devoted to a balance between individual needs and the

advancement of common good. Communal life would be based on mutual love in

which equality of giving and receiving was the social practise. Everyone would

contribute to the best of ability.

What would a community based on this kind of love do with those who committed

brutal acts of terror, violence, and murder? Put negatively, it would not live

by the philosophy of “an eye for an eye,a tooth for a tooth, and a life for a

life.” It would act to safeguard the members of the community from further

destruction. Those whe had shown no respect for life ould be restrained,

permanently if necessary, so that they could not endanger othe members of the

community. An ideal community would show mercy even to those who had shown no

mercy. It would return good for evil. Some kind of service to the community

might be required as a way of partially making amends.

In brief, is the argument for and against capital punishment, one founded on

justice and the nature of moral community, the other resting on love and the

nature of an ideal spiritual community. If we stand back from this description

and make an attempt at evaluation, one point is crucial. The love ethic

requires a high degree of moral achievement and maturity. It is more suitable

for small, closely-knit communities in which members know each other personally

and in some depth. Forgiveness is best in a setting in which people can

participate in each aother’s lives.

In short, for the moment the Christian witness to society is this: first

demonstrate that capital punishment can be administered in a just and efficient

manner. Then we will debate with you as to whether capital punishment is in

priciple necessary, fitting and right or whether a humane society will find non-

lethal alternatives to protect citizens from persistently violent criminals.

Until then the church should say “no” to this extreme measure.


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