Taking the test at Kalamazoo Valley Community College propelled me into the journey of labeling my personality in neat categories. I turned out to be extroverted, and....some other stuff. ESTJ is what I recall. Most poignant to me was the section on word preference. Which word do I prefer: justice or mercy? Well, as a then die hard Metallica fan, I had to pick Justice, after their 1988 album, ...And Justice for All.
Now, when we answer such questions, our musical tastes and cultural proclivities should obviously be set aside as we seek to apply these concepts to public policy and our personal lives. You may recall Justice John Roberts' "trial" before Senator Ted Kennedy regarding Roberts' conservative, Catholic views and his application of Constitutional law to public policy as a would-be Supreme Court Justice. Roberts stood his firm ground against Kennedy's belligerent prodding, admitting that regardless of his views on the authority and inspiration of the Bible as divine revelation, Roberts would apply the Constitution on its own terms and not through the lens and authority of his Catholic presuppositions.
Of course, Kennedy needs to know, and I think Roberts held his peace of this bit of knowledge, that epistemologically, unless there is a transcendent moral law and revelation, we humans are left with an ultimate relativism that is not sustainable on its own grounds. Nevertheless, for all practical purposes, Roberts heeded the call to the integrity of the Constitution on it own terms. This type of pragmatism works--that's what pragmatism does--for up to a certain point, as long as the Constitution is understood on certain epistemological, linguistic and historical grounds. So Roberts was wise not to get into a philosophical and theological debate with Kennedy. Surely, Roberts would win the debate hands down, as he is brilliant beyond comparison. Now, the question remains, as to the application of justice and mercy concerning our public lives here in the United States.
Should people be put to death for certain crimes? Can this question be answered by means of Constitutional study, along with the Bill of Rights and other founding documents? Or, do we need a grander, transcendent ideal from which to apply this question of life or death? (The Nuremberg trials appealed to "natural law" as a transcendent ideal in prohibition of murder). It should be obvious--though it isn't--that unless there indeed is a moral law higher than ourselves, then relativistic notions of "fairness" are balanced for either the victim or the criminal based upon categories of thought within the finite realm only. The question of the death penalty may be subject to conjecture based on popular vote, states rights, the rhetoric of the defense attorney, the rhetoric of the prosecuting attorney, the emotional state of the jury, and so on.
For those familiar with the Bible, especially the Old Testament Civil Law Code found in Exodus 21 and following and the Levitical and Deuteronimic laws in the 3rd and 5th books of the Torah, the question of the death penalty is made much simpler. The answers are not easily applied, because the theological problem of the application of the law of Moses under the administration of the new covenant remains a debate among Christians. Nevertheless, the death penalty was to be rigidly applied to Israel in the thousands of years before Jesus.
A simple keyword search of "put to death" in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy on the Bible Gateway website reveals the various scriptures applied to those eligible for the death penalty: adulterers, sorcerers, those who curse their parents, murderers, kidnappers, rapists, those who own an animal that kills a person, and who knew the animal had a violent past of harming people, but did nothing to prevent the animal from killing, those who commit bestiality, Sabbath-breakers, homosexuals, blasphemers, and finally, those who sacrifice their children to Molech (or any other god).
To most in the West, the mere sniff at the idea of the death penalty is cause for great alarm. However, when we think about matters of justice "versus" mercy, we are threatened with the overwhelming sense that allowing a rapist or a murderer to live is the result of mere sophistry. A recent search on "voyeurism" for example, reveals that many psychologists and psychiatrists enjoy labeling such activity under the rubric of "disease" rather than "perversion." A "disease" is an uncontrollable malaise over which a person has no control. Perversion, on the other hand, reveals a matter of the person's will. A person wills to spy on another and violate her privacy.
Perhaps we've gone too far with our "scientific" explanations regarding human behavior. Much more can be said about this, but this paradigm of thought coming from our research institutions and meted out through the media is indissolubly linked to a precommitment to philosophical naturalism. Philosophical naturalism is a worldview that believes that everything in human experience can be explained by means of the five senses. On this view, criminals are not sinners, they are victims. They are victims of their disease whether it be propensity to alcohol abuse, anger, depression, sexual "abnormality" or whatever. The homosexual community for example, has had vast, incredible success in communicating the idea that homosexual behavior is purely natural based upon genetic predisposition as opposed to an action based upon desire coming from one's will.
From a Christian perspective, A person wills to take another person's life. A person wills to destroy a child or a woman violating that which is most sacred to her: her body. A person chooses to live a certain way. Applying this to the death penalty, the Christian really has only one dilemma, and that is how to apply the law of Moses within the new covenant administration. Most Christians agree that the death penalty should remain en force based upon God's covenant with Noah, which preceded the Mosaic covenant by hundreds if not thousands of years. In the Noahic covenants the Lord commands that
"Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed,for God made man in his own image," (Genesis 9:6). The covenant with Noah is a universal covenant that reaches to all humanity. Paul makes an allusion to the power of the sword to punish "wrongdoers" as instituted by God even in the Roman Empire in Romans 13:1-5. But which specific crimes, other than murder, are worthy of capital punishment carry over from the law of Moses?
What should we do with rapists, child molesters, drunk drivers who kill people? What about voyeurs? Should such a person be allowed to live? Why? Do you really think a man who rapes a child and murders her deserves to live? Does a person who poses a threat to the integrity of a family by spying on them and peering through their windows deserve to live? I would suggest that such laws, extending justice would make our country a better place. Those who contend against the death penalty say it poses no threat of deterrence of committing certain crimes. Let's leave that aside, and ask the question of simple and pure justice. A man who rapes, or murders, or carelessly drives an automobile in a drunken state so that he takes the life of another has lost his right to live.
What do you think?