If the terms of the Geneva convention have not been upheld, the Geneva convention does not apply. Until a friend sent me this article, I had no idea that Germans had tried to infiltrate our lines at the Battle of the Bulge, that we'd recorded their executions, and that the film had been aired on the History Channel.
Does this seem brutal to our "refined" sensibilities? As Sowell reminds us, mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent. Oddly enough, I was talking to a labmate about a related topic just today. It wasn't in the context of the recent CIA interrogator case. It was just about the death penalty in general. He asked me if the state taking the life of a murderer was any less brutal than the murderer's original crime. I reminded him that only the original crime was murder; the state's execution was indeed killing, but it was just.
My labmate objected that no penal system is 100% accurate, and that some of the people sentenced to death will be innocent. I agreed with him that no system is perfect, but I also pointed out that we must strive to produce a better penal system, instead of giving up and having none at all. (There is a huge responsibility in conducting trials ethically and justly, but for all the ambiguity that so many people like to inject into the question, we should be glad that DNA testing has cleared up so much of the murkiness. But who is emphasizing this technique when the question of false positives comes up?)
For the first time, in the middle of this conversation, I saw so clearly how my view of eternity affects my view of this question. I don't see the death penalty as the end of a person's life if that person is a Christian. Instead, it's the beginning of a new chapter. Please understand that I do not in any way view the needle used for lethal injection or the apparatus for the electric chair as surrounded with a heavenly glow. I hate death. I absolutely hate it. But in the case of murder when someone has been proven to be guilty, the death penalty is a just, defensible, and necessary act. By murdering another person, the murderer has forfeited his own life. His speedy execution can be a deterrent to others who are considering a "Final Solution" to their own problems. (Though my labmate disputed this point!). In some ways, the person sentenced to die has an incredible advantage over the vast majority of the population: he or she has a very good idea of when they'll die. My labmate thought that a person should be given years to think about their crime and feel remorse, but I think that an extended length of time -- even on death row -- would lessen the need to think about wrongdoing. If I might live fifty years more, why should I bother about feeling remorse for forty nine years? I'll cry my tears of contrition during my final meal. I must confess that I don't actually have any figures showing which course produces more remorse or repentance, but based on my line of reasoning, if I was a murderer with only a short time before execution and the details of my act still fresh in my mind, I think I would be more likely to repent than after forty-nine years of cobwebs had accumulated.
Another thing I showed my labmate is that it's a mistake to think of criminals in a different set from myself. With very few exceptions -- and those stemming only from a lack of physical strength -- I am capable of any crime that was ever committed. Realizing this, and knowing from my own remorse when I've done something wrong, I know that any crime can be regretted. The best case scenario would be for the defendant to recognize his/her guilt, and understand the necessity of the death penalty. I hope that every inmate on death row takes advantage of their unique position to understand the seriousness of death, and their need for a Savior! But it is not mercy to prolong their life after they have been sentenced.
It is demonic mercy that demands that no crime be punished.
I have one final question, and then I'll have done. I am a murderer. Why, then, am I not to be punished with death? I have hated many, many people. Jesus said that if I hated someone, it was the same as murdering them. Why, then, am I walking the streets as a free woman? Because God forgave those crimes.
God is the only one who forgave crimes, and He has the ability and authority to step into any situation, forgive a person's sin, and halt their penalty. He's done it again and again, with the first murderer (Cain), with an adulterer-murderer (David), and with others -- but He is the only one with the authority to do this.
If I went into a court and started telling people I forgave them their sins and was suspending their sentences, you'd say I was crazy. And you'd be right. But Jesus can do this same thing -- forgiving sins and suspending sentences -- because He is God, the author of justice, and the One we sin against first and foremost whenever we sin.
At any time He can suspend our manmade sentences, forgive a person, and let them out scott-free. But if He chooses not to do this, we must be prepared to carry out our grim duty of trying, and if the defendant is found guilty, sentencing, and executing.
What's glorious is that God forgives anyone who asks Him for forgiveness. He might deliver them from a death penalty (like He did with David), or He might simply but beautifully assure them that they'll be with Him in Paradise (like He did with the thief hanging beside Him).
What Love is this!!!!!!!