PREACH IN SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 24th
Recent Op Ed from Rev. Jonathan Hopkins
President, NH Council of Churches
I have always been against the death penalty. Since I was a kid it just didn't make any sense to me. We are going to kill someone so we can show that killing people is wrong? As I grew up and studied the issue more I realized that there was no statistical evidence to say that the death penalty actually prevents crimes. I also began to learn that some people have received the death penalty only to be found innocent by DNA evidence. It would be a travesty if we killed an innocent person. It also cost more to kill someone then to keep them in prison for the rest of their lives. For all these reasons and some others I believe that the death penalty simply does not make sense. Even though I am a pastor I never had a particular religious view about this issue.
But that has changed recently. I have come to see not the religious implications but the spiritual issues involved when we decide to take a human life. God does not desire a continuation of violence through retribution. In my own faith tradition I have come to see how God sets out to do away with retaliatory violence. Consider that after Cain killed Able God forbid anyone to touch Cain. The Bible actually reduces the use of death as away to settle scores. Not to mention that as a Christian it was the state sanctioned death penalty that killed Jesus.
On November 24th, Christ the King Sunday, there will be a preach in supported by Bishop Peter Anthony Libasci of the Roman Catholic diocese, Bishop Rob Hirschfeld Episcopalians, Bishop James Hazelwood (my Bishop) of the New England Synod of the ELCA, and Rev. Gary Schulte conference ministry of the United Church of Christ. On that day we will talk about the spiritual issues involved when addressing the death penalty. How the use of retaliatory violence only continues the cycle. The need for redemption, forgiveness, healing, compassion, and reconciliation are all spiritual truths that should help us to come to conclusions about the death penalty.
In 2014 we have a chance in NH to be the 19th state to abolish the death penalty. We have a chance to do away with an expensive, non effective, non spiritual way of fighting crime. We have a chance to send a real message that violence in any form is never the answers to the problems we face.