Monday, September 12, 2016

Religion and the death penalty

Only 23% of practicing Christians born after 1980 back the penalty

American Christians have very confused feelings about the death penalty, reported the Economist. Last year, Pew Research, a pollster based in Washington, DC, published evidence confirming some things you would intuitively expect: white evangelicals support the ultimate punishment by a far greater majority (71-25) than do Americans in general (56-38) or the religiously unaffiliated (48-45). Although their church (at least in the modern era) firmly opposes execution, the procedure was supported by most Catholics (53-42) and an even greater majority of white Catholics (63-34).
In 2014, a survey by Barna research, a smaller pollster focusing on religious trends, found that self-identified Christians were slightly more likely than Americans as a whole to believe that the ultimate penalty should be available to the government in extreme cases. But younger American Christians, whether practicing or nominal, seemed much less keen than their parents on execution. Only 23% of practicing Christians born after 1980 backed the penalty.
And regardless of their own beliefs, Christian respondents seemed convinced that the founder of their faith was an opponent of punishing people with death: only one in 20 says Jesus of Nazareth would be a supporter of judicial killing. All that suggests that there must be a lot of Christians who believe in the death penalty themselves but accept that Jesus Christ, who after all suffered that penalty himself, would be on the other side of the argument. Perhaps that’s not so surprising. Some would say it’s part of human nature to subscribe, at one level, to the loftiest ideals and at the same time, make massive compromises with life’s harsh realities.
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