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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Christian and Capital Punishment--Again

The California Crazies & the Michael Morales Case
I’ve lived in California for eleven years now; long enough to know that not everyone in the Golden State is crazy. Many, most, but not everyone. But it seems like every time you begin to think that California might be almost normal, some liberal social-engineer, do-gooder or state representative reminds you that very often California is still stuck on stupid.
The latest example involves the Michael Morales case. He is at San Quentin prison and was scheduled twice recently to be executed by lethal injection. This morning’s Orange County Register (2.22.06) mentioned that Mr. Morales’ execution has been postponed indefinitely, because San Quentin could not comply with a court order to limit Mr. Morales’ pain that would be induced by the pain of the ingredients used in the lethal injection. To almost anyone with a brain, this is sheer nonsense. Our society has reached the point where we’re more concerned about the quality of the Islamic meals fed to the detainees at Gitmo—perhaps we should give them gourmet food—and the perceived pain of convicted murderers during execution.
In other words, some social-engineer is ostensibly so concerned about you and me when we go to have blood work done in the laboratory that he’s going to start requiring—by a government law, no doubt—that we’re all under general anesthesia for the procedure. I’m kidding, of course, but do you get my point? Most injections sting a bit, but it seems like California doesn’t mind if the rest of us suffer—horribly—from normal blood work as long as brutal convicted murderers don’t experience any pain prior to their death.
So to help us think through this highly complex conundrum, The Orange County Register provided an in depth Q/A on page 3 of the News page today (2.23.06). They interviewed Dr. Peter Breen, chair of the anesthesiology department at UC—Irvine. For effect, the Register included a photo of the August 15, 1936 hanging of Rainey Bethea’s public execution for rape and murder. Under the photo we’re informed that in the 20th century, states sought increasingly painless methods of execution, giving the impression that what took place in the past was, at best, barbaric. What is more than just a little “odd” about this Q/A is that I simply cannot remember a time when the presence of an anesthesiologist was deemed necessary at an execution.
Dr. Breen was asked if lethal injection is the least painful method of execution. Again, some are going out of their way to insure that the convicted murderer experiences little or no pain. Breen goes on to say, “But lethal injection is certainly less painful for anyone watching compared to electrocution, a gas chamber or a firing squad. Those methods of execution can involve disturbing sights, sounds, and smells.” But the good doctor misses the point in a couple of key ways.
First, why are we all of a sudden so over-the-top concerned about a painless execution? We can desire for it to be humane, but totally painless? Convicted murderers have committed heinous crimes and are being punished for what they did. It is incomprehensible that society would want punishment without any pain. What kind of punishment is that, especially for murder?
Second, Dr. Breen doesn’t seem to realize that the agenda driving all of this controversy is the total elimination of the death penalty. We’re got some representatives in San Francisco who want to disband our armed forces or, if we keep them, unilaterally disarm. Brilliant! If there’s another terrorist attack we can nibble their bum or join with them and make a diversity quilt.
I am also not convinced that the Register and Dr. Breen got it right about the previous methods of execution. Breen contends that drawing and quartering, public dissecting, burning alive and disemboweling were all practiced in the United States up until an 1878 Supreme Court decision. My own research has not turned up anything of the sort either in Europe or the United States, barring, of course, the Spanish Inquisition and the Braveheart types of executions in antiquity. I’m not asserting that what Breen described has never occurred in America, only that hanging and the firing squad seems to have been the “norm.”
Much of the debate rages about the 8th Amendment regarding cruel and unusual punishment. In 1972, Supreme Court Justice William Brennan defined four guidelines for the 8th Amendment and capital punishment: 1) Degrading to human dignity, 2) Inflicted in a wholly arbitrary fashion, 3) A punishment clearly and totally rejected throughout society, and 4) Patently unnecessary. In the case of the modern methods employed for execution, you’d be hard pressed to declare capital punishment cruel and unusual punishment unless you have imbibed the politically correct or Roman Catholic Kool-Aid. Clearly, as the Q/A points out, “The whole idea behind instituting lethal injection was to do this (execution—RG) in the most humane way possible.” Within the realm of possibilities, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a means of execution more humane than this! Of course, remember the agenda: No capital punishment.
Quite often we enter into a theoretical debate about the death penalty without getting into any of the particulars of each individual case. With that in mind, allow me to take a couple of moments and give a brief summary of the Morales case.

Morales and Winchell—1981
In 1981—that’s how long these things take. Absurd!—Mr. Morales was 21-years-old. His victim was Terri Winchell, who was 17. Mr. Morales took Miss Winchell to a deserted area near Lodi and tried to strangle her with his belt. I’m willing to bet that his attempts were quite painful to Miss Winchell. Being unsuccessful with strangulation by belt, Mr. Morales resorted to using a hammer. According to the reports, Miss Winchell received no less than twenty-three blows to her head with this blunt instrument. Again, it’s not a stretch to acknowledge that this must have been very painful. Then Mr. Morales raped Miss Winchell’s lifeless body and, for good measure, stabbed her four more times.
State representative Paul Koretz (D) from West Hollywood is pushing the now almost ancient AB1121 (1982) under the noses of our illustrious state representatives again in an attempt to curry favor with the “no death penalty crowd.” (If you would like to call Mr. Koretz’s office and complain, he can be reached [well, not him. He’s far too important. You’ll get one of his talking-points, bureaucratic, flunkies] at 310.285.5490.) This bill wants to impose a moratorium on the death penalty here in California while a commission studies the efficacy of lethal injection. You would be required to laugh out loud for a long, long time if this wasn’t serious. The efficacy of the death penalty by lethal injection?
Can you imagine in the early years of our nation that a commission was called into being to investigate the efficacy of hanging or of the firing squad? How about a commission to study the efficacy of the electric chair? This is yet another waste of our tax dollars: a bureaucratic commission to enjoy two or three martini lunches discussing—at the liberal, left-wing level, the efficacy of the obvious. Sounds like an outstanding use of our tax dollar again. What person, with only a modicum of common sense, would need such a commission? You’d think that a little visual verification would suffice. “Look, Bubba’s dead! I reckon the lethal injection was efficacious!” “Look, Bubba’s got a big ol’ hole in his heart from them bullets. I reckon they wuz efficacious bullets!” “Look at ol’ Bubba just swingin’ back and forth with that rope around his neck. You think hangin’ is efficacious?”
What a bunch of liberal pinheads! We have someone on death row since 1981 and when it comes time finally to do the right thing and execute him or her, some people feel the need to take to the streets in protest. From a Christian, biblical perspective this is a slam dunk. Ever since immediately after the Fall of man into sin, God has made provision for putting murderers to death (Gen. 4:13-16; 9:6; Ex. 20: 13 [Deut. 5:7]; Lev. 24:17). Murder was an assault on the image of God in man and, indirectly, upon God himself.
But this is not the case in California! We give convicted felons, murderers beds, meals, cable TV, state of the art exercise rooms, and in the event of Tookie Williams give them the opportunity to become candidates fro the Nobel Peace Prize—all at taxpayer expense. There’s a very interesting text in Romans 13:1-4 where the Apostle Paul describes the various tasks of the civil magistrate. The fourth verse informs us that the civil magistrate is “God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”
Without getting too technical, a couple of essential points based on the words that I italicized in the text need to be made here.
First, with regard to the word, “sword,” (v. 4) it should be kept in mind that in the New Testament the sword is frequently associated with death. In short, the sword is the instrument of execution (cf. Matt. 26:52; Luke 21:24; Acts 12:2; 16:27; Heb. 11:34, 37; Rev. 13:10).
Second, the text indicates that the government has an awareness of what constitutes right and wrong; good and evil. I contend that our society still has that awareness but that it has become buried under an avalanche of politically correct, liberal, out-of-touch-with-reality, feel-good claptrap. The result of all this muddleheaded relativism is that many want to do away with the death penalty. Still others argue that if you kill a policeman you should face capital punishment, but not if you kill a child on the street in a drive-by shooting. Yet others argue that the death penalty is dependent on the number of people that you, for example, murdered.
How in the world do you ever arrive at a number where you say, “Well, it’s bad to murder one hundred people. For that you deserve life in prison. If you murder one hundred and twenty, you deserve life in prison without the possibility of parole. And if you murder more than one hundred and twenty, you deserve the death penalty?” Huh? In its fuzzy thinking, our society flounders about trying desperately to find that determinant number where the death penalty should be applied. All that is really necessary is to listen to the clear words from God, since he is the author of society.
And God has clearly spoken that in the case of convicted murderers the death penalty can and should be administered—without consideration of pain. That is not the primary consideration. When God ordained the lex talionis in the Old Testament it involved stoning, which is not noted for its painlessness with or without an anesthesiologist present. In the New Testament, execution was by means of a sword or crucifixion. The primary consideration is not the amount of pain inflicted upon the person being executed, but that the evil is purged from our midst.
It’s ridiculous how many rapists and murderers serve a portion of their time, are put on parole only to go out and rape and murder again. Anyone who can read can read the recidivism statistics. Nevertheless, social engineers and many California state representatives seem incapable or unwilling to look at the facts. Their heads are buried in Utopia, which literally—in the Greek—means “nowhere.” Precisely.

How Painless is Painless Enough?
Are you familiar with what’s included in a lethal injection? Here’s what the cocktail is like: 5 grams of sodium thiopental in 20-25cc of diluent (renders patient unconscious); 50cc of pancuronium bromide (muscle relaxant that stops the breathing); and 50cc of potassium chloride (stops the heart from beating). Anyone who has ever had an operation has been given the first ingredient. It’s commonly used by anesthesiologist. Not much pain involved there.
Morales and his lawyer(s)—I wonder if they’re connected to the ACLU?—are arguing that the sodium thiopental might not be sufficient to render the whole process painless. I wonder if this ever crossed Mr. Morales’ mind while he was bludgeoning Miss Winchell to death with that hammer?
Now here’s the kicker: the anesthesiologists refused to be present at the execution because if something went wrong and they had to step in and terminate the life that would be in violation of the Hippocratic Oath that physicians take! We can only pray that more doctors who regularly perform abortions would take the same stance.But in the final analysis, why in the world are we even discussing having anesthesiologists at an execution? Since when did that become a consideration? The various state prison officials seem to have done pretty well in the past without the able assistance of anesthesiologists. Why do we have to have them now? Perhaps we should simply change the name and instead of talking about “lethal injections” (that sounds so morose, doesn’t it?) maybe we should take the approach of a number of abortionists and simply call the execution of a convicted murderer a “therapeutic procedure.”


Blogger ThirstyDavid said...

How hard is it to kill someone painlessly (not that I'm overly concerned about the comfort of a condemned killer)? I had a nearly-fatal accident a few years ago, and I didn't feel a thing until I woke up to discover I wasn't dead.

8:35 AM  
Blogger SolaMeanie said...

This is a crying example of why something needs to be done to rein in the judiciary. The impeachment function exists for a reason.

Look at the battle over the electric chair. Most experts think brain death is immediate (1/240th of a second) after the current hits. All it took was a botched execution or two to get it outlawed. Mistakes will happen with any form of execution. People seem to forget that the desired outcome of an execution is the death of the criminal.

8:49 AM  
Blogger Randy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:40 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

You really missed several points, didn't you? I would have expected you to have been angry about all of the abortions by doctors that took the same oath. Didn't you get my reference to "therapeutic procedure" at the end? Why is it that not terminating a convicted murderers life is defended and taking the life of an unborn human gets little or no attention? I do agree, however, that the doctor should not be doing it. I'm not in favor of even having anesthesiologists present.
Can you suggest a type of capital punishment that is pain free? If not, does that mean that all capital punishment should be done away with? Certainly not.
What is your point that possibly a Supreme Court appointee might think that lethal injection is a violation of the 8th amendment? Is the death penalty a state issue?
Rattlesnake 6

6:59 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

This post is an interesting discussion of an alternative system of implementing the death penalty. It doesn't discuss methods (lethal injection, etc.) but it does discuss why and when it should be used. It also links directly to a discussion of the morals of using capital punishment, including but not limited to that from a Christian, Biblical perspective.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

The post you recommended is written from what seems to be a purely secular standpoint. I saw nothing of biblical truth, which, in a pluralistic society, should be taken into consideration in the broad spectrum of decision-making. I'm working on two books currently: one on capital punishment and the other on just war. I'll post some excerpts up here soon.
Rattlesnake 6

2:26 PM  

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