The Daily Yomiuri,
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8055
It is increasingly rare in today's social climate to hear views espousing the wholesomeness of capital punishment. Yet there is a case to be made for the proposition that it is right and fitting, and wholesome, for civilization to defend itself firmly against forces that would destroy it. Civilization, after all, is only a very tenuous veneer, almost nothing but make-up covering our more natural chaotic nature.
For capital punishment opponents to argue that capital punishment does not deter others from committing heinous crimes ignores the fact that execution in punishment, not deterrence. That is why it is called that. Then, just to take up the gauntlet of the deterrence argument for a moment, it must be said that nothing is more deterring than execution. Those executed are permanently deterred - from everything. Whether or not others are deterred from heinous behavior by the knowledge, or the spectacle of the death penalty is largely irrelevant because people are, and must remain individually responsible, free agents to choose their own way (and to bear the burden of the consequences of their choices). But then there is the complaint - supported by damning documentary evidence - of the wrongly convicted/executed. The weakness with this anti-death penalty complaint lies in its mis-use of words like "innocent" and "innocence."
To claim innocence is to make false, inappropriate, and unsustainable claims to virtue that humans do not possess. I suggest that instead of speaking about suspects' innocence versus guilt we had better limit ourselves to discussion of their culpability only. Talking about human innocence is just too preposterous to be taken seriously. Who is innocent? No innocent person has ever been incarcerated or executed. I do not mean to belittle the sanctity of human life. But it needs to be said that the idea the life is the ultimate good - which appears to be woven into the fabric of the anti-capital punishment argument - is an errant idea. I suggest that conscience, not life, is the ultimate good, and there are undoubtedly some things worth sacrificing life for. The preservation of civilization, for example.
Published Saturday, July 26, 2003 as “Not 1 innocent among us.”
This returns me to a philosophical/religious topic abut which I feel confident of more credibility than the average guy because of my seminary background. I do not believe in synonyms, and I think that “innocent” is widely mis-used in place of “not culpable.” People’s claims of their own innocence in matters is an extension of their over-estimation of their entitlement - about which I have written before regarding people’s estimation of their “rights.” And, extending claims of innocence to others - like children, for example - is an inappropriate and incorrect theological umbrella. Theologically, it is wrong.
My position is a classical Christian one: we are all guilty of original sin (Catholics), or totally depravity (Protestants) - even babies - and so all of us are under sentence of death because of it. It comes across as an overly harsh position, and an incorrect one as well. But it is not, despite such contrary opinion.
In America especially pronouncements like these come from people who imagine themselves Christians, and yet they do not understand their own theology. So I want to prick the dishonesty in their position.