Second, a number of people present the case of the children who are conceived in rape, whether forced sex or statutory, (about 1% of rape victims conceive) or through incestuous relationships. One way to approach the question is through a look at the perpetrator of either crime of rape or incest. If the perpetrator were caught and convicted, the punishment would be a prison term whose length would depend on the local statutes and on the judges. However, no U.S. court would be permitted to condemn him to death by having his arms and legs cut off before his head was smashed. The VIIIth Amendment prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment,” so such a sentence could not be given or inflicted. However, if society is justifiably unwilling to inflict that punishment on the perpetrator, on what basis can society, especially its Christian members, justify inflicting this very punishment on the child in the womb who is completely innocent of any crime? Abortion cannot be justified morally, including in the case of rape or incest.
What about the Death Penalty?
One starting point is that the convicted perpetrator of a capital crime, such as murder, is not innocent. The existence of such a person raises important questions for society: does society avenge the crime by taking the perpetrator’s life? Does society rehabilitate the criminal? Christ Jesus forbids Christians from pursuing revenge (Matt. 5:38-45)
Matt. 5:38 You have heard that it was said, `An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; 40 and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; 41 and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Therefore, as strong as the temptation might be, a Christian needs always to restrain any temptation for revenge. Rather, the minimum that any citizen ought to ask of the sate is the protection of the population, including the protection of innocent citizens from aggression by capital felons.
In this light, the issue is whether imprisonment is sufficient to protect the citizens from assaults by dangerous criminals. For the most part, in the United States this is the case. Not many prison inmates escape from incarceration, so citizens can be relatively sure of being protected. The prisons themselves contain different levels of secure incarceration, all the way up to solitary confinement. When it is necessary to protect the other inmates, who indeed deserve protection from dangerous felons, these additional levels of security can be applied to the individuals who fail to regard the legitimate rights of other people, including their fellow prison inmates. Wealthy countries, such as the United States, can afford a secure prison system and can make sure that felons are locked up long enough to render them harmless to other citizens. However, some countries are too poor to build and support many prisons, therefore they may have a legitimate need to use capital punishment in their correctional facilities as the only way to protect citizens from violent criminals.
Another value in foregoing the death penalty is the occasion when a person is falsely convicted of a crime. If that person is executed, the punishment cannot be undone. The execution of an innocent person remains permanent, even after the conviction is overturned. Given the constantly improving techniques of evaluating evidence in criminal cases, society is better to avoid the death penalty if at all possible.
Finally, Christians always have the hope that comes from God that a sinner might repent. Of course, a criminal who receives such an opportunity to repent does not deserve it. In fact, many correctly observe that the murderers rarely give their victims that opportunity to repent, so giving the perpetrator a chance at repentance is completely unfair. This would be true by the standards of strict justice. However, Christians know that the grace of repentance and faith is completely undeserved by any one of us. No one deserves the chance to repent; it is a free gift from God. The Church does not base all of its decisions on justice alone; the Church of Jesus Christ knows it is the recipient of undeserved mercy, and therefore it seeks to extend that mercy to anyone and everyone, as much as that is possible. While it remains prudent to incarcerate dangerous criminals for the protection of the lives and property of others, it is also possible to extend a kind of mercy that permits the criminals to repent. A life sentence in a secure prison can be an act of mercy that opens a criminal to believe in Jesus Christ and seek mercy from its ultimate Source – the Redeemer.