The two points of view are parallel, and there is no anticipated merging of idealistic and punitive scenarios.
The most recent denunciation of the death penalty, as reported in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Jan. 6, was couched in the religious arena. Burch is quoted as having said, "No Christian in Kentucky should be for the death penalty." He favors keeping convicted murderers in jail for extended years or life.
Many Christians will agree with this stance while supporting the notion that the death penalty is often applied unfairly, whatever that means. Other Christians will take a view that taxpayers should not be forced to feed, clothe, house and medically care for those who have demonstrated that they no longer wish to live by obeying the laws of Kentucky. On strictly religious grounds, Christians are divided on this issue, and neither group feels that its faith is in jeopardy by embracing the tenet to which it adheres.
Continuing the religious foundation, upon which sits his adamant declaration of opposition, the legislator opined, "I personally believe that no Christian in Kentucky could be for the death penalty if they read the Bible, staying away from the Old Testament, of course."
To in any way suggest to Christians that the Old Testament should not be considered a part of the Bible, in this and other matters that don't agree with one's view, is to refute the plain teaching of Christ that states His intention to fulfill the law, all of it, not displace it. Burch continued by saying, "I don't think Jesus ever talked about an eye for any eye."
Selecting only parts of the Bible for support, while eliminating an entire Testament in the process, creates a problem for Christians that Burch may not have intended.
Jesus never said anything about slavery and made no move to free them. St. Paul actually advised the slaves to be good and devoted in their work and made no public pronouncement that it was wrong. On the basis of what Jesus said, or more importantly what
He did not say, Christians could presume that slavery was not bad and that it should not have been abolished. Few among us would ever agree to that dictum.
We all have preferences in this matter. We believe what we feel is right based upon our sense of fair play, our faith, our basic gut feeling, or our evolving awareness of life and the importance of each individual. We grasp our understanding of what the law entails and our conduct is predicated upon our understanding of the clearly mandated penalties for crime.
Burch was attempting to draw a line for all Christians in Kentucky. His view is that to which he ascribes Biblical support. Many of us will agree with him. This view, however deeply embraced, will find that many of us disagree.
If there is a Christian mandate, it cannot be formulated by enacted or abolished laws. The Christian, on an individual basis, must decide which parallel represents his or her own concept of the law and temper that concept, if need be, with grace.
Edward Clark is a Danville businessman and community columnist for The Advocate.