Mercy For Gosnell?

Gosnell

In a Sunday article on First Thing’s website , Robert P. George argued that pro-lifers should join him in requesting that Gosnell’s life be spared from the death penalty if the jury decides as much.  George, who is overly optimistic, argues that no one- regardless of the moral depravity evidenced in the actions s/he has committed- is beyond spiritual conversion, repentance and reform. As such, Gosnell shouldn’t be condemned to death through capital punishment, but should be given an opportunity of spiritual reformation and rehabilitation.

(To those who aren’t familiar or not up-to-date on the Gosnell case, I would encourage you to read the grand jury investigation to see what Gosnell is accused of.)

First, unfortunately there are some people who are simply beyond spiritual repair. History is replete with examples of people who committed atrocities against others, small and large, who never repented of their evil deeds.

Furthermore, history also demonstrates that many people who were sentenced to prison, be it for a determined length of time up to  life, didn’t experience a spiritual reformation or personal rehabilitation.

Therefore George is arguing that Gosnell’s life be spared based upon the potential of him changing his ways.  He even admits as much when he says, ”  But whether it produces that effect or not, we will have shown all who have eyes to see and ears to hear that our pro-life witness is truly a witness of love—love even of our enemies, even of those whose appalling crimes against innocent human beings we must oppose with all our hearts, minds, and strength. In a profoundly compelling way, we will have given testimony to our belief in the sanctity of all human life.”

I understand what George is trying to communicate, but I think it’s a  profoundly naive position to hold.  It’s up to God to have mercy on Gosnell; we on the other hand, have to do what’s right and necessary for the preservation of civil society by protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty.  Sparing Gosnell doesn’t do that and it sends exactly the wrong message about life’s sanctity to other Gosnell’s that have yet to be brought to justice.

George says, “Kermit Gosnell, like every human being, no matter how self-degraded, depraved, and sunk in wickedness, is our brother—a precious human being made in the very image and likeness of God. Our objective should not be his destruction, but the conversion of his heart. Is that impossible for a man who has corrupted his character so thoroughly by his unspeakably evil actions? If there is a God in heaven, then the answer to that question is “no.” There is no one who is beyond repentance and reform; there is no one beyond hope. We should give up on no one.”

Using this logic, no one guilty of murder would qualify for capital punishment. So according to him the accused should simply be imprisoned so their hearts can potentially be changed.

Also, George uses the very fact that man is made in God’s image as a reason to be against the death penalty even though the Bible says that it’s for that very reason, that man is the imago Dei, that murderers should be sentenced to death. George never squares that reality.

George’s position also rules out Gosnell’s (potential) spiritual change prior to his state-sponsored execution, which George apparently doesn’t or refuses to consider.

As for being created in God’s image, I couldn’t disagree with George more. Being created in the image of God doesn’t absolve us from receiving punishment (capital or otherwise) if we’re deserving of it.  Being created in God’s image actually bestows upon us the responsibility to not only NOT take a life arbitrarily as Cain did Abel (1) and as Gosnell is accused of doing countless times over, but to punish those who do (Gen 9:6).  This divine imperative is the only one repeated in each of the first five books of the Bible, which is an indicator of how God viewed the severity of murder.  

In addition, any man who has the capability or internal disposition to deliver live babies with the express purpose to kill them- engaging in this sort of depraved evil across several decades- is beyond spiritual reparation, period. Gosnell literally killed the most innocent and defenseless among us and for that he should be punished with something much more stringent than the “mercy” of life in prison, predicated on the potentiality that he may change and display remorse.

George also says, “If our plea for mercy moves the heart of a man who cruelly murdered innocent babies, the angels in heaven will rejoice. But whether it produces that effect or not, we will have shown all who have eyes to see and ears to hear that our pro-life witness is truly a witness of love—love even of our enemies, even of those whose appalling crimes against innocent human beings we must oppose with all our hearts, minds, and strength. In a profoundly compelling way, we will have given testimony to our belief in the sanctity of all human life.”

Sorry. A pro-life witness is one that supports (personal witness/political support) or punishes (as an agent of the government) with death those who cavalierly take the lives of their fellow citizens (2). Sparing the life of the murderer in no way demonstrates the sanctity of life; it shows the devaluation of it.(3) It also shows preferential treatment to the murderer (mercy) at the expense of those he murdered. But more to the point, if Gosnell’s heart wasn’t moved to repent as he was severing the spines of infants for as long as he did, the mercy George encourages pro-lifers to offer Gosnell will has no chance. None.

George continues, “But even if the death penalty is justified in a case like Gosnell’s, mercy is nevertheless a legitimate option, especially where our plea for mercy would itself advance the cause of respect for human life by testifying to the power of mercy and love.”

Amazing.

The death penalty is justified in Gosnell’s case Mr. George, and as such, mercy isn’t a legitimate option.  If we allow all murders mercy as recompense for their evil, the act of murder will increase. Furthermore, it simply isn’t biblical.

If those watching the case, regardless of their stance on abortion, can find it in their hearts to forgive Gosnell for both infanticide and murder, God bless them.  But forgiveness and (capital) punishment aren’t mutually exclusive by any means. Gosnell can be forgiven but he also needs to be sentenced to and punished with death for what he’s done.

Even God may not have mercy on Gosnell.

________________________________

1). Cain killed Abel and God pardoned him. God also pardoned David for being complicit in Uriah’s murder (even though technically, David didn’t murder Uriah but conspired with the conditions to have him murdered).  That said, God can pardon who he pleases; we on the other hand, cannot. We are commanded first in Genesis 9:5-6 to punish with death those who shed’s man’s blood, be the offender man or animal. This was the requirement for justice because man is made in God’s image.  The universality of this imperative is underscored by the fact that it was given in the covenant God made with Noah regarding all men.

2). Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14.

3). Ezekiel 13: 19.

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2 thoughts on “Mercy For Gosnell?

  1. wadingacross April 15, 2013 / 11:41 pm

    Man’s laws and God’s laws aren’t always congruous. Perhaps according to man’s laws, the death penalty is warranted for Mr. Gosnell, and that’ll be up for the judge and/or jury if/when Mr. Gosnell is convicted.

    For many years I held to the idea that capital punishment was an acceptable point of view to take as a Christian, but the older I get, the longer I walk in my faith with Christ, the less I can hold to that view. Either all life is sacred and valuable or it is not. It is therefore not up to me or man to decide when another man should die for his transgressions, but God.

    But we live in a world of laws that men make, and our laws neither dictate nor define morality, much less are they always based in morality, specifically Biblical.

    It is true what you say – at least to our knowledge, looking from the outside – that many through the millenia have had hardened hearts, unwilling to come to Christ, with heinous acts upon their shoulders that man has judged and convicted them of. It’s also true that we’re not God, and to that end, we should be affording every individual every last opportunity to chose Christ over eternal separation from God.

    You call Mr. George’s views – and likely mine – naive, but perhaps yours is callous and unloving.

    Mr. Gosnell’s evident actions are utterly sickening and heart wrenching. I look at my four children and my mouth goes dry and my stomach feels like lead. I want to scream for those babies and women Kermit Gosnell butchered and murdered. But he is a creation of God, and in God’s eyes, his sin is really no different than mine or yours. That’s a hard truth to accept, a bitter pill to swallow. We cannot fathom, we do not want to accept the idea that our little white lies are on par with Kermit Gosnell’s wanton killings. The reality is that you and I are/were just as worthy of spiritual condemnation as Mr. Gosnell, destined for the same place with the same level of punishment.

    You note the Old Testament’s prescriptions for punishing murderers yet by that metric we should be stoning adulterers. And yet we do not. Neither as Christians do we accept this as acceptable nor as Americans within our laws do we deem this as acceptable.

    People of all stripes like to pick and chose parts of the Bible that fit their views. I fall into this trap just as regularly as the next person. Yet Jesus calls hate, an emotion of the heart, the same as murder. He levels the field of what constitutes sin. To that end, the homosexual is sinning the same as the glutton, the rapist as the liar. And Kermit Gosnell’s murders are the same as whatever sins you have committed in your life.

    But… we have laws in this country, founded by men, written by men, and in some states, capital punishment can be prescribed. Mr. Gosnell may indeed find himself executed for his crimes, and even if he does come to know Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, he would be receiving the results of his actions. But let us not say that it is just in God’s eyes.

    We as Christians are called to forgive. Unequivocally. Period. No excuses. That’s another hard truth. This doesn’t mean we aren’t still responsible for our actions, and so again, Mr. Gosnell may indeed receive the death penalty as punishment for his crimes, but we cannot conflate man’s laws with God’s. Christ came to fulfill the law and yet he called hate murder. The Torah condemned murderers as punishable by death and yet we do not stone adulterers as mandated by that same Torah. We have set up a heirarchy. We as men have determined which sins are worse than others, but Christ says they’re all the same. God says they’re all the same because the punishment is the same for all whether little sins or big.

    All life is sacred. All life is valuable, even Kermit Gosnell’s.

    Being pro-life for decades now has been about being against abortion, but there’s changes afoot within the movement. Too many pro-lifers have been rightly castigated for being all about protecting the unborn but dropping the ball when it comes to the mothers. Being pro-life is far more than just about saving unborn babies from a currette or forceps.

    To that end, there will continue to be many like Mr. George and myself who call for an ending of capital punishment.

    You note capital punishment as a sort of warning/training device that’s supposed to curb similar, future behaviors from those who might deign to act similarly as those who’ve been executed but history doesn’t bear this out or is a wash at best. Execution may be a final tiered punishment, but let us not say it’s as a warning that works. If such were the case, many crimes in states that have capital punishment would not occur for the mere idea of fear.

    Capital punishment solves nothing but a state or federal prison budget, and even then it might not considering how our judicial system is set up with a system of appeals and so on.

    In Christ,

    Wading Across

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    • derryckg April 16, 2013 / 1:56 pm

      Wading Across-

      Thanks for taking the time to read and respond. From my standpoint both are always an appreciation, especially when discussing practical faith and civic realities.

      When you say,

      “Man’s laws and God’s laws aren’t always congruous. Perhaps according to man’s laws, the death penalty is warranted for Mr. Gosnell, and that’ll be up for the judge and/or jury if/when Mr. Gosnell is convicted,”

      I agree with you. Man’s laws and God’s law aren’t always congruous, but I;m not sure how that’s related to capital punishment. Man’s laws dictate that the death penalty is reserved for those who murder (obviously predicated on the degree), which is, by the way, similar to God’s imperative for capital punishment. Remember, even God made a distinction between intentional or arbitrary murder and accidental or unintentional killings, hence the creation of sanctuary cities for the latter (Joshua 20:2-6, Exodus 20:12-14,Numbers 35:1-34 ; Deuteronomy 19:1-13 ; Joshua 20:1-9 ).

      “For many years I held to the idea that capital punishment was an acceptable point of view to take as a Christian, but the older I get, the longer I walk in my faith with Christ, the less I can hold to that view. Either all life is sacred and valuable or it is not. It is therefore not up to me or man to decide when another man should die for his transgressions, but God.”

      You’re definitely not alone in holding that position, but I’m curious how does your walk with and faith in Christ accommodate biblical passages that stand in opposition to you? Is all life sacred to the point that any evil in which a man commits is excluded from capital punishment? Again, if all life is sacred to the point of being outside the bounds of capital punishment, why did God demand as much, precisely in the case when man kills another man? Was God wrong in requiring such punishment?
      Even further, if all life is sacred, why did God himself cleanse the earth of evil through the mechanism of the flood? What about Sodom and Gomorrah? What about God killing Korah for his rebellion in the wilderness? Why is there no written (divine) condemnation in the Bible regarding Moses’ commandment for the Levites to kill 3000 of their brethren?

      Now more pointedly, I believe that, within civic reason, it is “up to man to decide when a man should die” for specific transgressions, and murder is one of them. If not, how do you square the Genesis passage I cited (in the original post) with your position against capital punishment? Or the Romans and 1 Peter passage?

      “But he is a creation of God, and in God’s eyes, his sin is really no different than mine or yours. That’s a hard truth to accept, a bitter pill to swallow. We cannot fathom, we do not want to accept the idea that our little white lies are on par with Kermit Gosnell’s wanton killings. The reality is that you and I are/were just as worthy of spiritual condemnation as Mr. Gosnell, destined for the same place with the same level of punishment.”

      Though he is a creation of God and in the image of God, his sin of delivering live babies is in no way the same as any sin I commit short of delivering live babies and killing them. The Bible that Christians revere is replete with examples of God making distinctions between the gradations of sin. An example of this are the cities of refuge I referenced above. If God thought all murder was the same, or more specifically, murder and killing were the same, why command that cities of refuge be erected to protect those who killed accidentally? Or why the penalty for some sins committed by the ancient Hebrews required stoning or banishment from the community while other sins required a simple sacrifice?
      More contemporarily, you cannot believe in your heart of hearts, that lying on one’s taxes is equatable to murdering innocent people? Or stealing a candy bar from a local store is equatable to what happened in Boston? If you do, then we must be very clear about it: your belief, though sincerely held, contradicts God’s perspective regarding the gradations for- and by extension, punishments- of sin.

      I believe that when you appeal to
      “…the Old Testament’s prescriptions for punishing murderers yet by that metric we should be stoning adulterers”
      is incompatible with my position. The discussion isn’t about adultery, it’s about murder. Gosnell isn’t accused of committing adultery; he stands accused of murder, and again, he should be put to death for what he’s done if the jury convicts him.

      “We as Christians are called to forgive. Unequivocally. Period. No excuses. That’s another hard truth. This doesn’t mean we aren’t still responsible for our actions, and so again, Mr. Gosnell may indeed receive the death penalty as punishment for his crimes, but we cannot conflate man’s laws with God’s. Christ came to fulfill the law and yet he called hate murder. The Torah condemned murderers as punishable by death and yet we do not stone adulterers as mandated by that same Torah.”

      As I believe I stated in my original post, forgiving Gosnell in no way absolves him from punishment. He can be forgiven and still be put to death. But where does the New Testament dictate that Christians are supposed to offer unequivocal or unconditional forgiveness? We are to repeatedly forgive our brother, but is Gosnell a brother (in Christ)? Is Gosnell my enemy, whom I called to love? But what about the repentance (on Gosnell’s part) that leads to forgiveness?

      Even further those commands are to be done in the micro of personal relationships and is not intended to be adhered to in the macro (governing a nation or international conflicts)- Just like Jesus’ imperatives regarding hate, calling a brother a fool, etc. Therefore I don’t think that is applicable to Gosnell/capital punishment.

      “Too many pro-lifers have been rightly castigated for being all about protecting the unborn but dropping the ball when it comes to the mothers. Being pro-life is far more than just about saving unborn babies from a currette or forceps”

      I agree that being pro-life requires more than being anti-abortion. But what Gosnell is accused of doing far exceeds abortion as the grand jury report and trial testimony clearly affirm. But that said, how exactly has the pro-life movement dropped the ball regarding the mothers? What specific castigations have been leveled?

      “You note capital punishment as a sort of warning/training device that’s supposed to curb similar, future behaviors from those who might deign to act similarly as those who’ve been executed but history doesn’t bear this out or is a wash at best. Execution may be a final tiered punishment, but let us not say it’s as a warning that works. If such were the case, many crimes in states that have capital punishment would not occur for the mere idea of fear.”

      I made no mention or allusion to the death penalty being a deterrent; one can argue that point, but that isn’t my claim or issue. Killing Gosnell for what he’s done in my opinion, isn’t meant as a deterrent to other Gosnells; it’s merely a statement of realization, that if and when the government finds other soulless and evil men (or women) delivering live babies in order to maim and kill them, they will suffer the same fate, period.

      As I have tried to communicate, many of your examples for a personal position against capital punishment, though sincere, don’t appear biblically justified. The examples are also, at least in regards to Jesus’ teachings, meant for interpersonal relationships which was seen as how relationships should be in the kingdom of God and not necessarily meant or intended to be applied by the government (again, hence, Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2).

      In a perfect world this would be moot, but no where on this side of heaven can perfection be found. Thus we must do what’s best and right in the micro (personal relationships) and the macro (foreign and domestic governance) to ensure safety and to do what’s best for society. And as I stated originally, society not extending capital punishment to evil people like Gosnell inverts any and all appeals of those regarding the sanctity of life. The message that society sends in situations like these (if there is no death penalty) is that the life of the murderer is of more precious value than they lives he took.

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