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My Turn: Violence in any form is never the answer

I have always been against the death penalty. Ever since I was a kid, it just didn’t make any sense to me. We are going to kill someone so we can show that killing people is wrong?

As I grew up and studied the issue more, I realized that there was no statistical evidence to say that the death penalty actually prevents crimes. I also began to learn that some people have received the death penalty only to be found innocent by DNA evidence. It would be a travesty if we killed an innocent person.

It also costs more to kill someone than to keep him in prison for the rest of his life. For all these reasons and some others I believe that the death penalty simply does not make sense.

Though I am a pastor, I never had a particular religious view about this issue. But that has changed recently. I have come to see not the religious implications but the spiritual issues involved when we decide to take a human life. God does not desire a continuation of violence through retribution. In my own faith tradition I have come to see how God sets out to do away with retaliatory violence. Consider that after Cain killed Abel, God forbid anyone to touch Cain. The Bible actually reduces the use of death as a way to settle scores. Not to mention that it was the state-sanctioned death penalty that killed Jesus.

On Nov. 24, Christ the King Sunday, there will be a preach-in supported by Bishop Peter Anthony Libasci of the Roman Catholic diocese, Episcopal Bishop Rob Hirschfeld, Bishop James Hazelwood (my bishop) of the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Rev. Gary Schulte, conference ministry of the United Church of Christ.

On that day we will talk about the spiritual issues involved when addressing the death penalty – how the use of retaliatory violence only continues the cycle. The need for redemption, forgiveness, healing, compassion and reconciliation are all spiritual truths that should help us to come to conclusions about the death penalty. In 2014 we have a chance in New Hampshire to be the 19th state to abolish the death penalty. We have a chance to do away with an expensive, noneffective, nonspiritual way of fighting crime. We have a chance to send a real message that violence in any form is never the answer to the problems we face.

(Rev. Jonathan Hopkins of Concord is pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church and president of the New Hampshire Council of Churches.)

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