In today’s Washington Post, columnist Kathleen Parker opined that death is too easy for Dylann Roof, who mercilessly gunned down nine human beings while they were praying. Regardless of the racial nature of the crime, it was a hate crime against God, and God should be the arbiter of Roof’s fate, and the government should hand that duty to Him as quickly as possible.
Before I get to the main point, let me dispense with one nit against Parker’s essay. She began by citing the parable of the sower, which was the topic of the Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church that evening. Parker wrote: “As interpreted by scholars, the rock refers to the human heart that’s made of stone and therefore resistant to the seed (the Word of God), and therefore lost to salvation.”
I suppose that’s true, but before scholars got their hands on the interpretation, it had a much more authoritative source: Jesus Christ. Just a few verses down in Matthew (or Mark), and Jesus explains the whole thing to His disciples.
“Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside…
Parker should familiarize herself with the Bible more often before she uses it to open such a serious discussion as life and death.
Moving back to the main point. There is only one option for jurors who unfortunately get the burden of deciding what the government should do with Dylann Roof. He must die, and as quickly as the law and appeals allow. This is true for both spiritual and practical reasons. I’ll leave morality to the author of it.
Spiritually, the Bible declares that government is of God, in Romans 13. There has never been a Biblical reason to declare that the death penalty is some kind of societal sin. It’s a moral choice, made by free moral agents–us. Our government has the authority under God to declare punishment within God’s parameters. Certainly, in the Old Testament, death was a very common sentence.
Politically, I’m okay with having the death penalty, and I’m okay with not having it. But since in this case we have it, we should use it.
Also spiritually, and one of the primary reasons for killing Roof, is that his existence as a live human being is a thorn in the side of those he hurt. His life is torture to those who forgave him and a permanent temptation to them to walk back that forgiveness while he lives. Why tempt them to sin? And it is sin to walk back forgiveness (read the Lord’s Prayer).
The final spiritual reason is that God is Roof’s judge. If he accepts the unlimited grace of the Lord Jesus, he will enter God’s Kingdom, whether he accepts it with his last breath strapped to the death chamber gurney, or sitting in an isolation cell at a super max prison. We should give him the earliest opportunity to make his decision. For those who say Roof’s crime was too heinous for even God, please read up on Saul of Tarsus, who probably killed more Christians while they prayed than Roof.
Now the practical reasons. Roof, in any prison, will be like Charles Manson: a celebrity killer with a racist following. Do we need any more Mansons in prison for life without parole? He might serve 50 years or more, while prison neo Nazi gangs worship him. He might spawn other copycats who don’t fear prison. I’m not going to say much about the death penalty as a deterrent, but it is one to everyone except jihadists.
As for life without parole being a worse punishment than the death penalty, Parker should ask that question to prisoners on death row, and ask them if they’d rather go to the death chamber today, or go back into the population without possibility of parole. Or ask those sentenced to life without parole if they’d rather be on death row. I think the results would more than establish their preference. Nobody wants to walk the green mile.
The final practical reason to kill Roof is financial. For the next 50 years, we will have to feed, clothe, and guard Roof in prison. He will breathe air, take up space, and eat food that less harmful prisoners could use. Why should we pay for his life, lived in health beyond what any third world country’s free population would hope for, while he sits and considers whatever goes on in his sick mind?
We shouldn’t. Let him rot on death row, let his appeals be quickly exhausted, strap him to the gurney and inject him with poison. Do it quickly and let God judge him. This is the only answer to what our society must do with Dylann Roof.