Does the God of Scripture Care about the Life of Innocent Adults?
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I Was In Prison
Online Prison Ministry Newsletter
Jul - Aug, 2013
Dale S. Recinella, Catholic Correctional Chaplain Florida's Death Row & Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella,Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed and for seventeen years a Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults.

Does the God of Scripture Care about the Life of Innocent Adults?
By: Dale S. Recinella
Catholic Correctional Chaplain for Florida’s Death Row

We are witnessing the last, desperate gasps of Christian support for state killing through the death penalty in America. This usually takes the form of superficial appeals to Scripture in a slight-of-hand way

For example, supposed biblical support for capital punishment is claimed by references liberally made to Genesis 9:5-6, touting those verses as God’s command for capital punishment for everyone who commits first degree murder. In truth, Genesis 9:5-6 is not God’s command to kill people, and it never mentions American first degree murder. It mentions homicide, the killing of a human being by another human being. There is no distinction in that biblical text between first degree murder and the killings that we classify as justified homicide, negligent homicide, dui homicide, vehicular homicide, manslaughter, etc. There is not even recognition in Genesis 9:5-6 of the popular American stand your ground defense. Nor is there an exception for death caused by accident.

Regardless, pro-death penalty Christians read their favorite American laws into Genesis 9:5-6 as though God included such exceptions in His words to Noah. The exceptions are not in the biblical text of Genesis 9:5-6. Even if they were a command, instead of a blessing, the verses would not support the American death penalty.

In a similar vein, desperate pro-death penalty Christians are arguing that God does not care about execution of condemned people who might be innocent. This is especially alarming when so many of the Christians who are making such assertions are in fact vehemently against the killing of innocent unborn human life. Some go so far as to say that the truly pro-life position is to be pro-death penalty.

How can that be? Their position is that God only cares about innocent life in the womb. God is not concerned about the innocent human life of adults. This explains their mantra: “Kill all the people on death row, and if some really are innocent, let God sort it out.” Really? Was God just joking when He warned us in Exodus 23:7 to have no part in the execution of the innocent? Wasn’t God talking about innocent adults in Exodus 23:7?

How does any intellectually honest Christian square the pro-death attitude “kill all those on death row and let God sort it out” with the God actually revealed in Scripture? What about God’s response to Abraham’s pleas for any innocent adult inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah?

In the biblical account in Genesis 18:20-33, God has revealed to Abraham that he is going to destroy those two cities because of sin. Abraham is concerned that innocent adults might be consumed with the guilty. Abraham challenges God, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” [23]

Then, he bargains with God for the life of the innocent adults. Scripture tells us that God agrees to spare those cities, which means sparing the lives of all their inhabitants, even the guilty, if there are just fifty righteous men within the city. [24]

Abraham persists, and God agrees to relent in destruction of those cities if there are just forty righteous men [29], or just thirty [30], or even just twenty [31]. Finally, God agrees that he will spare both those cities and all their inhabitants if there are just ten righteous men. [32]

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are believed to have been heavily populated based on the excavations of the cemeteries at Bab edh-Dhra and Safi. Ten people would have constituted a mere smidgen of the population. But assuming arguendo that the population of Sodom and Gomorrah taken together was as low as 1,000 – lower than the most conservative of estimates – then ten men would constitute 1% of that population. Scripture tells us that for the sake of the 1%, God will spare the lives of the guilty. How can any truly biblical Christian assert that God is not concerned about wrongful execution of innocent adults in the face of such a profound biblical revelation?

Given that the size of death row in the U.S. today is 3,125, one might say that the God who bargained with Abraham would definitely spare the lives of all those on death row in America if just 32 people were innocent. In fact, since the great American death penalty experiment began in the middle 1970s, 145 people have been released from U.S. death rows with evidence of their innocence. That is at least four-and-a-half times the percentage that Abraham used to secure God’s promise of clemency.

In my home state of Florida, with about 405 people on death row, one might say that the God who bargained with Abraham would spare the lives of all those on Florida’s death row if just 5 people were actually innocent. In Florida, over the same time period since the great American death penalty experiment began, 24 people have been released from death row for innocence. That is almost five times the percentage that Abraham used to secure God’s promise of clemency for Sodom and Gomorrah.

The biblical report of Abraham’s negotiations with God for Sodom and Gomorrah was not about punishment in the next life. And it was not about innocent human life before birth. It was about the killing in this life of innocent adults who are intermixed with the guilty.

Obviously, if Abraham were walking around today, his appeal to the pro-death penalty Christian politicians would be to spare the lives of the human beings on death row lest we commit the abomination of executing innocent adults.


©2013 Dale S. Recinella, Tallahassee, Florida USA.
All rights reserved. No reuse without written permission.

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I Was In Prison
News & Updates
This ezine is targeted for people involved in prison ministry or in stopping the death penalty, we think you will find helpful information for people who are undecided about capital punishment, for those who have never experienced the inside of a jail or prison, and for those who feel called to participate through prayer and adoration.

Your name and information will never be used or shared with anyone. We promise!

Dale S. Recinella, Catholic Lay Chaplain, Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed

If you Like this Monthly Ezine - You will love Dale's Book!
The Poor Clare Sisters
Paperback: 433 pages

Excellent book on the topic!,
June 13, 2005 Nathan Eanes
(Review from

The Biblical Truth about America's Death Penalty is a must-read. It deals with Biblical standards of Capital Punishment and then compares them to the system used in America today. It is the best-researched, most faithful to scripture, and most evenhanded analysis I have ever read concerning the Death Penalty. Whatever your persuasion on the issue, this book will teach you a great deal. Recinella is a trained lawyer and committed Christian who now volunteers part-time on Florida's death row. He thus understands law, the Bible, and the system of execution in America. I challenge anyone who supports the Death Penalty to read this book.

This ezine edited by The Poor Clare Sisters of Spokane
to support the IWasInPrison Outreach