Life and Death

It was a really strange day in the news yesterday. In the U.S., unhealthy two men on death row were executed. And yet the majority of the news outlets, and the overwhelming discussion in my Twitter feed was only about one of them. For the most part, the discussions on the net were about how Troy Davis’ execution should be a reminder of how wrong the death penalty is. But no one seemed to be saying the same thing about James Byrd.

Is there a double-standard? If we’re going to be pro-life and anti-death penalty, should that apply not only to the case with cries of innocence, circumstantial evidence and recanting witnesses, but also to the case where the guy really truly did it?

Adding to the strangeness of the day, the Canadian news outlets were reporting that Canadian serial killer Clifford Olson is dying. Quoting the families of the victims, the report says that there is a feeling that once Olson is dead, justice will finally be served.

“I’ve waited 30 years for this,” said mother Terry Bizeau, whose daughter Terri Lyn Carson, 15, was strangled by the notorious child killer during his reign of terror across southern British Columbia three decades ago. “Once he is dead, justice will be done.”
Other families of the 11 slain children expressed similar sentiments after learning earlier this week from corrections officials that Olson is on his deathbed.
Dee Johnston, whose 13-year-old step-daughter Colleen Daignault was also killed added: “You raise (children) believing that you don’t wish him any harm, you don’t wish him dead, but deep down in our guts we do want him dead.”

Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976, so I have lived my entire life in a country without the death penalty. And I know that that influences my opinion on the subject. Before I was a Christian, my main reason for opposing the death penalty was because of the ‘what if’ cases, the wrongful prosecutions, the possibility of executing a person for a crime they did not commit. (The Guy Paul Morin case is a perfect example of this.)

But as I mature as a Christian, I find that my opposition to the death penalty is evolving to reflect my pro-life ethic. I look south of the border and think, “The U.S. should abolish the death penalty.” Life is life and we should protect all life.

And yet, despite my macro-level belief that the death penalty is wrong, there is still a micro-level where I wish Canada had the death penalty.

This micro-level exception is Paul Bernardo. Anyone who grew up in Southern Ontario knows of Paul Bernardo. In the 90’s, Paul and his wife Karla, abducted three women and did horrible, horrible things to them. And this was on the heels of Bernardo’s late eighties run as the Scarborough Rapist.

Whenever Bernardo appears in the news, there is overwhelming gut reaction that makes me want to scream, “die you scumbag.” For all of my maturing, and all of my beliefs that life is valuable, I don’t want Paul Bernardo to be a recipient of that. He doesn’t deserve it. All life is valuable, except his. And even worse, I don’t want him to die by the relatively painless lethal injection. No, I want to see him fried on the electric chair. Or hung in the public square. Or executed by a firing squad. He needs to die painfully and publicly.

So much for my Christian, pro-life, anti-death penalty ideals. Just one exception and my ethics fly out the window. I honestly don’t know what to do about that.