Similarly, it's oddly consistent that most advocates of the death penalty also happen to be pro-life. So a question for those pro-life/pro-death penalty persons out there: how can a culture that fails to take seriously and with appropriate gravity the life and death of one helpless segment of its society (the unborn) be trusted with the power over the life and death of another helpless segment?
Regarding the death by firing squad of Ronnie Lee Gardner just a year ago, Joseph Bottum writes at First Things,
"There is, in fact, only a single reason that Ronnie Lee Gardner died last night—a single explanation that makes any sense at all. And it is that he deserved it. The murder he committed twenty-five years ago still cries to the heavens for justice.
And maybe it does. Certainly it does. But where, exactly, does the State of Utah get the authority to answer the calls on heaven? Where, exactly, does a modern nation, founded on no deliberate godly principle, derive its power to kill in the name of high justice? This is a nation, after all, that refused—with the infamous “mystery” passage in Casey v. Planned Parenthood—to protect the unborn, precisely because, the Supreme Court said, no such metaphysical foundation can be imposed by government. So where do these assertions of divinely based power for the death penalty come from?"
He goes on to answer the obvious objections that arise based on the standard reflexive and careless use of Romans 13:1-7 to legitimate the act and then closes by bringing it steering his post toward the direction in which I started mine, i.e. trust/distrust (which is it?) of government and the devolution of society's moral consciousness:
"More to the point, there is nothing in Paul that demands death in every situation of punishment. And if we don’t have to kill a prisoner, in the ordinary social justice that demands protection of citizens, then we have a responsibility not to kill a prisoner. The death of Ronnie Lee Gardner last night, four .30-caliber bullets in his heart, was unauthorized, wrong, and foolish.
We have so devolved that we kill even while we cannot explain how we are allowed to take matters of life and death into our hands. And that is a door I fear to watch our government—or any government—walk through."