Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the death penalty

Gail Rice

Gail Rice
April 24, 2015

The death penalty may be especially tempting in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, but Christians should nevertheless resist the urge for vengeance.

Ted Mejan
April 24, 2015

Having read your comments this reader takes issue with your arguments in favor of life in prison without the possibility of parole. It is supposedly more christian to do that.
My take on this case is he deserves and should get the death penalty. He's a domestic combatant, the same category that he shares with other jihadists whom the military is fighting overseas. This guy chose to fight innocent Americans on American soil. These runners were celebrating the joy of participating in the Boston Marathon, not expecting any terrorists attack. How cowardly of them!
During WWII gen. Patton had no good word for cowards; and the ones he spoke to then in WWII were American soldiers. D. Tsarnaev's brother was killed by the authorities in Boston; good. D. Tsarnaev deserves no less.
Our systems of justice needs to execute those on deathrow quicker, and not have the American taxpayer pay more for their incarceration.

April 24, 2015

Your words here touch me very deeply, Gail, and I think you've succinctly made a very strong, very Christian case against the death penalty--one that I wholeheartedly endorse. Christ went to the cross for Tsarnaev as much as for you and for me. That's true regardless of your personal soteriology (about which finer points we need not be dogmatic to stand within historical Christian orthodoxy). It's true whether Tsarnaev ultimately claims Christ as his Lord and Savior or lives out his life in prison miserably rejecting Him. We can't control that part of his life, but you're absolutely right: the death penalty would cut off the possibility entirely, and as Christians, we know that God shows similar patience with us in delaying the execution of judgment (2 Peter 3:15). Since Christ has already endured the death penalty for Tsarnaev, as followers of Christ we aren't OBLIGATED to execute that same justice against him. I'm not saying that it would be UNJUST to execute him. But I am saying that it wouldn't be unjust not to either, at least not for the Christian. I personally find it unlikely that a God who let his Son endure the cross for our sake would, in the final judgment, look harshly upon us for erring on the side of mercy. Plus, as one who has seen just enough from the other side of the bars and razor wire to know, I think the general public underestimates the weight of terror that a life without parole sentence brings. Honestly, I've struggled not in opposing the death penalty from a justice stance, but from a compassion stance. There are times--such as in the case of a young guy like this--when the death penalty, even delayed by years of appeals, would be far more merciful than decades of torment. But that's just me.

April 25, 2015

"It is tempting to say that Tsarnaev is sub-human and unredeemable. Yet I would urge Christians to reject that idea. Despite his horrible acts, Tsarnaev was created in the image of God and is loved by God. Who are we to say that there is no possibility for forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption in the case of any criminal?"

I absolutely love this. The same blood of Christ that washed you and me white as snow can completely wash away every last one of his sins and he can stand perfectly spotless before God. Why lessen the amount of time he has to be able to come to Christ? Especially when, as you said, the death penalty doesn't solve anything and only creates more victims and perpetuates the cycle of violence.

I've been praying daily for Jahar for two years, and I made a commitment to pray for him daily for the rest of my/his life (whichever ends sooner). It was as if God whispered into my ear and said "I love him. I want him. Pray for him." How I long for him to know the forgiveness that's freely offered him and for him to become my brother in Christ.

Please be praying for Jahar, his family, and his victims and their families.

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