Here’s the Q:
Hi Brian,
I have had my eyes opened and mind blown by your writings and have so far read A Generous Orthodoxy and Everything must change and have started a conversation group, as I feel this book is pertinent for us in South Africa at this time
A question for you…….
 South Africa is known as the murder capital of the world and has more killing than any other country outside of a country at war. The rape of children is horrendous and  has occurred in 6 month old  babies  and others, who now live with colostomies and extensive surgery to repair the huge damage done. Physically they are able to live but mentally and emotionally are destroyed . Women are brutally raped and tortured before being murdered and every day we live with brutal torturuous farm murders , high jackings and cash in transit heists where people are killed.
In Genesis it says that the man who takes another’s life must pay with his own life but then Jesus says that it is no longer an eye for and eye etc. I am calling for the death penalty along with a large percentage of black and white people. What are your thoughts?
Here’s the R:
This is a really difficult and important question … The best response isn’t a blog post, but a book …
My friend Shane wrote a really good book addressing our shared concerns about the death penalty: Executing Grace
Here’s a video of him talking about it:
2. People argue about whether the death penalty deters crime. I think the “no” data is more convincing. Here’s a summary of both sides from US statistics.
3. There is a Buddhist principle called the law of interdependent origination (among other names). It’s similar to Jesus’ and Paul’s words that we reap what we sow. And here’s how I think it best applies to this situation …
If we sow the conditions that lead for violence, we will reap violence … violence by criminals, violence by governments, etc.
If we respond to violence with violence, we plant more seeds that will grow more violence.
If we sow the conditions that lead to nonviolence, we will reap nonviolence.
That’s why I think we should put our best and strongest efforts into addressing the conditions that create violence … economic inequality, educational inequality, unequal justice, etc. If the conditions that create violence are present, violence will be present. If we change those conditions, we will reduce violence.
In my opinion, the death penalty is an attempt to stop crime on the back end of the consequences rather than the front end of the conditions.
I also think that we need to do our theological work (as I try to do in The Great Spiritual Migration.) Ultimately, whether we believe God is violent or nonviolent, we will tend to imitate our God, to be made in that God’s image. (I highly recommend Brian Zahnd on this subject too – especially A Farewell to Mars and Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God. 
But back to Shane’s work … I think it’s so worth your time:
 Also, I should add that I did a bit of research, and it doesn’t look like South Africa is actually the murder capital of the world. That “honor” belongs to Honduras. I point this out because our current president here in the US often follows a path well-trod by autocrats, authoritarians, and dictators around the world and throughout history, namely, exaggerating violence to stoke fear which makes frightened people all the more desperate to adhere to an authoritarian leader or party. Something we all need to pay attention to in these unstable times.

Brian McLaren