Amid the seismic shifts happening within American Christianity, a growing number of the faithful now oppose the death penalty. The Catholic Church has long repudiated the death penalty, and many mainline Protestant denominations do too. Though evangelical Christians have generally favored the death penalty, even the National Association of Evangelicals has shrunk back from its previously supportive stance.
Enter Shane Claiborne, an evangelical leader and author who has recently released a book, “Executing Grace: How the death penalty killed Jesus and why it is killing us.” Unlike some of his progressive Christian compatriots, Claiborne’s approach is Jesus-centric. He wrestles with the issue through the lens of Jesus’ story, teachings, and crucifixion. On the latter, Claiborne emphasizes that Jesus was himself killed by means of capital punishment. Here we discuss what how he believes the executed first-century rabbi changes the way we should think about state-sanctioned death.