Death penalty undermines Jesus' redemptive work on the cross - Shane Claiborne

Christian author and activist Shane Claiborne

Shane Claiborne has spoken out against the death penalty, saying that it "undermines the redemptive work that Jesus did on the cross" and "the possibilities of redemption". 

The Simple Way founder made the comments during a wideranging discussion with the Institute on Religion & Democracy that also touched on abortion. 

During the online conversation, Claiborne said he took up the issue of the death penalty - legal in 30 states across the US - because it wasn't being given the same attention by Christians as abortion. 

He went further, to argue that Christians have been "obstacles" when it comes to the prevalence of gun violence and the death penalty in America, and that the Bible Belt should be re-branded as the "death belt". 

"I got involved in the death penalty partly because I saw that there were a lot of Christians that were vocal on abortion and other issues," he said.

"But gun violence and the death penalty, we actually haven't been the champions of life. We have been the obstacles. That is why I wrote a book around both of those because I saw the death penalty."

The activist, who hails from Tennessee, continued: "The death penalty wouldn't stand a chance in America if it weren't for Christians.

"The Bible Belt is the death belt. Where 85% of the executions happen is in the Bible Belt. It's also the states that held on to slavery the longest.

"That became very problematic for me. I think the questions that are raised by the death penalty, they are very deeply theological questions, right?"

In an interview with Christian Today last year during a visit to the UK to celebrate the YMCA's 175th anniversary, Claiborne said Christians should embrace a consistent life ethic in which they "stand for life from womb to tomb". 

"We like to say that we are pro life, but we have defined that so narrowly in terms of abortion that in the US you can say you are pro life and yet be pro death penalty, pro guns, pro military, anti environment; pretty much pro death on every other issue," he said.