Christian activist, author and self-proclaimed “recovering redneck,” Shane Claiborne, said this week that America’s Bible Belt should really be known as the “death belt,” warning that the pro-life ethic should be applied consistently.
Claiborne, a progressive Christian speaker based in Philadelphia and a leader in the New Monasticism movement, joined the leader of the conservative-leaning think-tank Institute on Religion & Democracy Wednesday for a conversation on subjects including just war theory, the death penalty, and abortion.
Claiborne, who grew up in “the hills” of East Tennessee, spoke about how he used to be in favor of the death penalty but later had a hard time reconciling that belief. He contends that capital punishment “undermines the redemptive work that Jesus did on the cross” and “the possibilities of redemption.”
“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 death penalty wouldn’t stand a chance in America if it weren’t for Christians,” Claiborne asserted. “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?”
Claiborne’s 85% figure comes from 2016 research done by the advocacy group I Was In Prison, which found that over 85% of the 1,419 executions at state prisons since 1976 have been carried out in Bible Belt states.
The Bible Belt is an informal region of the southern and Midwest U.S. The area became known for its predominance of adherents to conservative Protestant faith traditions. Amnesty International found in 2012 that since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, 82% of death penalty cases have occurred in the southern U.S.
In a 2015 op-ed published by The Washington Post, Claiborne quoted Catholic Florida death row chaplain and I Was In Prison founder Dale Recinella, who said: “The Bible belt has become the death belt.”
“Is anybody beyond redemption?” Claiborne asked IRD President Mark Tooley. “How much do we trust imperfect institutions like our government with the irreversible power of life and death?”
Claiborne was also critical of the rate of gun ownership among evangelical Christians.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith