Study Guide

Dead Man Walking Religion

By Sister Helen Prejean


News flash: Sister Helen Prejean is a legit nun. So don't be surprised that religion is a big deal in Dead Man Walking.

The thing is, though, that while Prejean herself is motivated by her Catholic religion, and while her sympathy for Death Row inmates is connected to her faith (Jesus, after all, was an executed man, too), she's not here to make religious arguments; she wants to speak to everyone, Christians and non-Christians alike. In fact, it's not even the case that all Christians agree on the death penalty; even some of Prejean's fellow Catholics support it.

You can't abolish the death penalty in the U.S. just by talking about faith; the U.S. has a lot of Christians in it, but it's a secular country, with Church separated from state, so to get rid of the death penalty, you need to make secular arguments as well as religious ones.

Questions About Religion

  1. How is Prejean's faith related to her social activism?
  2. Some people argue that the Bible condones capital punishment. What does Prejean say in response to these arguments?
  3. What does Prejean try to do as a spiritual advisor? Does she succeed?

Chew on This

Prejean's argument to end the death penalty is a Christian argument.

Prejean's argument to end the death penalty does not rely on Christianity.