This article on the Washington Post’s On Faith website brought interesting questions to light about Mike Huckabee. Huckabee has been in the news recently because of Maurice Clemmons, the man who was shot and killed by police in relation to four officers deaths in Washington state. Clemmons was in prison in Arkansas back when Huckabee was governor and Huckabee commuted his sentence.
Huckabee, a former pastor turned politician, has suffered much criticism before for his criteria for commuting sentences while governor (he granted 1033 pardons and commutation while governor from 1996-2007). The former pastor was more likely to grant pardons for people who found religion, or where being recommended for them by pastors.
The interesting questions start coming. Should someones religion affect their policy decisions this much when in a public office? Can one be a merciful follower of Jesus and be in charge of a criminal justice system?
In this case, Huckabee was not the only one who failed. Clemmons was arrested and released on bail between 2000, when Huckabee commuted his sentence, and now. There are others the responsibility falls on, but the problem still exists? How can a government official, who is supposed to seek complete justice and protection of citizens, really show mercy for crimes? Is it even showing true mercy to release a prisoner or is that an easy-way-out mercy?
Where is the line?
This weekend I went to a conference in Dallas called the Right Now Conference. The theme was about being a “trader” of the American dream for the Kingdom of Heaven. Trading in what our culture calls important for something that we know the Lord places importance on, such as poverty, fatherless children, orphans, your neighbors in need, and even prisoners.
The ministry breakout session I chose to go to was the one for Prisoner Fellowship. I see the heart of God so much in people who have the ability to have compassion on those in prison. When I learned of the statistics of prisoners, it was heart breaking. 95% of male inmates grew up without a father. 67% of inmates will be incarcerated again. Prisoner Fellowship wants to tackle those issues. They are trying to help inmates both in prison and when they are released (94% of inmates will be released), they are also trying to highlight the issues that get people incarcerated to begin with.
It is a great ministry. I hope you check out their website.
The last time I can remember when the purpitrator of a mass tragedy lived and was actual brought to justice was Timothy McVeight after the Oklahoma City bombing. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the man who went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, will face charges and the consequences of his actions and it all will play out in front of the American public.
This can be a healing process for the country and more so the families of the victims. Bringing someone to justice before our eyes, seeing that people do have to pay for wrongs. I think it is good for justice to be served in that way.
I think we also have a great opportunity here to get a glimpse into why people do things like this. We can talk with Hasan, see his motivation, his reasoning, his thought process, and understand what exactly it is that pushes people over the edge.
Compassion seems hard to come by after a man killed 13, many of whom were very young, but it is essential. He will pay for his crime, but we need to also acknowledge that we, after just as many bad days, maybe less or maybe more, are capable of everything he has done. I do not want to make excuses for him, but only to realize that he is a human, who made a terrible choice, but one that every human is able to make, and getting down to the whys of that choice is going to take compassion and patience, and some gentle understanding.
The tragedy at Fort Hood is sad and sobering. It reminds us all how precious life is in the violent world we live in. I hope that those that lost their lives will be remember for spurring us on to compassion and understanding, not hate and vengeance.
My heart goes out to the family of the victims. I pray for healing from this evil committed against you.
Rob Dreher’s column this week in the Dallas Morning News about Gov. Rick Perry’s investigation into the possible execution of an innocent man in Texas brings up lots of questions about capital punishment in a democracy.
The United States is great because we have a justice system on which people are judged by everyday citizens, a jury. A jury is fought for by both the prosecution and the defense and most times is a pretty good representation of the city that the trial is held in. A jury is another form of representative government. A juror represents his community in a trial. So when an innocent man is convicted and executed, that falls on the society as a whole, not just the judges, leaders, or even jurors who were apart of process.
That being said, the circumstances that lead up to the current scandal over the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham for the murder of his children is shady at best. An independent forensic team had discovered new evidence, and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles was about to investigate before Gov. Perry stepped in. Now that it all has come to light after the execution of Willingham, many are horrified.
Why would anyone want to execute a man if there was any reasonable doubt of his innocence?
This brings to question capital punishment altogether. As a Christian am I to be for execution or against it? I mean I believe in justice, and there are definitely situations where I can think of that warrant someone being put to death, but as a Christian, should I be for the death of anyone?
If I believe that the Lord can redeem all things, do I need to fight for that even for criminals of the worst kind? How can I fight for both justice and mercy? How should the Church, in Texas especially, be reacting to the possible execution of an innocent man?
At the end of his article Dreher makes a compelling point:
“It’s much harder to live with painful truths than with comforting lies. But a people who would be on the side of right have no choice.”
I hope that I choose to live with painful truths while working towards healing and making them right rather than comforted by lies while everything falls apart around me.
This blog post by Gareth Higgins on the Sojourners website is probably the best analysis of the Roman Polanski fiasco I have read.
I agree with Mr. Higgins actually. I think that actions should have consequences, but we pretend that the world is black and white, when really it is more shades of grey. It is scarier to understand that people who commit crimes are just that, people who made poor decisions. Instead we like to think of them as murderers, rapists, thieves, and the like. We cover them in their crimes.
Getting down into the nitty-gritty and trying to help people learn how to make better choices is hard and messy work. Its a lot easier to throw them behind bars and sleep at night. What are we to do?
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Matthew 25:31-46 ESV
Jesus calls righteousness taking care of those who need it, and he puts prisoners in that category. I think in our calls for justice for the victims, we also need to remember that those on the wrong side of the law need our mercy as well.