The Governor and the Murderer

Much has been made of Gov. Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. Richard Cohen, one of the liberals whose smug, angry prose is frequently splashed across the editorial page of The Washington Post, disagrees. This morning’s column insists that Baptist Mike Huckabee, rather than Mormon Mitt Romney, should be the first “to do as [Catholic] John F. Kennedy once did and make a speech explaining why his religion is not a threat to our cherished American way of life”.

It may surprise this blog’s regular readers that I think Mr. Cohen might have had a point, but I do. Unfortunately, Mr. Cohen missed it, overlooking the most striking example of the dangers of Gov. Huckabee’s application of his religious views, preferring instead to go off on an anti-Bush tangent, claiming that the president has “infused government with religion” through his “adamant refusal to authorize federal spending for most embryonic stem-cell research” and other policy decisions–as though any policy question with a moral dimension must only be decided on the side of indulgence lest religion be thought to restrict govenment from venturing beyond its proper function to secure the Creator-endowed inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Should the laws against homicide be repealed, then, since the Bible commands, “Thou shalt not murder”?

If so, perhaps that explains why Mr. Cohen failed to cite the most bizarre episode of Mike Huckabee’s governorship, when his simplistic misapplication of Christian values led him to a decision that was not only wrong but profoundly tragic.

Gov. Huckabee’s belief in “the concept of Christian forgiveness” is correct, but indulging it at the expense of public justice is not. And that’s what happened in the case of Wayne Dumond, who was serving time for raping 17-year-old Ashley Stevens, who happened to be a distant relative of another Baptist Arkansas governor from Hope with presidential hopes, Bill Clinton.

With Gov. Huckabee’s support, Mr. Dumond was paroled–and then moved to Missouri, where he sexually assaulted and murdered another woman.

According to the self-appointed Forgiver-in-Chief of Arkansas, “nobody could know” that Mr. Dumond would offend again.

Actually, Ashley Stevens knew. After Gov. Huckabee announced his intention to free Mr. Dumond, Ms. Stevens requested–and got–a meeting with him. “If you ever let him out, he’s going to do it again,” the young woman told the Governor. Seeing that he had already “made up his mind”, Ms. Stevens stood up, walked over to the sofa-seated Governor, squatted down, and thrust her face inches from his. “I said, ‘This is how close I was to Dumond’s face for an hour,'” she later recalled. “‘I’ll never forget his face, and you’ll never forget mine.'”

Mike Huckabee is most likely a good man and a sincere Christian. But to the extent that he allows a simplistic understanding of Christian tenets to lure him into political decisions that run afoul of the government’s duty to secure those Creator-endowed rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, voters should be wary.

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3 thoughts on “The Governor and the Murderer

  1. This is one of the most goofed-up things in Christianity, or rather the most conspicuous thing that keeps coming up. Pop culture’s idea of Christianity is badly twisted on this point, but the Church is part of the problem.

    Jesus tells me to turn the other cheek if someone hits me.

    But notice how it is ME deciding about MY OWN cheek. I can choose to accept being wronged, which is quite obviously a sort of sacrifice or gift or worship to God. I could get in a brawl with the offender. But — in deference to God and for no other reason — I obey God and accept the wrong, purely to honor God. NOTICE: Does a Christian have the right to defend himself? Of course! So this is a personal choice that only I can make for only myself. If I choose to accept being wronged, it is between me and God.

    So obviously I can never turn someone else’s cheek! If someone else is being hit or abused or worse, it is my moral DUTY to come to their assistance.

    If I am to take the 2nd Greatest Commandment explained by Jesus seriously (love your neighbor as yourself) and Jesus’ further comment that “greater love has no man than this, but that he lay down his life for his friend.” (from memory, excuse me), then I MUST intervene when I see someone being hurt or abused…. even if I lose my own life in the process.

    Whereas I should forgive someone hurting ME, I MUST NOT overlook someone hurting someone else.

    The very same love that motivates me to forgive and overlook offenses for me and me alone requires the exact opposite response in terms of protecting other people. I MUST NOT overlook a wrong against someone else, but should be willing to lay down my life if necessary to protect someone else from harm.

    So applying Jesus’ teachings, we come to the same result that is explicitly stated in Romans 13. The state has been charged by God, and given the sword, to protect its citizens by enforcing the law. It is God’s plan for the government to have the power to enforce laws to protect people. Jesus’ teachings about our own personal morality DO NOT APPLY TO GOVERNMENTS protecting their citizens from harm.

    When a prisoner commits a violent crime or crime endangering people, one cannot forgive that criminal without also considering the victims and those placed in danger by his release.

    Even for each of us personally, the fact that God forgives us does not always save us from the consequences of our actions.

  2. Oh, and also, Gov. Huckabee confused our personal duty to forgive with the government’s responsibility to enforce the law.

    The government cannot forgive: that is not its responsibility, and, in any case, only a person can offer forgiveness.

  3. You see, this is one of the things that can happen when Christians try to exercise the forgiveness of God, without remembering His judgment. There is a balance!

    Certainly, God can forgive us our sins, and we ought to forgive others’ sins against us, as we are commanded. But that does not negate the need for us to deal with the consequences of our sins. Yes, God rescues believers from the eternal consequence of damnation, but He rarely takes us out of the earthly consequences.

    After all, He is our Father! And what good father refuses to discipline his children, firmly and lovingly, so that they can correct their behavior and improve their character?

    As you said, I’m sure Gov. Huckabee is a sincere Christian, but – even though he’s an ordained minister – he appears to be a pretty immature one…

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