A perceptive reader sent us this quote:  “I will stick with Martin Luther's statement – "I would rather be governed by a competent Turk (a/k/a Muslim) than an incompetent Christian."  (I think I have that right).”  It fits in well with this week's subject matter.

Today, we continue with our theme, “naïve Christians.”  You will see both today and tomorrow what we mean by this.  Once again, we do not exempt ourselves from this criticism.  There is no question many of us tend to believe certain things that may not be true just because we so want them to be true.  “My pastor would never view pornography.  He is Godly.”  And then our world caves in when we learn that he has such a problem.  That is because we want to believe that someone, anyone is beyond reproach.  Why?  Because if said person screws up, he shakes our faith because our faith is based on achievements and outside appearances, not a deep and sometimes painful understanding of our fallen nature and God’s grace.  Hence, the phoniness of many sitting the pews and standing in the pulpits.
Our thoughts on this matter run in many directions.  The first and second are a couple of questions.  If we believe that faith leads to a morally upright life, how do we apply this rule fairly in a secular society?  Secondly, does bias in favor of Christians, such as those in jail, make us “seem holier that thou,” especially since our faith cannot guarantee perfect actions, only perfect redemption?  We shall deal with these questions together.
Dee’s son had a soccer coach who is a wonderful man.  This red headed Scot converted to Islam a number of years ago.  He leads a morally upstanding life, campaigns actively for conservative candidates, agreed with her on many issues such as abortion and always called her, quite kindly, a “person of the Book.”  On that same team was the son of a Hindu cardiologist who is fascinated by evangelical beliefs.  As he and I dialogued over a number of years, he would make observations about such things as the high divorce rate among Christians and asked why, since Hindus in India and elsewhere have an exceedingly low divorce rate, didn’t Christians follow God in this area.
Here is the problem.  This is a diverse society.  Due to the wisdom of our founding fathers, many of whom were Christians, our Constitution has a “no establishment” clause which forbids the government from establishing a state church — an exceedingly good decision in our opinion.  Our country was founded on the belief that all men and women should be free to pursue the faith or beliefs of their choice.  We are obligated, as Americans, to hold all faiths and lack of faith with respect under the law even if we strongly disagree with their version of truth.
So, how does it look to a watching world if we use our Christian beliefs to show favoritism to other Christians when it comes to legal matters?  We have written about Valerie Tarico who is a graduate of Wheaton College and holds a doctorate in psychology.  She has left the faith and helps others who wish to do so as well.  Valerie wrote a book called The Dark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love and Truth.  Here is a link to it on Amazon.
Valerie is a respectful person and readily grants interviews to Christians to discuss her loss of faith in a warm and non-threatening way.  Recently, the Internet Monk interviewed her — here is the link to that interview.
Dee has corresponded via e-mail with Valerie Tarico on a number of occasions and finds her to be straightforward and respectful.  Here is what Valerie had to say about Mike Huckabee and his faith.

“Would Huckabee have been so forgiving if Clemmons was a Wiccan or an atheist or a Muslim?  That depends on how much he was driven by his Evangelicalism.  Evangelicals of Huckabee’s sort think that morality comes from Christianity.  That is why they are passionate about taking “dominion” and ruling the country according to biblical principles.  They ignore the fact that the lowest crime rates and teen pregnancies in the world are in the nations that also happen to have the lowest rates of religious belief.  They ignore the fact that the lowest rates of divorce and teen pregnancy the U.S.A.  are in the least religious regions.  Despite all evidence to the contrary, they think that the problems we face as a nation are caused by our increasing godlessness.

Conversely, in their estimation, a born-again Christian can be counted on to be a good person, to run an ethical business, or to make good decisions about war.  That is why evangelical businesses often display a Jesus fish or another Evangelical symbol.  It is their way of saying this business can be trusted.  It is also why, for many Evangelicals, it is irrelevant that G.W.  Bush or Sarah Palin might know little about foreign policy. That they know Jesus is enough."

I for one am weary of ignorance posing as righteousness and tribalism posing as compassion.  We will never know for sure if either played a role in Huckabee’s decision to commute the sentence of Maurice Clemmons, but we shouldn't have to even wonder.  Clemency decisions should be based on the best evidence available.  It is long past time for articles like this one to become irrelevant."

This sort of bias in legal circles portends ill for the witness of our faith in the public square.  Don’t even the worst of criminals show favoritism towards their own?

To make matters worse, is there any guarantee that someone who professes a faith would not commit more crime?  Also, why not grant commutations to a “good” Mormon, Hindu, or Muslim?  Might not they also be able to contribute to society since they have turned their lives around as well?  Please make no mistake about what we are saying.  We are solid evangelicals who believe the standard Christian beliefs.  We Christians do not hold the market on being “good.”  We are saved and have eternal life; however, there is no question that others can be morally and ethically sound even if they are not saved.  In fact, there are some faiths, such as Hinduism, which appear to be doing a better job than Christians in keeping families intact.

We evangelicals often complain that the liberal media loves to ridicule Christians who screw up.  But, don’t we bring it on ourselves when we naively believe a “born again” story or attempt to cover up for a fallen pastor?  Wouldn’t it be refreshing if, instead of griping about how the media reacts to such events, evangelicals would use these instances as an opportunity to share the Gospel’s understanding of sin?
Here is the third question.  How can I support the abolishment of the death penalty when those who are sentenced to 102 years in jail get released in 10 years for “good behavior?”  The Karla Fay Tucker story yesterday represents this difficulty for me.  I believed that Karla was sincere in her faith, but I had no guarantees that she had overcome, fully, her anger and rage.  Maybe Karla still had miles to go in learning how to control her impulses.  Perhaps she was “fully” cured.  I would have no difficulty in abolishing the death penalty if I could have a guarantee that in absolutely no circumstances such a criminal could be released; however, that is something the law appears unwilling or unable to do.

Here is a current story from North Carolina.

“Appeals court halts release of two 'life' inmates
Posted: Dec. 14, 2009
RALEIGH, N.C. — The state Court of Appeals on Monday afternoon halted the release of two inmates sentenced to life in prison, hours after a Superior Court judge ordered their release.
Judge Ripley Rand ruled Monday morning in the cases of convicted murderers Alford Jones and Faye Brown. Both were sentenced in the 1970s under an old law that defined a life sentence as 80 years.
Attorneys for both inmates argued last week that the old law, combined with good-behavior credits meant to reduce sentences, mean their clients' prison terms are complete. Correction officials said state law prohibits felons serving life prison sentences from receiving good behavior credits for purposes of unconditional release from prison. The credits were awarded only for purposes of earning a more favorable custody grade, for becoming eligible for parole or for a commutation of a sentence by the governor.
The story goes on to say, “Brown, 56, was convicted 34 years ago in Martin County of murder and sentenced to death after she and two acquaintances robbed a bank and one of the men shot Trooper Guy Thomas Davis Jr. of the state Highway Patrol. Her sentence was eventually commuted to a life sentence.
Jones was convicted of murder in Lenoir County 34 years ago for the shooting death of William B. Turner Sr. Likewise, his death sentence was commuted to life in prison."

The fourth concern is attempting to distinguish between true repentance and convenient repentance.  All of us are prone to lie when it serves our purposes.  (Come on, admit it!)  Imagine the incentive it would give the prison population to become “born again” if such a step would lead to “free, free, free at last!”  In many of the post apostolic communities, people could not become members of the church until they had spent a year studying and experiencing the faith.  They were called proselytes.  Today, in some circles, if a person has “walked the aisle’ he is ready to teach Sunday school.  How many come to Jesus for the wrong reasons?  In fact, how many come to Jesus but it isn’t the Jesus of the Scriptures?  In a couple of weeks, we will begin to explore the problems of the “health and wealth” gospel which is the epitome of the “believe to get something” mentality of some supposed Christians.
Tomorrow we will look specifically at the issue of pedophiles and other sexual sins and how we, as the church, sometimes exhibit naïve expectations in dealing with those who would commit these horrible crimes.  We also want to look at these issues, in part, through the eyes of the victims.

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