Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Politics, Religion and Rape

In a sea of evangelical hypocrisy, Dr Fortune's piece is refreshing. And speaking of the combination of politics and religion, if you haven't seen this documentary about President Bush's faith-based decision making, check it out. If you have, perhaps this election season is a good time to watch it again. You can watch it online.

Politics, Religion and Rape
December 19, 2007
As presidential politics play out, Republican candidate Mike Huckabee has been challenged to answer questions about his involvement in the release of convicted rapist Wayne DuMond after DuMond's religious "conversion."
Some supporters believed DuMond was innocent; others believed him guilty but "saved." Either way they wanted him out of prison. The problem is that this particular rapist, after his "conversion" and release, went on to murder his wife.
Pastor Jay D. Cole counseled DuMond while he was in prison and Cole advocated for DuMond's release with then Gov. Huckabee and the Parole Board. Both Cole and Huckabee, a former pastor, were taken in by DuMond's "conversion." This situation raises fundamental questions about accountability for perpetrators in a context of Christian faith.
The intersection of accountability and faith poses challenges for elected officials and judges as well as for clergy and congregations. It is not unusual for a perpetrator to "find Jesus" on his way to court or while in prison as a means to try to manipulate the system and avoid the consequences of his actions.
Unfortunately, the naivete of some Christian pastors or lay leaders influences their decision-making in matters that affect public safety like the possible release of violent offenders. They may be quick to respond to an offender with "cheap grace" which does not help the offender be accountable and may in fact endanger the community.
The other issue raised here is the absence of equanimity in these cases. In 1998, Karla Fay Tucker was executed in Texas after her conviction for murder. Her plea from death row was turned down by then Gov. George W. Bush in spite of her "conversion" and convincing evidence of its legitimacy in her statements and her work in prison. She did not seek release but only to escape the death penalty. She was willing to be accountable for her crimes.
Religious conversion in Christianity is grounded in repentance for sin-in this case, the sin of violence done to another person. Ezekiel describes repentance as getting "a new heart and a new spirit" (Ezekiel 18:20). In Luke's Gospel (chapter 19), we read about Zacchaeus, the cheating tax collector, who is confronted by Jesus and then volunteers to repay those whom he exploited four times what he stole. This is repentance and restitution. The purpose is to bring forth healing for both victim and offender.
Religious and secular leaders have a responsibility to be smart and informed, critical and merciful when called upon to intervene on behalf of convicted perpetrators so that justice may actually prevail.
Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune Founder and Senior Analyst FaithTrust Institute

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