Mike Huckabee and Jailhouse Conversions


Clemmons’ original104 year sentence for robbery was commuted by Huckabee. Clemmons’ track record of unabated violence after being released, culminating in his killing of 4 Washington state police officers certainly has left candidate Huckabee with some explaining to do.

People with higher political aspirations usually will not be in the sentence commuting business at all. But during Huckabee’s term as governor he commuted more sentences than the six states surrounding Arkansas combined.

A question I have yet to hear the former governor address: Did Huckabee’s Christian convictions lead him to set such an aggressive policy of  “second chances”?

The question becomes more unavoidable when we read the appeal Clemmons made to Huckabee while in jail:

“I come from a very good Christian family and I was raised much better than my actions speak,” Clemmons said in a clemency application brief to then-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2000. “I’m still ashamed to this day for the shame my stupid involvement in these crimes brought upon my family’s name.”…

“I have never done anything good for God, but I’ve prayed for him to grant me in his compassion the grace to make a start,” he said. “Now, I’m humbly appealing to you for a brand new start.”

The consensus view is that Maurice Clemmons not only murdered four police officers, but that Mike Huckabee’s political future died along with them.

I have to say that I find myself feeling a bit of sympathy for Mike Huckabee in all this.

More than once I have found myself on the receiving end of a heart-rending story about a ruined life, stupid choices and a desire to get it all right next time with a little help from “the Man upstairs”.

And I have wanted to believe that the person had really changed.

And if we could just find it in ourselves to give them a break..

But the lesson I have learned the hard way in these situations can be summed up in five words:

“Don’t tell me, show me.”

John the Baptist eloquently expressed this Biblical principle:

Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.  And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke3:7-9)

To repent – that is to have a change of mind about life, that results in a change of heart toward God – always results in a visible, tangible change of life.

Right words, or even a display of seemingly right emotions aren’t sufficient.

Mike Huckabee, as a student of God’s Word, would have been better served to remind Maurice Clemmons that even though God offers full and complete forgiveness for our sins, the surest sign that we have received that gift isn’t a spiritually worded appeal to avoid the consequences of wrong doing.

The surest sign of a genuine change of heart would have been an acknowledgment of the pain caused and a willingness to accept the due results of such actions.

What if Clemmons had written to the governor saying, “I know that I have sinned against God and have hurt my fellow-man. I would ask you to allow me to learn from my mistakes as best I can. Perhaps the Lord can still use me in this prison situation to reach out to others  with the hope I have now in Christ. Please pray that I would remember that others have served the Lord as prisoners. I don’t ask you to give me physical freedom from my circumstances, because  no matter where I find myself  I am free in Christ.” ?

That would have been the fruit of true repentance.

And true repentance would have kept Maurice Clemmons in jail.

And if Maurice Clemmons was in jail today, four heroic Washington police officers would still be alive.

And Maurice Clemmons would still be among the living as well.

Can people really change?

Yes.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (II Corinthians 5:17)

But that new life has to show itself as more substantial than just words on a page, or tears in the eyes of a jail-bird who has learned to sing gospel.

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