I’m sick and tired of people, who commit heinous crimes and then plead for leniency afterward, claiming religious conversion (usually Christian regeneration).
Phillip Garrido is the latest example, and–sadly–our system fell for it. Jaycee Dugard paid the price.
For the record: Garrido is no Christian. His ideas are not just heretical even by liberal standards, they are beyond delusional.
That said, even if he were a Christian, he still should never have been released from prison. Christian regeneration does not obviate the debt one owes to society. This is because the societal treatment of the crime is a statement that society makes about the severity of the offense, and the things that they deem are important.
When a person commits a violent crime against another person, the punishment of the criminal tells a story of what society thinks of the severity of the crime, the worth of the victim, and even the worth of the offender.
(After all, by accepting the fine, and/or prison time, and/or execution–of the offender, the restitution given by the offender is a statement of worth of the offender. This is another reason why–in a theological sense–salvation is not of works: even partial atonement of sin is not something that humans can manufacture.)
So, in Garrido’s case, what would a more Christian response look like?
To that, I point to Kang Kek Iew, who was one of the principal henchmen in the Khmer Rouge massacres, which resulted in the deaths of nearly a quarter of the Cambodian population. Later in life, he became a Christian and had the fruits to show for it.
Did he try the, “Well…what I did before, was before I became a Christian. I am a new person now. Therefore, I am pleading for leniency.” No.
He made no excuses. He asked for no leniency. He accepted full responsibility for his actions. He offered to accept the worst punishment they had to offer.
A repentant heart displays a humility that accepts the premise that society owes no leniency in punishment. A repentant heart is not merely sorry for the bad outcomes, but rather their actions that led to them.
When you see a rapist say, “I did it, your honor. I don’t deserve a damned bit of leniency from your court, and anything I get short of the death penalty will be better than I deserve,” then you’ll know there’s some repentance. Still, it behooves society to punish the crime severely.
After all, redemption or not, we owe it to the victims–and our future generations–to send a definitive statement about our values. Letting rapists, child molesters, and murderers walk the streets–free to terrorize innocent people–does not convey a value system worth preserving.