Joe Carter has an excellent article on the Huckabee pardons at First Things. He reviewed them as a researcher for the Huckabee campaign. His article is sympathetic, but it casts serious doubt on Huckabee’s judgement.
After reviewing hundreds of cases and interviewing numerous people involved in the process, I concluded to my own satisfaction that the governor’s actions and judgment were generally defensible. Yet there remained about a half-dozen situations in which even after reviewing all of the information I was unpersuaded that justice had been served. Although I was sympathetic with some of the justifications offered for making the decisions, I found them inadequate for a number of reasons….
For instance, the politically prudent tactic would have been to simply refuse to grant any leniency—ever. Other governors with their sights set on higher offices had learned that doing nothing—even to correct obvious instances of injustice—was unlikely to cause any long-term political damage. Keeping an innocent man in prison is less harmful to an ambitious politician than freeing someone who may commit other crimes.
Huckabee would certainly discover this political reality the hard way. Initially, I chalked it up solely to extraordinary political courage. Later, I tempered this view when I realized that this courage was mixed with a large dose of cluelessness. The governor seemed genuinely surprised that he was held responsible for the criminal acts committed by those whose sentences he had commuted as governor. It was as if he believed that simply having noble intentions and a willingness to make tough decisions would provide political cover. The notion that he should be accountable for future crimes committed by these men seemed as foreign to him as the idea that he should refuse all leniency. …
Judging from the records, the governor also seemed to put a lot of weight on conversion stories—a common trait among evangelicals, who believe the gospel is sufficient for restoration and redemption of character.
Carter quotes someone else as saying
What Huckabee misjudged is his ability to judge the character of a convicted murderer and rapists, a lapse out of a character for a pastor who believes in the sinful nature of an — or a lapse in character for a pastor who believes in redemption.
Here’s my comment
Very astute. We evangelicals are suckers for redemption stories. It is good that we believe in miracles. The problem is that the dominant belief in America is no longer the Puritan Total Depravity but the Methodist Moral Perfectibility, even though (or perhaps *because*) the pastors don’t teach theology to their flocks. Thus, we have the idea that church people don’t sin— at least not most church people— reinforced by nobody wanting to admit that they sin. Just one step further, and we have the idea that somebody who has converted will stop sinning.
And of course we’re rather gullible too, easily satisfied with words. We trust someone who says he’s changed and become a slave of Jesus even if he’s living with his girlfriend, shirking on child-support payments to his ex-wife, and selling pornography at the gas station where he works. It isn’t considered polite to question whether someone else’s faith is true.