Repent ye, Sinners!

Today, Gerry Charlotte Phelps is celebrating the anniversary of her imprisonment (she was a 1960s college radical).  While in prison, she found God and turned her life around.  Thinking about her, it struck me that one huge difference between liberals and conservatives is their attitude towards sinners.

On the one hand, liberals embrace the unrepentant sinner (e.g., Bill Ayers, Mumia Abu Jamal, and Stanley “Tookie” Williams, all of whom are liberal causes célèbres).  On the other hand, conservatives embrace the repentant sinner (e.g., Chuck Colson, Gerry Charlotte Phelps, and Oliver North, all of whom served their time and made the best of their new lives.)  That speaks volumes about liberal and conservative attitudes towards personal responsiblity, societal obligations, justice, and law and order, doesn’t it?

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  • Charles Martel

    All of the “progressive” (statist) heroes you named have one thing in common: They are all their own gods. Ayers, Mumia and Tookie all worship (or worshipped in Tookie’s pathetic case) themselves. When you are a god, you may take human life with abandon.

    These sociopaths resonate with so many “progressives” (statists) because most leftists are themselves the centers of their existence. They are their own gods, therefore approve of others who act the same way.

    There’s also an element of reinforcement. Reality has a way of bitch-slapping solipsists and the self-centered (ask Obama about that), which produces a lot of angry wannabe gods. In some cases it leads many “progressives” (statists) to begin questioning whether self-godhood is such a great thing. But just as they’re wavering, along comes an icon like Billy or Mumia to remind them how noble it is to never admit to an evil deed or ask forgiveness for it.

  • CollegeCon

    I can’t say I agree with this. What if someone had been a conservative before being imprisoned and come out a liberal? I think that the definition of “repentance” in this case is just too narrowly defined by ideology.

  • Gringo


    I can’t say I agree with this. What if someone had been a conservative before being imprisoned and come out a liberal? I think that the definition of “repentance” in this case is just too narrowly defined by ideology.

    I would suggest that you read some of their stories before writing glib one-liners. I can’t speak for Oliver North, but for Colson and for Phelps, repentance was defined not by political ideology, but by theology. They both had conversion experiences to Christianity in prison. Both had committed crimes in pursuit of their political views. Colson was a conservative hatchet-man for President Nixon who went to jail for Watergate-related crimes. Phelps was a left-wing economics instructor at the University of Houston who robbed a liquor store to raise funds for an anti-Vietnam War newspaper.

    It has been years since I have read much about Colson, so others may wish to correct me. My impression is that his prison experience did modify Colson’s conservative views somewhat. While he was most likely a “lock them up and throw away the key” type of conservative with regards to prisoners, his time as a prisoner and later as a minister to prisoners showed him that prisoners can reform. Does that mean that he votes Democratic? Don’t know.

    While Phelps converted to Christianity while in prison, she did not change her left-wing political views while in prison. Nor did she change her left-wing political views for sometime after her time on the outside: as a seminary student, minister, administrator and fundraiser for homeless shelters and church-based charities. Her 1984 Master’s Thesis at the University of Texas, The economic power structure of the United States, completed some 7 years after she was released from prison, reflected the left-wing views she had before she went to prison.

    It was not her prison experience but her time on the outside helping the poor, that changed her political views. Political Turnings , from Out of the Iron Furnace, a book about her imprisonment and afterward, describes her gradual changes in her political views.

    The difference between Ayers on the one hand, and Phelps and Colson on the other, is that Ayers has rigidly maintained his political views virtually unchanged for the last 40 years, whereas Colson and Phelps have been adaptable to allow experience to modify their theological and political views.

    Rigidly unchanged viewpoints: sounds like the liberal stereotype of conservatives, does it not?

  • Earl

    Sounds a great deal like the “projection” that someone was commenting on the other day – in a different thread.

  • Ymarsakar

    What if someone had been a conservative before being imprisoned and come out a liberal? I think that the definition of “repentance” in this case is just too narrowly defined by ideology.

    It’s too narrowly defined by the lack of experience concerning the differences between such scenarios.

    There is no “what if” here. There is only “what difference” it makes.

    Until you can find a difference, it would be premature to conclude anything concerning the effects of ideological constriction.

  • Ymarsakar

    The closest real life example you could dredge up would be Helen, a sometimes commenter right here.

    She was conservative and then she claimed she turned to the Light (the Left). But in reality, of course, once you delve past the blandishments, Helen never had a fundamental conservative foundation for her views because she had never studied history by herself. She had simply assumed and taken on faith that America was good, because other people told her so. So when she went into the university or had other Leftist conditioning set in, she had no defenses to say “this is false and what I believe is true”. What Helen took on faith before, she discarded, and what she believes now, she believes in it based upon faith.

    It doesn’t need to make sense, it just is. And that is one example of a difference.

    People don’t change on a dime. Those that do, never had real beliefs to begin with.