Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bleeding-heart universalism

I am interested in the question of whether one can speak in any meaningful way of God loving a person whom God has reprobated.

The issue that interests me would be met in this way: take any conception of love that can be found in Scripture, and explain how it is make sense to say that God loves person X, given the fact that person X was reprobated before the foundation of the world.

Of course, perhaps Calvinists can't answer that question affirmatively. If so, can they just say so? Even if Calvinists can say that God doesn't love everyone, could they say so?

Several issues:

i) I recently answered that very question in response to Jason Pratt. And that got started on Reppert’s very own blog.

So, why, in the context of a post on Triablogue, does he act as if no one at Triablogue has ever answered that question before?

ii) I’d add though, that his question is a trick question. It’s not as if the Scriptural conception of love is the only issue. The Scriptural conception of love can’t be separated from the Scriptural conception of justice.

iii) And it’s a trick question in another respect. It’s not as if Reppert’s objection is limited to the Reformed doctrine of reprobation. No, Reppert objects to the principle of retributive justice as a basis for everlasting punishment.

Even if we denied reprobation, he would have another objection right behind that. For him, it’s not just a question of whether God loves a person he has reprobated, but whether God loves a person he has damned.

iv) Moreover, it’s not as if Scripture conceives of love in merely indiscriminate terms. If the Good Shepherd loves his flock of sheep, that doesn’t mean he also loves the pack of wolves.

v) Furthermore, it isn’t possible to be equally loving to all sinners. Loving one sinner can come at the expense of loving another sinner.

Take the case of Lawrence Singleton and Mary Vincent. What would be the loving thing for a judge to do? Would it be more loving for a judge to commit Singleton to a mental facility to rehabilitate him, if possible? Would remedial justice be the loving remedy?

Well, remedial punishment might be more loving for Singleton. That might be more loving for his mother. Remedial punishment would be more loving than retributive punishment in their case.

Would that also be more loving for Vincent? If she were in court that day, when the loving judge handed down this loving sentence, would that show love for her situation?

In a moment, I’m going to reproduce some of the graphic details of Singelton’s criminal career. If Reppert were speaking to Vicent face-to-face, what would he say to her, exactly? I want to hear how he goes about explaining to her why it’s better to treat Singleton as lovingly as possible rather than subject him to retributive punishment alone.

Singleton got a way with things because bleeding-heart lawmakers couldn’t bring themselves to mete out harsh punishment. Cuz that would be way too unloving, ya know.

And he also got away with things because he had so many loving friends. Unfortunately, his friends were not as loving where his victims were concerned.

Nothing is crueler than misplaced compassion.

On a cloudy Wednesday, Feb. 19, now 69-year-old Lawrence Singleton began his day by installing a drainpipe alongside his newly renovated home in the Orient Park neighborhood of east Tampa, Fla. He'd transformed the abandoned barracks his brother Herb bought him into a showplace. His yard was perfectly preened. He fastidiously wiped his cat's paw prints off neighbors' cars. "Bill," as Singleton called himself these days, brought steaks to neighbors and happily watched their kids play with Kala, his Rottweiler puppy. Down at the Brandon Crossroads Bowl, where Singleton was a regular in the Monday afternoon league, his fellow Golden Agers found him "a friendly guy," a good bowler, who'd stop by the snack bar for a midday beer.
Some of his bowling buddies heard he had a past -- a rape in California. "Bill" insisted he'd been "framed." Singleton seemed no more ominous than any other aging native son who returns to spend his last years at home and at peace.

No one in Florida -- not his family or friends, not the state correctional officials, not the psychiatrists at the mental hospital where he was briefly confined, not the sheriff who took a complaint from a relative worried over comments Singleton made about a neighbor girl, and certainly not Roxanne Hayes, the 31-year-old prostitute and mother of three who agreed to come to his immaculate home on that Wednesday afternoon -- no one understood Singleton's capacity for violence. In fact, only one person seemed truly to comprehend the savage rage Lawrence Singleton could inflict on another human being, and that was his first victim, Mary Bell Vincent.

Singleton picked up Mary Vincent in his blue van on Sept. 29, 1978, as the teenager was hitchhiking from Berkeley to Los Angeles. She'd come from home in Las Vegas to visit an uncle and was setting out on her own to see California. Singleton told her he had a daughter, Debra, just her age and offered to drive her to Interstate 5, the fastest route south.

Instead, he kept driving east, toward Modesto. When Vincent realized something was wrong, she would later testify, she became "scared and mad" and found a pointed surveyor's stick beside the passenger seat. She picked it up and demanded he drive her back to the freeway. "I'm sorry," Singleton said. "I'm just an honest man who made an honest mistake." He turned his van around.

Soon he said he had to relieve himself and could not wait to find a gas station. Stopping in desolate Del Puerto Canyon, he got out of the van. Vincent got out, too. As she bent over to tie her tennis shoe, Singleton hit her. He tied her hands, tore open her white blouse and pulled her hair, forcing her mouth onto his penis. "You better suck hard, you bitch," Vincent remembers he said. He raped her there, then threw her back into the van and drove deeper into the canyon. It was almost dark when he pulled over again and repeatedly raped and sodomized her. "It hurt a lot," she said. She begged him over and over again to set her free. He made her drink alcohol from a plastic jug and she passed out.

When she came to, he was cutting the ropes off of her hands and she thought he was letting her go. Then, she looked up and saw an ax coming down as he held out her left arm. "You want to be free?" he said. "You'll be free." He chopped off her left arm below the elbow in three strokes of the ax. Vincent was screaming, fighting to pull away, blood was spurting everywhere. He held her down, grabbed her right arm and chopped it off in two strokes. Then he threw the girl over a railing into a culvert, saying, "OK, now you're free."

Mary Vincent walked out of Del Puerto Canyon alive. Two vacationers found her wandering nude, in shock, holding up her arms "so the muscles and blood wouldn't fall out," she said. They wrapped her in towels and drove to an airport to call an ambulance. The first thing Vincent said was, "He raped me."

Singleton couldn't convince the California jury of his story, but years later he would find a more sympathetic audience in the good people of Orient Park. Singleton had settled in Florida after serving only eight years of his 14-year sentence. (The national uproar that followed his release was key to bringing about today's stiffer penalties for violent sex offenders.) Despite his infamy, Singleton's Florida neighbors came around to believing "Bill" was set up in that California rape. They bought his "other Larry" scenario, finding it just as hard as his neighbors on Flannery Road in San Pablo to believe a guy as nice and ordinary as Larry Singleton could commit crimes as cruel as those inflicted on Mary Vincent.

Then came the Wednesday evening two weeks ago, when a house painter returned to Singleton's home, unannounced, about dinner time and found Bill in his living room viciously beating a nude woman. The painter, who later told the media Singleton was "in another dimension," ran. By the time the painter called 911, Larry Singleton stood over Roxanne Hayes with a boning knife. He stabbed her a dozen times, once through her heart. Blood spurted over the new carpeting and matching blue-green sofa his brother had bought for him from Rooms to Go. Roxanne Hayes, who'd tried to turn a quick trick on her way to the store to buy groceries for her kids' dinner, lay dead, the newest victim of Singleton's overwhelming rage against women.

When the Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy arrived, Singleton answered the door smeared with blood. He told the officer he'd cut himself chopping vegetables. Then the phone rang. As Singleton went into the house to answer it, the deputy peeked around the door and saw Hayes' nude, bloody body on the living room floor.

"They framed me the first time, but this time I did it," Singleton confessed as he was led away. However, by the time he was appointed a public defender, he had changed his story. He will plead not guilty at his coming arraignment.

Roxanne Hayes had worked from the same park bench every day while her children, Akiena, 11, Clifton, 7, and Malachi, 3, were in school and day care. "She was straight up about what she did," Tampa policeman Scott Bruce told the St. Petersburg Times. "She was on the street for her kids."

Bruce said it was unusual for a professional such as Hayes to agree to go to the home of a john. But another local prostitute suggested, "You don't think a 70-year-old man is going to stab you to death."

This was the same feeling expressed by the Tacoma, Wash., police when Mary Vincent complained of threatening phone calls after Singleton's release from San Quentin in 1987. "'Oh, it's your imagination, he's too old to do anything,' they told us," says Vincent's companion, Bob Clayton, who describes himself as her bodyguard. Clayton believes Singleton stalked Vincent after he was paroled. Vincent has always feared he would come back.

1 comment:

  1. Calvinism, Arminianism, or Christian Biblical Universalism

    Which view of salvation is true?

    Two good expositions specifically answering that question!