14 Years Too Late February 19, 2008

14 Years Too Late

I’m not sure how to take this

Calvin Wayne Inman used to be a youth minister at a church until this past December. That’s when he confessed about a crime he committed nearly 14 years ago (He’s 29 now). In 1994, he and a friend robbed a convenience store and Inman stabbed the clerk.

Now that he has confessed, Inman’s in jail without bail.

What’s the proper reaction to this? Do you condemn him for keeping this secret hidden (making for a surely traumatic decade+ for the stabbed clerk’s family)? Or do you praise him for coming clean?

The church he worked at has taken a stance:

“He’s a hero, really,” said Kelley Graham, 24. “I don’t know how many people would do what he did. The Bible says you just need to confess to God. Calvin took an extra step.”

“The debt he’s paying to our society is teaching our young people to do the right thing,” said Cheryl Ellis, a member of the church’s youth staff. “To lock him away someplace and say he owes it to society is robbing the next generation of a mentor.”

Robin Thac said her 17-year-old son was active in the youth group that Inman led.

“I am thrilled my son has a role model to accept responsibility the way Calvin has,” Thac said. “There are way too many men who don’t accept responsibility.”

Does accepting responsibility have the same effect if it happens so long after the incident in question?

If my high school students cheat on a test, it doesn’t mean much if they come clean after they graduate from college.

Clearly, Inman didn’t have to tell anyone. He seems to have gotten away with the crime for this long, and I assume he came clean only because it was eating away at his conscience for so long.

But why isn’t anyone questioning why he waited this long…?

(Thanks to Stephen for the link!)

[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

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  • Scott

    I’m sure we all hold secrets within. And the longer we hold them in the easier it is to keep them there. “It’s been 5 or 6 years, no reason to tell anyone now.” In the “christian” life, all of your sin needs to be confessed before God. The smallest sin could be blocking one from building their relationship with God.

  • I certainly wouldn’t call him a hero. He did the right thing-something he should have done 10 years prior. I wouldn’t call that being a role model. I’d be curious to know if he was being presured by someone who knew what he did-what’s his real motivation for this sudden urge to purge….

    Perhaps his conscience got the better of him finally, which is good for that family who waited all this time but to call this guy a hero is rather repulsive.

  • Kate

    Hmm. I think there’s a fine line between forgiveness and calling someone a hero. This wouldn’t be newsworthy (or stupid) if the church had gotten together, admitted that he did an awful thing by robbing a store and stabbing the clerk, but forgiven him.

    Calling him a hero…yeahhhhhhhhhhh, no. You can forgive someone without idolizing them.

  • The book Les Miserables comes to life! In a way, like without that whole French Revolution thing. But, oddly enough, I think he can be considered a “hero” in a society obsessed with Britney Spears’ antics. I think he did an honorable thing, and indeed becomes a good role model to the kids in that church. He showed that following the law of the civilian authority is just as important as following his religious convictions. He showed that accountability in this life is important.

    Kelly Graham revealed much about the falseness of religious morality, more than she, or he, intended to say.

    So, yep, I would call him a hero. Sure, it took too long for him to acknowledge his crime, but I don’t think that even his religion could have assuaged his guilt. He has done more to restore my faith in humanity than the hundreds of priests who hide behind their bishops and collars to escape punishment for their misdeeds.

  • Barb

    He’s not a hero and he should serve time; to allow anything else sets a “get out of jail free” standard. The church members have forgiven him but the forgiveness he must seek is from the family of the victim.

  • John

    “Hero” my left nut. If he would have confessed immediately after the crime, nobody would call him that, so why after 14 years?

    That word is thrown around too much today. It’s gotten to the point where “hero” just means “halfway decent human being”.

  • ash

    @Mike Haubrich, FCD

    I think he did an honorable thing, and indeed becomes a good role model to the kids in that church.

    huh? no really, what? murdering, lying scum *finally* grows up enough (and at the tender age of only 29) to accept personal responsibility – well, even that’s a maybe, we don’t know that guilt/blackmail/whatever didn’t play a part – and suddenly 14 YEARS of cheap justifications, cowardly pretense and pious falsities not only don’t count, but can be praised?

    But, oddly enough, I think he can be considered a “hero” in a society obsessed with Britney Spears’ antics.

    no, but maybe you could consider the silent majority of decent, moral, law abiding people ‘heroes’ instead. except that it would render the word fairly obselete.

    He has done more to restore my faith in humanity than the hundreds of priests who hide behind their bishops and collars to escape punishment for their misdeeds.

    are you referring to paedophile priests here? in which case; is murder more acceptable than child abuse? would a priest who admitted paedophilic crimes years after the fact also be a hero? is the catholic church merely protecing it’s heroes by hiding them away? really not sure what you’re trying to say….

  • The thing that concerned me most about this story when I read it was the quote from one of the other church members, “The Bible says you just need to confess to God. Calvin took an extra step.”

    So…if you commit a crime and confess to god, you don’t *need* to confess to the police? Or am I reading that wrong?

  • I think I know the reason they are calling him a hero and it has nothing to do with telling the truth: look at the name of the guy who was murdered.

  • Mike Jones

    I find it truly fascinating how someone would hold this guy up in front of there child as a hero and a mentor! I can just hear the conversation between that parent and child ………….. ‘so Johnny you see God will forgive you if you kill someone as long as you say sorry’

  • Jen

    I bet they are doing this to keep the level of trauma for the youth group low. I would probably be pretty upset if I were a member of that youth group, told to confess to lying about breaking curfew when the guy I was talking to killed a man. They are probably playing this up so that the kids won’t refuse to go to church.

    Also, I wonder about Inman’s sudden confession. Maybe the county was testing old evidence for DNA, or key members of the store owner’s family had passed on and couldn’t increase his sentence at the sentencing trial. I am really cynical about this, so I might even wonder if there is some other way he will worm out of jail time, perhaps by pointing to a lack of evidence beyond a confession. And I bet the church paid his bail.

  • Adrian

    “Hero” is just bonkers, shows the bizarre extent to which these people will apparently rationalize just about any behaviour as good and glorious provided it’s undertaken by other Christians.

    He’s clearly not a hero. He’s a reformed violent criminal. Good that he’s stepping forward but too little, too late.

    Still, I bet it’s a relief to those involved that he’s finally stopped trying to cover up his crime. He could probably have gotten away with it (if it was just assault and not murder) so it takes some courage to step forward. As people mature, they often publicly admit and distance themselves from their old lives, but pinning your name to a specific crime isn’t common. Good work.

  • Adrian

    My bad – didn’t read the article! He didn’t just stab a guy, he killed him! I take it back, confession is simply not enough. And if it’s murder then the case doesn’t get closed so I also become much more suspicious about why he came forward and confessed – did his friend give him up, was he close to being caught, we just don’t know.

  • Julie

    Wow. What a responsible…murderer?

  • Baffled

    Would they have forgiven him if he was a Muslim? The victim’s name strongly suggests he was a minority, possibly Muslin, Indian, or Pakistani, would they have forgiven him if he killed a White Anlgo-Saxon Christian?

  • I never stabbed anybody. Where’s my medal?

  • Tom

    I wonder how much of a “hero” he would be considered if he confessed to killing one of the congregation who may have had the last name Smith or Jones 14 years ago? Another example of the word Hero being dishonored and its true meaning being diminished. Kids, being truthful where you have done wrong is a positive virtue if confessed up front but it does not make you a hero especially if you have waited so long.

    I wonder if they appreciate the lack of closure for that dead man’s family all those years this young man was building hero equity.

  • Spurs Fan

    I, have also gone 30 years without murdering anyone. A couple of years ago, I confessed to my wife that I no longer had a belief in God and am now an Atheist. I wonder if that would get the label “hero” at her church. Hmmm….

  • Fred Evil

    A murderer who hid for 14 years confesses, and that makes him a HERO?! No, it makes you a fool for calling him one..

    He’s a murderer. He killed a convenience store clerk….the clerk’s family certainly won’t consider him a hero now, much less 14 years ago.

    He’s a punk, and so is anyone else who pats him on the back and says,”Good job Calvin….”

  • Stephanie

    There’s a reason the state has no statute of limitations on murder. It’s because that’s an unforgivable crime. I don’t care what ghost stories some deluded man in a dress has fed him about saying ‘sorry’ being enough, he’s not forgiven in the eyes of the citizenry.
    Hero??? Bleh. Sorry. But stuff like this makes me wretch. I’m sure Robin would feel exactly the same way if she found out he was a child molester.

  • Murderer Is A Hero?

    I bet if he came out to his congregation as being gay, they wouldn’t react this way. They would probably condemn him to eternity in Hell and boot him out of the church. But a murderer on the run for 14 years, that’s OK in their eyes. Never mind the pain he caused the victim’s family. As a murderer he’s a hero and a role model to all (unless he’s gay!) What a bunch of double standard hypocrites.

  • Karen

    The most interesting thing here is that he apparently went through college and seminary – or at least some formal pastoral training – while having this awful crime on his conscience.

    Where was the counseling and the psychological evaluation? Where was the admonition to confess any sins from the past and make reparations and ask forgiveness? How could he become a religious leader and know he had gotten away with taking a man’s life?

    It’s quite amazing that this young man was able to ignore what must have been multiple admonitions to examine his conscience. As I often ask: Where was the holy spirit – a supposedly supernatural guide from god who prompts Christians to live upright and holy lives?

    And, like Jen, I wonder whether there wasn’t some outside pressure that finally prompted him to turn himself in.

  • Siamang

    He murdered a 64 year old man.

    “Flock forgives minister who confesses to 1994 slaying”

    In other words, people who didn’t suffer at all from his evil, forgive him. Woopee fucking do. Wow, that’s really BIG of them… to forgive him for murdering someone they never met, just because he’s a member of their tribe.

    Sorry, but I don’t think forgiveness is something that’s required of us in this situation. I think this is actually a moral failure of the Christian paradigm… the idea that you can gain “forgiveness” without righting any of the wrongs you committed, without speaking to the loved ones of the slain, without doing ANYTHING to correct the harm and pain and suffering you caused.

    It’s a get out of jail free card. It’s actually COUNTER-moral.

    How did that song go?

    “Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
    go ahead and cheat a friend.
    Do it in the name of Heaven,
    You’ll be justified in the end…”

    It’s how this nation got in the mess it’s in. It’s the morality of the Bush administration…. do whatever you want, and ask forgiveness of God for whatever didn’t work out.

  • I just came across your interview on iconnewmedianetwork.com

    Very interesting and entertaining. You came across as genuine and that was refreshing.

    Your description of churches was humorous, because I came from the kind of churches you visited, the ones that told made-up stories. My road to atheism began in earnest when it occurred to me that if they cant even understand the world around us, how can I trust them to understand a book that was written over a course of hundreds of years, in different languages (that they don’t speak), and in multiple cultures?

    My journey didn’t end with atheism, but still, thank you for not posturing like Dawkins, Hitchens, NIN, etc.

  • Richard Wade

    The word “hero” is now officially dead. It as been applied to victims of crimes or natural disasters who simply survived, to celebrities who acknowledge they are addicted after it becomes sickeningly obvious to everyone, to criminals who testify against their fellow criminals in order to get a lesser sentence, and now to a murderer who confesses fourteen years late.

    If Inman wasn’t a minister he’d not be getting any praise as a hero, just dismissal as someone with a guilty conscience. The Elim church is spinning the hero angle just to keep the parents of the kids in Inman’s youth group from exploding into “WHAT!!?? You had a murderer ministering to my kid!?”

    Another word that is quickly wearing out is “responsibility.” Our elected officials say they are “responsible” for crap that comes from their blunders but they don’t actually compensate victims, resign or slit their bellies. Robin Thack says,

    “I am thrilled my son has a role model to accept responsibility the way Calvin has,” Thac said. “There are way too many men who don’t accept responsibility.”

    Does responsibility mean simply saying, “Hey I did this,” or does it mean facing whatever legal consequences there are just like any other person who is guilty of the same act? The church seems to want to keep it to the former. If they succeed then the lesson for the kids will be that making nice gets you off the hook.

    I expect we’ll hear more of the “Christianity is about forgiveness” routine. Before the praise and forgiveness piles up too thick, the congregation should ask the dead man’s family for their opinion about that.

  • Hm.

    I think this is actually a tricky one. And I think it calls for some nuance.

    I actually do think there’s something heroic in admitting to a crime committed over a decade ago, a crime that you had apparently gotten away with until now. It’s doing the right thing for no reason other than that it is the right thing; for no reason other than that you can no longer live with your conscience. That’s rare, and it’s admirable.

    But the fact still remains that he committed the murder.

    And the fact still remains that he covered up the murder for fourteen years.

    I am extremely troubled by the attitude of the church group treating him as if he were a hero for finally admitting to the crime… without (at least in this story) saying word one about the enormity of the crime in the first place, and the harm that was done both by the crime itself and by covering it up for so long.

    And I am double extremely troubled by the attitude of the church staffer who thinks he shouldn’t go to jail because he’s already paid his debt to society through his confession and his work with kids. We let people work off parking tickets with community service. We don’t let people work off murder convictions with community service.

    Yes, taking responsibility for harmful acts is admirable, and something we should encourage. But part of “taking responsibility” means accepting consequences. Without accepting consequences for your actions, taking responsibility for them is a meaningless gesture.

  • Siamang

    Let’s not forget that this is texas, a place where religious conservatives argue forcefully and rabidly for the death penalty for such crimes. This is a “fire and brimstone,” speaking in tongues, if you aint’ with us, you’re gonna burn, church we’re talking about.

    If he’s such a good Christian, let God forgive him post electric-chair. His (presumably non-Christian) victim, sadly won’t be afforded such grace.

    Let’s review the case as it was written up at the time:

    Houston Chronicle
    August 15, 1994

    Worker slain in store
    Author: Staff, wire reports

    A Houston man was stabbed to death Sunday afternoon while working at a Pasadena convenience store.
    Detective K. Crislip of the Pasadena Police Department said Iqbal Ahmed, about 68, appeared to have been stabbed once in the chest while working behind the counter at Mumtaz Grocery in the 4100 block of Yellowstone. Police believe Ahmed’s 5-year-old grandson was in the store at the time of the stabbing, but they were unable to get any solid information from the child.
    “We really don’t have any motive right now,” Crislip said.
    Crislip said the boy apparently ran next door to have someone call for help for his grandfather.
    Ahmed was dead at the scene, Crislip said.
    Crislip said nothing appeared to be missing from the store, which Ahmed’s son-in-law had bought only last week.
    Crislip is asking that anyone with information about the case call 475-7896
    Copyright 1994 Houston Chronicle

    Thats right. He killed a 68 year old man, in front of his 5 year old grandson! >:(

    Fuck. I’m against the death penalty. I really, really am. But this scumbag tests my resolve in this area.

  • lowoolo

    1. Am I the only one entertaining the possibility that this confession was made for purely selfish reasons? Can you imagine a) killing someone as a 15-year-old, b) lying about and covering up the crime in the immediate aftermath, c) continuing the charade through what we can presume to be some sort of formal theological training, and d) mentoring — hell, having anything to do with — kids that are the same age as you were when you committed murder?! That kind of constant, crushing guilt can only be relieved by coming clean about what you did.

    2. I hate to be obvious, but…does anyone honestly believe that these same kind-hearted churchgoers would be so quick to forgive a…let’s say, ‘lesser’ person for the same crime? What if the “role model” in the story was replaced with the creepy neighbor; his christianity replaced with atheism? I can just picture the mother in the article above providing a new sound bite lamenting the frightening fact that “people like that” could be living right next door and you’d never know it. And then crying out for justice, of course: “fry the bastard!”

  • Adrian

    I, have also gone 30 years without murdering anyone. A couple of years ago, I confessed to my wife that I no longer had a belief in God and am now an Atheist. I wonder if that would get the label “hero” at her church.

    An atheist claiming that he didn’t murder anyone? Yeah right. If this nice pastor killed a guy, atheists must be far worse. Better off just saying that you you haven’t murdered anyone for quite a while and have seriously considered stopping entirely. Baby steps.

  • Spurs Fan

    An atheist claiming that he didn’t murder anyone? Yeah right. If this nice pastor killed a guy, atheists must be far worse. Better off just saying that you you haven’t murdered anyone for quite a while and have seriously considered stopping entirely. Baby steps.

    Okay, okay…perhaps I “murdered” the Holy Spirit. Wait, many of my Christian friends tell me that since I have “backslidden”, I didn’t really have the Holy Spirit in the first place. Another useless debates ensues….

  • Sarah H.

    Like Cobwebs, I’m most appalled at the implication by the woman quoted in the article that Inman went a step further than was expected of him as a Christian by confessing to (human) authority and that asking God’s forgiveness would have been enough to somehow cleanse him.

    It’s clear they consider him already cleansed by his faith, and I completely agree with the comments regarding the way he would be treated if he wasn’t a Christian.

  • It may be commendable that this guy finally stepped up and confessed, but that in no way makes him a hero, or less a murderer.

  • robin

    It’s the Cherry Tree story all over again. Isn’t that one of the most important stories that young Americans are told? This means “I cannot tell a lie” makes one a virtuous man regardless of his other actions. It’s not just religious, it’s cultural.

  • QrazyQat

    If he’d shot the clerk instead of stabbing him he’d be a saint!

  • He woulda gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t fer those kids…and their dang dog.

    I think that before calling him a hero you need to look at his motivation for confession.

    Was it simply because he had gained sufficient insight into his own moral character (through personal growth or religious growth is irrelevant)? That does say something about his character. Moreso if he desires to make some kind of recompense to his victims. The victims here are the store, the clerk and the people he deceived over the years.

    Was it pressure from another person or group? That doesn’t make him heroic or brave, just led. He has not reformed, he is merely doing as he is told.

    Was it guilt and the fear of impending capture? I know 14 years is a long time but guilt can eat a person up. This does indicate that he is capable of determining right and wrong and the offer to submit himself to the law of the land shows that he is willing to pay for the crime. Pay for it but not to compensate the victims.

  • andy

    Friendly Atheist,

    I don’t think cheating on a test is comparable to a stabbing/robbery crime.

    No one can revoke someone’s college diploma for admitting they cheated on a test years before, can they? in this case, however, knowing the consequences for his actions could cause him jail time, I think he certainly did the right thing, but should NOT excuse him from paying the penalty he can and should be responsible for paying.

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