You will know they are Christians by their flexible morality


A wealthy, well-connected real estate agent in the Ozarks decided to have her mother-in-law murdered. So far, so tawdry — it sounds like a True Crime melodrama that will one day appear on Netflix (something like it may have, already. I think there’s a show called Ozarks about a family’s descent into criminality).

What’s interesting about it is the woman’s justification.

According to a probable cause statement, it all began when Bauman became convinced that her 74-year-old former mother-in-law was causing a strain in her relationship with her daughters. She and her ex had divorced in 2018, and she worried he and his mother might try to get full custody of the girls.

On March 1, she confided in an unidentified woman and asked for help finding “somebody to get rid of her.” Pressed about whether she was serious, Bauman said she “knew it was wrong as a Christian, but she would go to church and ask for forgiveness after it was done.”

Then, authorities say, she wrote the 74-year-old target’s address on the back of a business card.

The alleged scheme unraveled when the woman Bauman solicited for help finding a hit man went to law enforcement instead. Because of Bauman’s political connections, the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Division of Drug and Crime Control handled the case “to avoid any hint of impropriety,” Camden County Prosecutor Caleb Cunningham told local station KY3 News.

Christian morality: the world’s greatest get-out-of-jail-free card. Everything is permissible as long as you ask Jesus to forgive you after the vile deed is done.

Also, isn’t this the most denouement ever? How often does it happen that trying to hire a hit man goes bad because the process requires revealing your intent to commit a crime to multiple people?

Comments

  1. says

    Emo Philips’ bicycle joke precisely skewers this strain of christian bullshit. He prayed for a bicycle and didn’t get it, so he stole one and knew god would forgive him.

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    she worried he and his mother **might** try to get full custody of the girls.

    worried? that is quite some justification for arranging a murder: worried they might do something, I guess the motive would be too obvious when the daughters are being actively sought. That is some level of paranoia Jesus needs to heal

  3. outis says

    Nah, nah, for once I’d like to quote something very catholic:

    Then Francis came for me, when I was dead;
    but one of our black Cherubs said to him:
    ‘Remove him not, and do no wrong to me!
    Among my menials he must needs descend,
    because he gave the fraudulent advice,
    since which till now I ’ve had him by the hair;
    for who repents not cannot be absolved,
    nor yet can one at once repent and will,
    the contradiction not permitting it!’

    O woeful me! O how I shook with fear,
    when, after laying hold on me, he said:
    ‘Perhaps thou didst not think me a logician!
    (Divine Comedy, Canto 27)

    Notice the bit in Italics, which might sound better in the original Italian:

    “ch’assolver non si può chi non si pente,
    né pentere e volere insieme puossi
    per la contradizion che nol consente”.

    basically, you can’t plan your sin in advance and execute it counting on being absolved later. Ol’ Nick is going to bite your ass anyway! And not without enjoyment.
    The “getting out of jail free” move is something which seems to be typical of a certain subset of believers (evangelicals maybe?), but in the many other flavors of christianity it may not be so acceptable, at least in public.
    Mind you, I am not a theologian, eh.

  4. says

    If only she had asked a Catholic priest for assistance during confession, her plans to kill her former mother-in-law would be solemnly kept secret under the seal of confession! However, I doubt that most priests would have a ready reference list of hit-men.

  5. says

    I don’t know. Seems to me Catholic priests have to cover up a lot, and knowing hit men would be a professional advantage.

  6. Allison says

    Then there’s the case of “suicide by proxy,” described here and here, which seems to have been a thing back in the 18th century.

    The logic: you want to commit suicide, but suicide is a sin, for which you get sent to Hell. However, if you murder a small child, the child is sinless and therefore goes to heaven, and the murderer then confesses and gets forgiveness before being executed so that she (it was apparently usually a woman) goes to heaven as well.

    The obvious (to us) solution would be to “decriminalize” suicide and to ameliorate the circumstances which would drive women to suicide, but that would make it harder to condemn women as inherently sinful and feel morally superior to them. Sort of like the motivation of the people and institutions that try to criminalize abortion. In both cases, the whole point of the set-up is to oppress and marginalize certain groups of people.

  7. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re 4:
    reminds me of some sects declaring that only by declaring your love of Jebus can you get into heaven, no matter how good you are in life. (the flip side of Jebus forgives all things), because we are all damned to hell from birth, IE Altruism won’t get you into heaven, only declaring your love of Jebus gets you in.

    re 8:
    suicide by proxy is usually seen as “suicide by LEO” where someone intent on suicide does what’s needed to get shot down by the police.

  8. raven says

    As PZ points out, xianity isn’t a source for morality.
    They have a Get Out of Hell Free card and use it often.

    The fundie perversion calls it, “once saved, always saved”.
    To be saved, the bar is low.
    You just have to say jesus is god and he isn’t dead, he is busy ruling the universe.

  9. kathleenzielinski says

    Reminds me of the old joke about the farmer who went to confession. “Father, I have sinned. I stole a load of hay from my neighbor.” “My son, when did you do this?” Actually, Father, I only took half of it, but I’m going back tonight to get the other half, so I thought I’d save a trip to the confessional by confessing both of them now.”

  10. christoph says

    Helpful tip: Hit men for hire are kind of like underage teenage girls on the Internet looking to hook up with flabby, unsanitary middle aged men. They’re most likely to be undercover police officers.

  11. robro says

    This bit is curious:

    Because of Bauman’s political connections, the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Division of Drug and Crime Control handled the case “to avoid any hint of impropriety,”

    So did the state cops help cover up for her? If so that’s better than god’s forgiveness.

  12. snarkrates says

    OP: You will know they are Christians by their flexible morality

    And Simone Biles wept.

  13. says

    There is an episode in Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy where an assassin is given absolution in advance of a planned killing. It’s entirely justifiable, you see, because the target is an enemy of the Church and the assassin is likely to die in a suicide mission doing the Lord’s work, which would make it impossible for him to seek absolution after the murder. Sound reasoning!

  14. Tethys says

    Robro@16

    So did the state cops help cover up for her? If so that’s better than god’s forgiveness.

    The State cops arrested her after being informed of the matter. She lives in a small town of 1,800 people, that may not have much in the way of a local police department. According to a local MO news source, when she was being arrested, Ms Bauman apparently called the Lake Ozark mayor and had them on speakerphone in an attempt to prevent her arrest.

    It’s yet another Karen, this one so entitled that believes she was entitled to a get out of jail free card.

    I hope her ex-husband gets full custody due to her crime. A woman who attempts to hire a hit man to kill people she perceives as a threat is not someone who should be allowed near children.

  15. rblackadar says

    @20 drsky —
    Beat me to it, I was just about to say that “might” is pretty much a self-fulfilling prophecy here.

  16. redwood says

    Ah, yes, good old Mizzura. Both this story and the one kevinv introduced in @9 above occurred within 50 miles of where I grew up and I can’t say I’m surprised by either of them. I was a First Baptist Church member up through high school when I learned what hypocrisy was and then saw it in action at the church and the local county club. The preacher at a different Baptist church in town who stole the whole savings of the church and ran away with the wife of a deacon helped me along the path. The dromedarian back-breaking straw was probably the convicted murderer who had done his time and was now going around to churches explaining that he was no longer a “bad” person thanks to the grace of god, yadda yadda. I looked at him and thought that he can go to heaven even though he killed someone, but I can go to hell for telling a lie or having lusty thoughts. This did not make sense to me and I left religion forever soon after.

  17. whheydt says

    On the whole religion in your face aspect…
    Not far from where I live, there is a billboard that says:
    Jesus
    The only way to God.

    I keep wanting to climb up there and add “Alou” after Jesus.

  18. gijoel says

    @14 The internet, where men are men, women are men, and nymphomaniac preteens are FBI agents.

  19. kathleenzielinski says

    Redwood, No. 22: Actually, one of the very few things I like about Christianity is the concept of redemption, that people who have done bad things can decide to be better people today than they were yesterday. So I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of someone who commits a murder turning their life around and and becoming what we would consider a good person.

    But I think redemption requires more than simply asking Jesus to come into your heart and then announcing to the world that your sins are forgiven. I think it takes much evidence that someone actually has changed. What that would look like for a murderer would probably be making amends to the limited extent that it’s possible to make them, doing good deeds, helping others, taking positive steps to make the world a better place, all of it over a long enough time period to show that the person really has changed. Candidly owning up to what one did without making excuses or shifting blame. Dealing with any underlying causes that led to the murder, like substance abuse. Those sorts of things.

    But of course, all of that is a lot of very hard work. It’s far simply to just say that you’ve asked Jesus to come into your heart and you’re now born again.

  20. John Morales says

    kathleenzielinski:

    Actually, one of the very few things I like about Christianity is the concept of redemption, that people who have done bad things can decide to be better people today than they were yesterday.

    That’s not the Christian concept of redemption.
    In that mythos, it’s the cancelling of sins by atonement and remorse, therefore saving one from the consequences of those sins. Nothing to do with becoming a better person, other than incidentally.

  21. kathleenzielinski says

    John, that depends on which specific branch of Christianity you’re talking about. Certainly separating a sinner from the consequences of their sin through imputation — Christ on the cross had my sinfulness imputed to him; I have his righteousness imputed to me — is a big part of it. But the hyper Calvinists who raised me would say that if salvation doesn’t result in a changed life, one would be within one’s right to be skeptical of whether salvation actually occurred. Jesus did say that by their fruits you shall know them. And, the changed life comes through the power of the Gospel — God gives me the inner strength to be a better person than I could be on my own.

    Other branches of Christianity would of course have different takes on it.

  22. garnetstar says

    For those poor Christians who are so unfairly turned in by their confidantes and get caught in a sting, here is some advice:

    Police say “OK” a lot. Like, when people are protesting being handcuffed or saying that they shouldn’t be arrested or get a ticket or that you’re going to sue them, they just say “OK”. (If you’re white.) They mean “I am not going to engage in the crazy coming out of your mouth.”

    So, when you are first talking with your hit man, say something gruesome and over-the-top, like “I want (victim) to suffer horribly: make sure that you (fill in horrendous torture) as long as possible.” If there is a pause, and then the hit man says “OK”, you are talking to a police officer. (Actual hit men do not do anything fancy: they want to get in and get out, no frills.)

    Get up, laugh lightly, and say “Oh, of course I’m just exaggerating, and of course I really don’t want anyone killed at all”, and leave. Then, just consider divorce! It’s really a lot easier. If it isn’t against your Christian morals, of course.

  23. garnetstar says

    It’s like doctors: they say that people are “sick”. You could be brought to a trauma center with four broken bones and a gunshot wound, and the doctor will tell your family that you are “very sick.”

    If someone doesn’t, they didn’t go to med school, so get someone else who does tell you that your injured relative is “sick”.

  24. John Morales says

    kathleenzielinski,

    But the hyper Calvinists who raised me would say that if salvation doesn’t result in a changed life, one would be within one’s right to be skeptical of whether salvation actually occurred.

    Ahem. The doctrine of unconditional election is a Calvinist thing, so it doesn’t matter one whit what they do in life anyway. I guess your branch was into conditional election.

    Other branches of Christianity would of course have different takes on it.

    It was you who initially spoke of Christians as a single grouping.

    But fair enough, one of the few things you personally like about Christianity is peculiar to your upbringing, and by your own contention not to be generalised.

  25. kathleenzielinski says

    John, if you’re going to be a pedantic asshole, you should at least be familiar with your subject matter. There’s nothing conditional about saying that if someone doesn’t display the fruits of repentance, they probably were never saved in the first place, and hence not elect in the first place. In fact, when I came out as gay, the elders told me that being gay was proof positive that I was not elect. If you’re elect, you’re going to display fruit.

    And nothing I said can even remotely be construed as claiming that Christians should be considered a single grouping. I am hard pressed to think of a single doctrine on which all Christians at all times and places have agreed. It’s generally true that Christians believe in redemption — both from the consequences of sin and also to living a godly life — but that doesn’t mean that all of them apply it the same way, understand the term to mean the same thing, or wouldn’t pick nits as to what it actually means. So, I can say that Christians believe in redemption without necessarily saying that they all believe the same things about it.

  26. John Morales says

    kathleenzielinski:

    John, if you’re going to be a pedantic asshole, you should at least be familiar with your subject matter.

    To what pedantry do you refer?

    There’s nothing conditional about saying that if someone doesn’t display the fruits of repentance, they probably were never saved in the first place, and hence not elect in the first place.

    Ahem, “probably” literally makes it conditional — it means maybe yes, maybe no.

    In fact, when I came out as gay, the elders told me that being gay was proof positive that I was not elect. If you’re elect, you’re going to display fruit.

    I can’t help that Christians are typically hypocrites about their own doctrines, or that the doctrines are mutually contradictory.

    I mean, if an elect can’t sin, then they don’t need redemption, right?

    And nothing I said can even remotely be construed as claiming that Christians should be considered a single grouping.

    Alas, when you claim that “one of the very few things I like about Christianity is the concept of redemption” without any qualification, that’s exactly the presumption. Nothing remote about that.
    If you meant only some versions of Christianity, you should have written that.

    I am hard pressed to think of a single doctrine on which all Christians at all times and places have agreed.

    Is that one of the few things you like about it, or is it one of those things you don’t?

    So, I can say that Christians believe in redemption without necessarily saying that they all believe the same things about it.

    Sure sounds like in your estimation that’s one doctrine on which all Christians at all times and places have agreed, since yet again you didn’t qualify the claim.

    (Or did you mean some Christians only?)

    Look: when someone writes something like “”one of the very few things I like about Christianity is X”, the subtext is that this claim is somehow comparative — that is, Christianity features X in contrast to other mythos — else, why single out Christianity? And that’s the sort of claim that irritates me.

  27. M'thew says

    @kathleenzielinski

    John, if you’re going to be a pedantic asshole…

    Well, he wouldn’t like to miss out on this opportunity. Best advice: Get out of this “discussion” while you can and let John gloat over his perceived victory in logicking. That’s called “damage control”.

  28. kathleenzielinski says

    OK, John, I’m going to briefly respond and then take M’thew’s advice to go on to other things.

    “Probably” does not mean conditional. It means there’s an objective yes or no answer but I don’t know what it is to a 100% certainty, so I’m stating what appears to be most likely. My lack of knowledge doesn’t change that there is an answer. There may be facts of which I’m unaware.

    Also, I think part of your issue is that you’re assuming free will, which Calvinism rejects. If I have a changed life it’s because God is behind the scenes, pulling the strings, and creating in me both the desire and the will to do good things. In a very real sense, God plays with his toys. So claiming to be saved while not exhibiting the fruits of repentance is like planting what you think is an apple tree and getting peaches: Something is wrong. And the tree’s free will has nothing to do with it; it has no free will and is basically along for the ride. So at that point you conclude that it probably isn’t an apple tree after all.

    Third, not stating qualifications doesn’t mean there are no qualifications. If I say that it takes me an hour to drive to a certain place, everyone understands that I mean it takes an hour if I don’t have a flat tire, or run out of gas, or have an accident, or get held up in road construction. If we all had to state every possible qualification to everything, conversation would be impossible. Only — ahem — a pedantic asshole would think otherwise.

    And finally, with respect to your final paragraph, stating that X is true of Y does not mean that X is therefore not true of non-Y. That’s a logical fallacy. If I say that Thai food tends to be hot and spicy, that does not mean that no other ethnic foods are hot and spicy. They may be, or they may not be. My comment is limited to Thai food and I’ve said nothing about any other.

    OK, M’thew, thanks for the advice. Going on to other things now.

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