Many Seinfeld fans were appalled this week as former Kramer actor Michael Richards spewed nearly three minutes of racial epithets when two African Americans interrupted his stand-up routine at the Laugh Factory. Richards has called Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to apologize for the outburst. Jesse Jackson accepted his apology and advised him to get help. Curiously, however, Reverend Al Sharpton’s answer was “Sorry is not enough.”

Now, if Reverend Al Sharpton were a Latter-day Saint, I could understand this answer. I am perfectly fine with the LDS doctrine of repentance in which saying sorry is part of the full repentance process, the other parts being making amends where possible, not behaving in the offending way again, and most importantly, relying on the grace of Jesus Christ to cleanse one from the sin. But I am confused about an Evangelical Christian minister such as Al Sharpton saying that an offender’s “sorry” is not enough. Does this make any sense theologically from the Evangelical position, in which, if I understand correctly, sorry is always enough and forgiveness is free? Is it Al Sharpton’s position that sorry is not enough in Richards’s case because Richards is Jewish and therefore has not accepted Jesus in his heart? (Implying, perplexingly, that if Richards were an Evangelical and had accepted Jesus in his heart, then, if I understand correctly, of course “sorry” would be enough as a theological matter because once one accepts Jesus in one’s heart, then one is automatically saved no matter what one does thereafter, save only converting to Mormonism, I suppose.)

Is this a case of Reverend Sharpton playing politics with doctrine? Does Richards’s Jewishness indeed factor in here? Why is sorry not enough for Al Sharpton?