The left is predictably pointing to the Mark Sanford scandal, and gleefully rubbing its grubby little hands together at the prospect of being able to revel in the “HYPOCRISY!!!” of the public failure of a man to live up to the ideals he professed. Some of my friends on the right see it as a chance to discuss the left’s hypocrisy in its willingness to bring double standards to bear (treatment of Sarah Palin’s children versus the treatment of Barry the Blessed’s children, or better yet, Barry’s conspicuous silence regarding this obvious disparate treatment). While this is something that I deem to be a worthy topic of conversation, it does not get to the really offensive element of the left jumping up and down with glee and pointing everytime a conservative is caught in a scandal. The real hypocrisy in this is the fact that left believes that the failure is a selling point for their side.
Fewer things get me more irritated then people who do not understand christianity thinking that a christian’s failure is a valid discreditation of the person or their beliefs. Far too often, we on the right allow the left to use our religion against us. Whether it is an attempt to brow beat us for not wanting to see the government expand their powers in providing healthcare at a dear price by insinuating that we are “bad christians for not supporting government health care for the poor“, or when they call us haters when we refuse to joyfully accept something our faith tells us is wrong because they have managed to convince some courts to abandon prior levels of scrutiny rooted in objective criteria for a looser standard of ‘equality’ based on the whims of the person, rather than measurable, innate characteristics over which they have no control, or the loudest cries of all, like those in the wake of a scandal like this.
None of this is surprising. Since the concerted effort to drive Christianity out of the public square gained ground over the last fifty years, rampant misunderstandings were a foreseeable consequence. What was once a common frame of moral reference, based in part on a shared common moral history is now a target for scorn, and due to the very lack of understanding on the part of the most eager accusers, and a dumbed-down public, is frequently seen as a liability, rather than a steady source of authority and accountability. What this means for the body politic is an impressive and ever deepening divide.
America is no stranger to the sex scandal. Indeed, the very concept is rooted in the puritanical beginnings of this country when shame was something that all but the basest soul possessed, and would rebuke even the most hardscrabble politician for his indiscretions. Indeed, a number of such scandals have occurred in my lifetime, as this Newsweekarticle demonstrates. What I believe has changed over time, is that fewer people understand some of the hard truths of christianity, so that when a christian fails, it is easy to condemn both the fallen and their faith. I think to any self-respecting christian, these condemnations demonstrate the ignorance of the condemnor. Why do I say this?
1. God does love us, but it is the love of a parent to a child. That means love enough to impose standards, and to discipline. This is why it is not ok to just do as you please, and then say “God is love, you hating hypocrite!” to christians who do not accept behavior they know to be wrong. Christians accept that there really is a standard of right and wrong, and the idea that they will eventually answer to a higher authority than the law of man.
2. Christianity imposes a set of standards for conduct and behavior on its adherents. This is how christians are able to suss out which people pay the faith lip service, and which ones make the attempt to live by that set of standards.
3. Sin is an inescapable condition for man. There was only one perfect man. His name was Jesus Christ, the son of God, and although all christians strive to follow his example, we will all fall short of the mark.
4. Forgiveness has to be part of a christian’s repertoire. What this means is that one of us falls, as we all will, that we must seek to forgive the fallen, as they should seek our forgiveness.
5. Redemption is not a physical concept, it is a metaphysical one. That means I don’t care how many childrens’ books Mumia has written, he still owes a debt to society that will only be repaid when the sentence is carried out. There is a difference between saving your life and saving your soul, and it is a distinction too little understood in today’s world.
6. Accepting the salvation God offers is a life-changing event. It isn’t about flitting in and out of churches during election campaigns; it is about how you live your life every day. It shines through in setting the standard for your children, and letting them see you stick to it, even when you might have reason not to. It is about resisting temptations, temptations of the flesh, or of the heart. It is about striving for fidelity, even if a marriage seems more like work than fun. Its about doing these things because you believe that they are right, and because you believe that you will one day have to answer for the way you live your life.
If you know these truths from the experience of living them, then the left’s glee at failures like Mark Sanford’s affair takes on a different light. For my mind, it seems cowardly for reveling in another man’s failure to live up to a set of standards that you yourself lack the courage to adopt. I know many on the left refuse to see it that way, instead opting to state that it is silly superstition and nonsense, or that they see no reason to attempt a faith that rejects their actions and choices, but I submit to you that they knowthat they are wrong on this. If this were not so, I can think of no other reason why ‘the deciders’ in our culture try so very hard to belittle Christianity, to mock it, to discredit it, and to vilify it. The left makes excuses for terrorism, and radical islam, and at the same time, blames christianity for the ills of the world. This is not the behavior of a rational actor; it is the behavior of a petulant child, rejecting an authority that it cannot beguile or negotiate with. The left knows it has already been tested and comes up short, and thus it flings every bit of excrement it can lay its hands on at the one thing that can never control. That is the real hypocrisy in a scandal like this one, and something so few people seem to see.
What Governor Sanford did was wrong. It dishonors his wife. It embarrasses his children, and it debases himself. If we as christians expect leaders who can live up to christian standards, then he must be held accountable to the voters who share those expectations. However, he does not deserve ire and vilification because he failed to live up to the standards he professed, he deserves understanding. This failure will exact a price, and any redemption he attains will be sorely earned. He has trials awaiting him in the days ahead. I don’t envy him the path he’ll walk now, but I can and will pray for he and his family, that he and his wife can regain mutual trust and respect, and that his children can come to respect him again. It isn’t ok to hate that kind of failure, or the person who failed, and that is where the left’s apparent jubilation is misplaced and churlish. Its kind of like watching someone who is oblivious to the fact that they are making a complete and utter ass of themselves, and at the same time refuse any and all attempts to be taken aside and clued in. That kind of hubris can only lead to really big fall. I just hope the country isn’t underneath them when they come crashing to Earth.