Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thoughts on Mark Sanford

After having gone AWOL for several days this past week, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford held a press conference yesterday in which he admitted to being in Argentina and having an affair with a woman there for the last year. Along with Nevada Senator John Ensign, Gov. Sanford is the second high-profile Christian politician in recent days that has admitted to marital infidelity.

Whenever a major political figure has some sort of moral failure the members of that person's party typically go through a period of shame and embarrassment. On the other hand, their opponents often gloat in the downfall of a rival and take advantage of the opportunity to trumpet the superiority of their party. If it's a Republican who falls, we refer to the "hypocrisy" of said individual; if it's a Democrat, we reference the officeholder's "lack of morals." No matter what we call it, sin is sin.

A number of bloggers have quoted the great British writer, C.S. Lewis, in light of these recent political scandals. Lewis had this to say:
"Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils."
If we're honest with ourselves, we are probably all in danger of reveling in the misfortune of those that we simply don't like. We want to prove to others that our beliefs and our opinions are better than theirs and we celebrate (whether outwardly or in our hearts) when our rivals fail. Why I take pleasure in the destruction of any one's life is beyond me. Maybe because I'm a sinner, too.

Gov. Sanford made reference to God's moral law and the consequences of our sin when admitting to his own failures. His words:
"I am here because if you were to look at God's laws, they are in every instance designed to protect people from themselves... It's not a moral, rigid list of do's and don'ts, just for the heck of do's and don'ts...It is, indeed, to protect us from ourselves. And the biggest sin of self is, indeed, self...That sin is in fact grounded in this notion of what is it that I want as opposed to somebody else...God's law, indeed, is there to protect you from yourself and there are consequences if you breach that. This press conference is a consequence."
Whether it is someone I know, a public figure I disagree with or a hero I look up to, the best response that I can offer to those that are dealing with the consequences of their sin is to pray for them and God's restoration in their life. Sin has a price and we would all do well to be reminded of our own shortcomings when others fall. Too many great men and women throughout history have given into the temptations of pride, greed and lust for any of us to think that we are beyond it ~ "There but for the grace of God go I."


Nameless Cynic said...

Well, I'll leave the concept of schadenfreude for somebody. Let's consider, though, Sanford's own words back in 1998.

This is "very damaging stuff," Sanford declared at one point, when details of Clinton's conduct became known. "I think it would be much better for the country and for him personally (to resign)... I come from the business side," he said. "If you had a chairman or president in the business world facing these allegations, he'd be gone."

Explaining his decision to back impeachment articles against Clinton, he added, "I think what he did in this matter was reprehensible... I feel very comfortable with my vote."

"The issue of lying is probably the biggest harm, if you will, to the system of Democratic government, representatives government, because it undermines trust," he told CNN. "And if you undermine trust in our system, you undermine everything."

See? That's why Republicans get hit with the "hypocrisy" charge.

J. Hill said...

I must say that is a rather profound statement by Mark Sanford. In many ways I think it reveals a depth of spirituality, if not at least of reflection on God's laws. This story is sad. No one benefits from the fall of a man. No one benefits from the destruction of a marriage. This is not only a mark on the Republican party, but on the state of our nation as a whole. In the end, we are all fallen.