follow the Ten Commandments. They remain
a clear expression of the Creator’s wisdom to help creatures He designed know
how to live, not unlike an owner’s manual, offering direction on the best way
to keep and maintain one’s life and relationships. Sadly, an entire generation of adolescents, freed
by the prosperity of their parents in the 50’s, started treating all authority
and regulation like little more than the whim of inept parents, who didn’t
really understand the real world. Now
today, the entire culture has slipped off its moral foundation. In a society where there are no
absolutes—although I believe a significant majority still respect the Ten
Commandments—what is there to say about one more scandal involving sex and
corruption by a public official?
who regard ideology as the most important thing, the answer is simple: our guy is a decent man who loves his family,
regrets his mistake, and ought to be allowed to continue to serve his country
(i.e. keep voting for our agenda). On
the other hand, their guy is a disgusting, lying reprobate who should resign or
be impeached; his disgraceful conduct proves that his party is awful. You, wise and thoughtful voter, need support
us, who are obviously the good guys. In
Eliot Spitzer’s case, where the facts seem undeniably bad, we’ll just stop
mentioning his party, we being the media who favor the Democratic Party; if he
were Republican, his party affiliation would grace every headline and
Some of us
still believe that sin leads to consequences.
What those consequences ought to be may not be as simple as we might
wish. King David arranged the murder of
a man to cover up his adultery with the man’s wife. Wise King Solomon didn’t live by the wisdom God
gave him, or he would have thought better about a thousand wives and concubines
as the basis for international relations.
Except for Jesus Christ, no person is perfect, and somehow we must deal
sensibly with their imperfections. David
and Solomon remained kings despite their failures.
and Solomon did pay dearly for their shortcomings, despite God’s favor, and any
leader who violates the public trust will suffer, too. In a democracy, corruption should and usually
does lead to loss of position. How could
anyone trust a governor who spent thousands of dollars on prostitutes? In what sense can the chief law enforcement
person enforce laws when he has so publicly broken the very laws he so
aggressively prosecuted? In this case,
how can a man even show his face in public when his behavior has made him a
laughing stock among those who once supported him?
politics and ideology, however, seem to stand wisdom on its head. For the sake of a vote or holding an office, many
will tolerate a crook, when any association or endeavor would be stronger for
cleaning the scoundrels. Has the
Democratic Party really been better for tolerating the worst Kennedy of his
generation, out of sympathy for his two murdered brothers? Will the Republican Party be stronger with
Larry Craig still in Congress? Is Alan
Dershowitz right when he says,
“(S)ophisticated people in mature countries understand that you distinguish
between personal problems that are family matters and matters of governance… Bill
Clinton or Thomas Jefferson or Franklin Roosevelt or John Kennedy or Lyndon
Johnson… These are all people who greatly governed during the day and at night,
behaved like adolescent boys.” Of
course, if it was a Republican behaving “like an adolescent at night,” a
Dershowitz might not be so kind. For a
bottom line analysis, I don’t think you can beat Ann Coulter.
era, it is difficult to know whether an evildoer has simply failed to live up
to the values he holds or lives on a “house built on sand” with a shifting and
expedient morality. The former would
include, I think, Mafia dons who faithfully attend Mass; the latter, sadly,
seems to include most of our current crop of politicians, with a few notable
exceptions. Reaction upon exposure is
one of the clearest indications of which kind of sinner a person may be. Those who sincerely hold clear moral values
feel guilt when they violate them and shame when the failures become
known. Facing others is difficult until
they have rectified (made right) their sin.
They seek forgiveness from God and those they have harmed, they make
restitution where possible, and they usually work toward some kind of
atonement, even when they believe that Jesus made the ultimate atonement for us
all on Good Friday.
relativists respond to “getting caught” with denials, justifications,
comparisons, and ideas like “Sex is a private matter” or “It depends on what
the meaning of is is.” If a famous TV
preacher is twice exposed for sexual misconduct, a truly repentant Christian
would probably be reluctant to show his face for quite some time. If authorities charge a prominent politician
with gross misconduct, one might expect consistent, reasoned denial from the
innocent; after all, he knows exactly what happened and how it was
misconstrued. The account of the
innocent will not change. Typically, those
who lack a genuine moral compass change their stories as they seek to protect
their power and careers. I don’t know
how a Bill Clinton can continue in public life after his shameful behavior with
Monica Lewinsky, especially with his sexual escapades the stuff of stand-up and
late night comedy routines.
care how charming or influential a man is.
When a former President loses his legal credentials for his lying under
oath, and when he has never really confessed or even truly acknowledged his
wrongful actions, no one should be able to respect or support him, including
his wife. When they do, they reveal
their own moral inconsistency, and no one should respect or support them
either. Furthermore, only moral relativists
divide sin into categories in order to overlook “private sins,” while
continuing to affirm a person’s ability to serve the public. Of course, such people are not really serving
the public; they are serving themselves.
Eliot Spitzer had little choice but
to resign. His almost cold prosecution
of so many others came back to haunt him.
The irony is how few of his friends and political allies have continued
to support him (The phrase “No honor among thieves” comes to mind). For such people, everything is a political
calculation. Whatever the legal
problems, a man who spends thousands on hookers is a sick man, and his real
friends (Hopefully, he has a few) will stand with him and try to help him put
his life together again, in some form.
That life should not be politics; but, recovered, he might help others
with similar problems. I really hope he
doesn’t become just another author on the talk show circuit, making millions on
his own shameful story, or worse trying to justify it.
No one is
perfect. As Paul wrote to the Romans
says, “There is no one righteous, no even one…all have sinned.” Recovery comes through the One without sin
whose death atones for all who believe.
Authentic forgiveness is transformational, not just an appeal for others
to pretend nothing happened. An appeal to
God’s mercy and grace produces humility in the remorseful. They come to understand the sinfulness of
others through a painful awareness of their own. “There but for the grace of God go I” creates
a sensitive compassion for those who fall without glossing over the reality of
their wrongs. When allies, if not
friends, protect those who do wrong for political or other reasons, they serve
neither the public interest nor the best interests of the wrong-doer. Ignoring sin is as harmful as ignoring
illness, except that sickness may merely destroy the body while willful
corruption may spread and ruin both the individual and others around him.
Dershowitz seems to regard prostitution as sophisticated and
cosmopolitan. I find the silence of
feminists equally inexplicable, given the often real horror of the lives of
prostitutes. Those who perform casual
sex for money are often the victims of violent thugs, and sex slavery is a
growing plague on the earth. Humans
weren’t designed for casual intimacy—a virtual oxymoron; those who engage in it
destroy themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Even at the prices in the thousands of
dollars the cost is too high for the victims, as most prostitutes are. I try to avoid condemning people I don’t know
for their sin, and I have tried to deal kindly with sinners whom I have
counseled personally. Still, I cannot
overlook people whose destroy the lives of others through sins like slavery,
drug dealing, and prostitution. I
consider those who would look the other way or even defend them, for political
advantage, perhaps worse scoundrels than those they protect.
Yet, somehow, I respect Deshowitz more than Hilary Clinton
who, once happy for Spitzer’s support, acts as if she never knew him. Of course, political alliances are only as
good as the votes they bring. That
should remind us that most politicians’ promises aren’t much better than their
superficial friendships. People of true
character make the best leaders, and their character is not merely an on-the-job,
daytime only thing. If a spouse cannot
trust them, then neither can a nation.
Only those who are scoundrels defending scoundrels try to divide sins
into categories in order to tolerate some.
King David fell from grace but, once confronted, he repented and led
wisely. John McCain may occasionally
lose his temper, but he is not on a perpetual tirade. We seek not perfection in our leaders but
consistent character. Those who live in
moral ambiguity will pay in their own lives; but, if we tolerate them as our
leaders, then we will also pay.
Apart from that, Christians really only have one duty, and that is to seek the salvation, the redemption of sinners, beginning with themselves and those closest to them but extending to any with whom they have contact. We must speak truth, but we must always speak it with love, an obligation that becomes more difficult the more we are ridiculed and despised. Scoundrels may protect scoundrels, but it is not our job to condemn them; their own actions condemn them. Ours is to offer them deliverance, even though we may be tempted to withhold the offer feeling they don’t deserve it. Of course, none of us deserve God’s love or the sacrificial cost Jesus paid. Coulter mentions having a suicide watch, so great might be Eliot’s Spitzer’s despair at losing everything important to him. Losing everything may be the first step in gaining even more; that is the miracle of divine grace. God doesn’t defend or protect scoundrels. He redeems them.
* * * * *
Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code was, without question, a good story, even if he used it to propagate a number of historically indefensible, anti-Christian premises. In that light, I am giving him a second chance with a story line that doesn’t involve the Church. We see what he does with it in Deception Point.