BreakPoint: Scandals, Politics and Faith

In Whom Do We Trust?

For Christians, selectively holding our political and prospective leaders to high moral standards reveals in us an unsettling lack of faith.

The past few months have been dominated by an endless parade of revelations about the sexual misconduct and predations of powerful men. From Hollywood to New York and from Minnesota to Alabama, and just about everywhere else in between, the depths to which fallen human nature can sink have been laid bare.

While these revelations are dismaying, they aren’t, or at least shouldn’t be, surprising. But what is both dismaying and surprising is the willingness of too many people to deny, excuse, overlook, and even dismiss wrongdoing when it’s committed by someone on “their team.”

Thus, one elected official, whose Christianity is well-attested, told the press that she was “troubled” by the accusation of sexual misconduct against her party’s candidate and that she “certainly had no reason to disbelieve” the candidate’s accusers. And yet she announced her intention to vote for that candidate because, in her words, “the United States Senate needs to have in my opinion, a majority of Republican votes to carry the day.”

It’s difficult to see what distinguishes this sort of reasoning from Gloria Steinem’s infamous defense of President Clinton two decades ago. Steinem urged feminists to defend Clinton because he was “vital” to “preserving reproductive freedom.”

Steinem concluded by writing “What if President Clinton lied under oath about [his sexual misconduct]?  . . . There seems to be sympathy for keeping private sexual behavior private.” To do otherwise, Steinem concluded, “will disqualify energy and talent the country needs.”

Now someone who disagreed with that kind of rationalizing back then and would, I’m confident, disagree now, was Chuck Colson.

At the height of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandals, he called the sympathy Steinem alluded to “completely wrong-headed.” He went on to say that “In a democracy, character and leadership are inseparable.”

He then told the story of how George Washington defused a potential mutiny by unpaid Continental Army veterans. Meeting with his officers and urging them to give Congress more time, Washington paused to put on his glasses, and said “Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself going blind.” The soldiers began to weep. Mutiny was averted.

As Thomas Jefferson later wrote, “the moderation and virtue of a single [man] probably prevented this Revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish.”

As Chuck said, “What the Founders understood is that character is the first requirement of leadership,” because “a nation whose leaders do not lead through their own example of virtue and character cannot inspire sacrifice for the common good.”

One of the things I respect most about Chuck is that he did not apply these principles selectively. Those of us who knew him are aware of the pain that he felt when prominent Christian elected officials, some whom he regarded as sons, succumbed to temptation and saw their moral failings exposed in humiliating fashion.

Chuck stood by his friends but he never excused their actions. He told them that they needed to resign their office and get their lives in order. Character wasn’t a partisan issue for him.

Based on recent events, it’s reasonable to wonder if the same thing is true of us. Now let me be clear; due process is due to the accused.  However, too many are justifying the well-documented 180-degree turn Christians have done on the importance of character in public office by appealing to some overriding, political concern.

But if it was wrong 20 years ago, it’s wrong today. And it’s a terrible witness.

In the end, where do we place our trust? We do not have to sacrifice our principles or our witness on the altar of political expedience—precisely because of the ultimate Truth we believe in and live for: that Christ is risen, that He is Lord. And that He ultimately will restore all things. No election can ever change that.

 

 

Scandals, Politics and Faith: In Whom Do We Trust?

As John, and Chuck, have reiterated, the character of our elected officials matters, no matter what their political party. When our leaders demonstrate virtue and integrity in their personal as well as public lives, they provide an example for future generations.

 

Resources

Washington’s Spectacles: Why Character Matters
  • Chuck Colson | BreakPoint.org | February 24, 1998
The Conviction to Lead
  • Albert Mohler | Bethany House Publishers | October 2014
Redefining Leadership: Character Driven Habits of Effective Leaders
  • Joseph Stowell | Zondervan Publishing | March 2017

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  • Phoenix1977

    “But what is both dismaying and surprising is the willingness of too many people to deny, excuse, overlook, and even dismiss wrongdoing when it’s committed by someone on “their team.””
    Your president was even on tape, admitting to sexual misconduct, and still managed to get elected. So apparently the American people doesn’t care much about character.

    • Scott

      “Despite even the US Attorney General stating the reports of sexual misconduct are credible religious conservatives remain supportive of their candidate.”

      To go with what John Stonestreet stated above, I do not understand this. One would think they might find a different candidate. That said, nearly all of the GOP leadership unwilling to work with Roy Moore are what you call “religious conservatives.”

      To answer your question above, the Republican party needs to remove Roy and replace him with someone else.

      • Phoenix1977

        “That said, nearly all of the GOP leadership unwilling to work with Roy Moore are what you call “religious conservatives.””
        Which is all the more telling, since Moore is one of them.

        “To answer your question above, the Republican party needs to remove Roy and replace him with someone else.”
        From what I understood that is no longer a possibility because the ballots have already been printed. Only Moore can withdraw himself now, and he made it clear he has no intention to do so. The only alternative Republican voters now have is the write in a new candidate on the ballot, but that would almost automatically hand the election over to the Democrats because it’s not allowed to coordinate such a write in vote.

  • Scott

    “Based on recent events, it’s reasonable to wonder if the same thing is true of us. Now let me be clear; due process is due to the accused. However, too many are justifying the well-documented 180-degree turn Christians have done on the importance of character in public office by appealing to some overriding, political concern.”

    Amen! Which is why many of us were left scratching our heads last November.

  • Harris Ratnayake

    I think it boils down to lack of faith. We feel we need to overlook a candidate’s moral deficiencies in order to get a candidate who support our views. This is having a devastating effect on the younger generation who see the hypocrisy of the adults.

  • David Carlson

    Reminder: All comments are have to be approved by a moderator before appearing on the site. We’re all for robust debate, but we will not post comments that resort to name calling.

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  • C

    To me, there is an importance of character in a leadership position, esp the Presidency. But honestly, in the election of 2016, there were only one of two people that was going to win. Both with questionable morals, and values. I prayed and decided to vote my conscience. I still pray!

  • PASTORTEACHER

    A gigantic boisterous “AMEN” to John Stonestreet. Again. You have kept the godly perspective. We are first Christians, concerned with His Kingdom and His righteousness, then “all these other things”: things like family, community, truth, justice, then somewhere after that we are people who care about the American way. (Thank you, Superman). I hear so much in Christian conversation about the role of politics in making us a Christian nation again, and I want to cry out everything you said so concisely. We will become a Christian nation if, and only if, by the grace of God we win one heart at a time to the truth of God’s word and the transforming power of His life in the individual. Jesus will build His church, and establish His kingdom, period. I say, “re-elect Jesus, King of your heart!”

  • Phoenix1977

    “Yeah… I should have used past tense. Of course all of this is assuming the allegations are true.”
    It didn’t matter in all the other cases whether the allegations were true or not. People like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Ed Westwick are done for. To quote a cliche: They will never work in the town (or any town) again. The allegations are enough to damage a person beyond repair, something Roy Moore is likely to experience.