Random thoughts after the divisive Alabama Senate race and the tragic story about Judge Pressler.
1. It is time that character becomes an issue once again in American politics.
The truth is that sin, hypocrisy, and all kinds of darkness have always been a part of the American political landscape.
But not too many years ago, Christians held politicians to a certain lifestyle standard if they were going to gain broad support. A thrice-divorced man who boasted of bedding multitudes of women, many married, or a man accused by 9 women of sexual assault would not have gotten an evangelical majority. They just wouldn’t. No, we aren’t electing pastors and the standards of Timothy and Titus do not apply, but a basic character test once did.
And it should again.
Christians, when we line up to support those whose lives undermine what we claim to promote, it gives us a black eye in this world that already instinctively views us as hypocrites. When partisanship trumps character and Christians are willing to vote for scoundrels so the GOP wins, it does not help our moral claims.
Philip Nation had a Facebook post, which I will reference again in a moment, and I saw this meme on it, created by a man I don’t know, Matthew Lee Smith
To me, that says it all. I think we’ve allowed partisan politics to let us forget who we work for and have become way too invested in the love of the world. When we compromise heavenly values for earthly gain (the very definition of politics) it is treacherous ground.
2. The fact that everyone is a sinner does not mean no one is virtuous.
One of the tropes that the apologists for the morally compromised (but GOP) candidates say is some variation on, “There are no perfect candidates. Everyone is a sinner. We all have skeletons in our closets.” That is using a biblical truth to speak a moral lie.
Yes, we are all sinners. Yes, we have all done things in our past we aren’t proud of. I’m glad we didn’t have cell phones and Facebook in my college days or I’d be seeking how to delete and scrub a lot of stupidity out of the interwebs. But just because we’ve all done things we regret doesn’t mean there are no moral standards to be observed. We need a higher moral standard than “R” behind your name on the ballot.
Each of us has to decide what those moral standards are – your vote is your own. But to argue that because no one is perfect there is no moral standard for anyone – that’s ridiculous. I must make moral decisions and have moral and ethical standards.
- I voted for the divorced Ronald Reagan. I would not vote for the thrice-divorced, enthusiastically adulterous, and sexually abusive Donald Trump. I drew a line.
- I would vote for a moral Mormon (some of my closest friends disagree) because I am not voting for America’s Pastor-in-chief but I will not vote for openly immoral or hypocritical Christian.
- I refuse to cast my vote for anyone who is either pro-choice (in any way, shape, or form) or anyone (and this is a newer commitment) who smacks of racism, alt-rightism, or anything like that.
You don’t have to agree 100% with my standards but you should strive for excellence. Don’t let the presence of sin cause you to abandon the concept of nobility. Yes, all have sinned but that doesn’t mean that everyone is equally degraded. There are some men and women of noble character out there – a few of them may even run for office from time to time.
And that leads me to point 3…
3. Back to Philip Nation’s Facebook Post!
He posed a simple dilemma.
Raise your hand if you feel politically homeless.
I am a lifelong and once loyal Republican who has filed for divorce from the GOP. No sense going over the reasons – I’ve cataloged them before – but I have realized that the GOP is not committed to the things I’m committed to. It is a “say one thing, do another” party. And I certainly cannot join the party of perversion and death, the Democratic Party. I will no longer stay in one party just because, “they aren’t as bad as the Democrats.”
If we continue to vote Republican because they aren’t as bad as the Democrats, that is what we’ll get, Republicans who are marginally better than Democrats, and massive hypocrites.
I’ve explored third parties and haven’t found one yet. Some appeal to me in one area, but not another. None strike me as worth membership.
For the first time in my life, I am a man without a political home. The 2018 election will be a new experience for me.
4. Stop with the “Innocent until proven guilty” thing.
The presumption of innocence is a wonderful LEGAL concept. We are blessed to live in a country in which the government is required to prove your guilt and you are not required to prove your innocence. Thank God for that system.
But if I had a dollar for every weak defense of Judge Moore based on “he’s innocent until proven guilty” I’d retire tomorrow. People, the presumption of innocence is a legal concept, not a moral or biblical one. We are not required to withhold judgment until the secular courts decide his guilt or innocence. The Bible tells us a matter should be established by two or three witnesses but never order us to wait for a legal verdict.
Yes, we should not immediately believe every accusation. Dwight McKissic shared an accusation made against him that was false. Sometimes, the accused are innocent. But when a multitude of witnesses steps forward to speak to an issue, we need not wait, as churches or as voters, for a legal determination.
5. In fact, pastors and other public officials, the presumption of innocence is ONLY legal!
Let’s get real.
I have never been accused of any sexual misconduct (because I’ve never committed any – before marriage or since). But if a young lady stands up at church and speaks a word of accusation against me, I have a legal presumption of innocence, but in the eyes of the world, and even in the eyes of my church, I have a burden of proof. If I sit back and say, “prove it” I will likely be looking for employment. AND I SHOULD BE! If I am accused of moral sin I should defend myself.
One of my closest friends was accused of a heinous sin – the very worst. He was not guilty. His family knew it, the church knew it, even the authorities knew it. But he still had to answer the charges. Fortunately, he was able to show that the charges were false and was completely exonerated. But he couldn’t hide behind the presumption of innocence.
When you are in a position of trust, the presumption of innocence is only a legal concept. Your character is at issue in leadership and you get no presumption there. You have to be tested and approved, not presumed!
6. Yes, there are liars, but most of them are NOT.
I just mentioned a false accusation against Dwight (a misunderstanding, not a lie) and a lie told against a close friend. Divorcing parties have leveled false accusations in custody hearings to gain an advantage. People have lied to humiliate someone else. Yes, it happens. But every time someone makes an accusation against a conservative religious or political figure, we cannot assume that they are lying.
The simple fact is that in the end, the vast majority of those who speak up are TELLING THE TRUTH.
7. Thank God women (and men) are speaking up.
If you silence someone who speaks up about abuse with shame, recrimination, or hate, you are part of the problem.
I do not know if the allegations against Judge Pressler are true and the lawsuit against him is perhaps the worst written thing in legal history (not written pro se). But please, Baptist friends, let us not go on the attack against Mr. Rollins and treat him like a bug to be squashed. Maybe he is a liar. If he is, I hope he is exposed and then the Judge and the other defendants sue the pants off him and his lawyer. But maybe he is telling the truth. Almost every one of these allegations shocks the family and friends of the accused. “No way he could have done that.”
Christian circles have a notorious history of pressuring victims to remain silent and of making them feel guilty instead of ministering to them. This must stop.
Thank God that people are finally finding the courage to stand and speak, to shine the light of truth on this ugly thing. It may be painful because we may find out some things that we don’t want to know about ourselves and our heroes. It has happened in Hollywood. It has happened on the left and the right in the Beltway. We have no idea where this trend will take us as Christians and as Southern Baptists.
But for the love of God, let us be the friend of the victims!
8. The cover-up is as bad as the crime.
As certain offenses come to light we may also find out that people knew about these offenses and kept quiet. Hearing a rumor is one thing. I never act on gossip. A rumor is a rumor and we are not obligated to act on rumors. But if anyone in any leadership position in the SBC can be shown to have been made aware of accusations of molestation or other abuse, and helped to hide that abuse, that is a serious thing and should be taken seriously.
To aid and abet an abuser by helping him keep his sin hidden should not be excused.
That’s all I’ve got for now. This is one of those “William Thornton” specials – random thoughts. But I like his stuff so imitation is flattery and all. Of course, his posts are about half as long as mine, so….
Like congressmen, I reserve the right to revise and extend my remarks. The edit function is a wonderful thing.