You need not tune into MSNBC to hear Keith Olbermann’s shouts of glee cascading through the hallways of Rockefeller Center – nor, tune into the Morning Joe to detect the cackling coming from the Huffington Post and Tina Brown. So loud is the collective secular chortle that one might casually hear it amidst the hustle and bustle of a warm Vegas night or in the deepest recesses of the Appalachian Trail.
Growing up in Ann Arbor – and, yes, we do everything weird in Ann Arbor – my parents had close friends who would annually celebrate “Christmas in July.” In a scene reminiscent of such benevolent excess, it seems Republican national leadership has adopted its own mid-year, Chanukah in June, but the gifts are being opened not by grateful constituents, but by political opponents who rightfully note the glaring hypocrisy in conservative declarations of family values by daylight and prurient cat calls by night.
On Tuesday, June 16th, the first candle on the metaphorical menorah of political disaster was lit by Senator John Ensign – acknowledging his version of marital indiscretion, leaving unresolved rumors concerning how his paramour and her husband exited stage left only to land in cushy jobs peripherally related to the Ensign fundraising apparatus. Then, on the eighth day, the last candle was lit in a staggering display of self-immolation by Governor Mark Sanford – acknowledging his version of marital indiscretion, leaving unresolved questions concerning how this bright shining conservative voice could leave his state government rudderless while he was off ‘crying for Argentina.’
In the Book of Matthew (Matthew 7:1), we are told to judge not, lest we be judged. And, so it is – I am certainly not in a position to judge given my own fallen status. So on a personal level, as I have prayed for myself, I will pray for these men that their actions be mercifully judged only by Him and that we, their broader constituency, are embued with the redemptive gift of forgiveness. My Judao-Christian upbringing tells me that their walk to atonement is ultimately a private one and that we should let them have their peace as they seek to reconstruct all that they have invariably damaged.
But reflecting on their actions, beyond the personal and upon the justified ridicule from the left concerning ostensible hypocrisy, raises a broader concern regarding these events for all politically active persons of faith – one which, to give due concern for our faith, we must answer. What role should our faith play in our politics?
Secularists would and do often suggest that faith should play no role in our public politics. And, ultimately, depending on how persons of faith receive this question, secularists may be right, but for the wrong reasons. For secularists, the disconnect between faith and politics is inevitable, not by conscious choice but by default – the absence of a declared guiding faith renders the question moot.
Let me suggest that if persons of faith can’t live up to their faith, then it should play no role in our public politics – not because it makes us worse politicians, but because it damages the cause of faith. And, to all persons of faith, this should be our principal concern.
Erick Erickson has suggested that elected politicians may suffer from an absence of a core support group to keep their moral compass in sync. And, there is certainly some truth to this – I can reflect on my personal experience that politics (even at the local level) is a heady business – arrogance and hubris become the currency in which those involved often communicate. Such an environment is unhealthy and leads to poor decisions affecting people whom have little ability to influence outcomes from the outside – like spouses and children. But, ultimately, I think the loss of guiding faith among our politicians finds its cause in something more basic than just the absence of a bible-based support group.
Conservative politicians, who for their own electoral benefit find themselves linking faith with politics, better start realizing that, for example, to be a “conservative Christian” is a lot more important than to be a “Christian conservative.” A skewing of priorities between our politics and our faith permits us to advance the cause of our politics on the backs of our faith. Simply stated, this is wrong.
As a movement of faith-based conservatives, if we prioritize faith and family, first, and politics, second, we will mute secular criticism of our faith via our politics. And, as importantly, we will never again be lighting candles in June.