Ex-South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford destroyed both his family and his political career by carrying on an affair with an Argentine woman. So now he wants back in—and he is making his “learning about forgiveness” a selling point in his “apology” campaign for Congress. This whole thing stinks. Christians need to stay away from it. Here’s why:
- There is always a two-fold issue before voters about a candidate: (1) Where does the candidate stand on issues?; and (2) Can I trust the candidate will be faithful to what he says? After a spectacular meltdown in public, where he “went missing” for days, Sanford is now telling voters that, simply on the basis of his word that he knows “forgiveness,” they can now trust him. But that is ludicrous on its face. Building back trust takes time. It requires a record of faithfulness. The fact that Sanford is wanting to “get back on the horse” so fast looks more like addiction to power than any kind of true renewed character. And if Sanford is rational at all, then he knows that voters cannot possibly tell if he is trustworthy yet. But he is charging ahead anyway. This may not prove by itself that Sanford is a superficial character who doesn’t even understand himself, but it certainly looks bad.
- What kind of humility does it take to try to defeat other Christian candidates for office in Congress who have a record of being faithful to their wives? I’m not saying that it is impossible that a repentant adulterer might be superior to a man who had always been faithful, but Sanford has no way of proving his character at this point. This looks more like pride than repentance.
- Sanford is now engaged to the object of his marital infidelity. Why aren’t they married? Is Sanford claiming they have stopped having extramarital sex? Or does he just not care? The most reasonable inference is that their affair is simply continuing outside of marriage. If so, Sanford is not repentant at all.
- Sanford claims that, “none of us go through life without mistakes.” Mistake? He committed high-handed treason against his wife (repeatedly!) and betrayed his promises to his constituents. He doesn’t even understand the sin he committed.
- Sanford got caught in the affair by his wife long before the public meltdown, and he promised her to end it. He lied. His wife wrote: “I started to see that my repeated forgiveness was likely enabling the poor choices Mark continued to make.” Quite right. And, by asking for votes at this point in his life, Sanford is trying to get voters to enable him some more.
- Before his meltdown, Sanford was actually being considered as a future Republican Presidential candidate. I don’t want another empty suit cluttering the stage of future GOP primaries. There is no reason, at this point, to believe he is anything more. There is every reason to see his campaign as an ambition for power lacking the principles that he names with his lips.
One horrible tragedy about democracy is it guarantees that the people who crave power have a chance to get it, when for that very reason they should never be trusted with it. I know it can’t happen, but I wish there was some way to draft Sanford’s ex-wife Jenny Sanford into Congress. She was asked to run for the vacant office against her ex-husband and others but decided against it.
“I enjoy private life and find the work I am doing in business and charitable endeavors and particularly my time as a mother are all more rewarding, important and productive than serving in today’s US House.”
Jenny is far wiser than her ex-husband. The fact that he has a chance to be in Congress, and she does not, is a window into a basic flaw in how America is ruled.