God's Politics

Jim WallisOver the past four days, the storm over Rep. Mark Foley’s improper and salacious emails and predatory behavior toward teenage male Congressional pages has taken on tidal wave proportions. Foley resigned from Congress only hours after the initial stories on Friday, Saturday’s news was of alleged House leadership cover-ups, and by Sunday House Speaker Hastert had requested an FBI investigation of possible criminal behavior.

On Tuesday, October 3rd, the conservative Washington Times, in its lead editorial, wrote: “House Speaker Dennis Hastert must do the only right thing, and resign his speakership at once.” To their credit, some social conservatives like Richard Viguerie and Bay Buchanan have already spoken out on television shows with real moral passion on Foley’s behavior and the Republican leadership’s handling of the situation. It will be important to hear clearly from the leaders of the Religious Right on this scandal.

Already this year, three other Republican members of Congress have been indicted because of financial and political scandals. One is in prison. Others, from both parties, are under investigation. Congress refuses to resolve the scandal of pork barrel spending and the ability of special interest money to determine policy decisions.

And now this. Foley’s disgusting behavior is compounded by his hypocrisy in being the chair of the Congressional Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. I certainly believe his behavior should be fully investigated and prosecuted if warranted. And any of the House leadership who know of his activities and covered it up should in fact resign.

As a parent, I am outraged by this developing spectacle, but sadly, not surprised. We live in a culture that has lost its way. A poisonous culture in which sex and money permeate our news, television shows, movies, advertising, and almost the entire popular culture. And when you throw political power into the mix, this latest scandal shouldn’t be a shock. A Congress that has lost its moral bearings simply reflects a culture that has lost its moral underpinnings. And when a party has been in power too long, just staying in power becomes more important than truth-telling, which was unfortunately also true when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. As conservative Richard Viguerie said in the Washington Times: “The Republicans have become what they beheld in this town when the Democrats were in control – presiders over a culture of corruption, only it far exceeds what they complained about with the Democrats and Speaker Jim Wright.”

The immediate response of many Democrats has been to jump on the news for partisan gain. Many Republicans jump on scandals involving Democratic members of Congress for their partisan gain. But the roots of this crisis go far deeper than partisanship. As Diana Butler Bass wrote earlier this week: “…we know that sin is not the exclusive possession of any political party. The darkness that stalks us is neither Republican nor Democratic. It is part of the human condition…”

We need political leaders – of both parties – who believe in the importance of integrity, of humility, of honesty, and a commitment to the common good – and a willingness to challenge their own party’s desire for power at the expense of moral principle. And we need a pledge by all of us to make fundamental changes in our culture and support political leaders who will work for those changes.

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