Most religious conservative politicians who get caught in a sex scandal make Adam their friend. Because he took the bite of that apple, long before there were hookers or F.B.I. stings, he insured that we were “all sinners.” Christ came along later to absolve us of our sins but didn’t change the basic human nature.
Though they never quite say it, a politician who invokes the “I am a sinner” language is subtly implying: a) there’s nothing especially unusual about what I did and therefore I needn’t be punished severely, if at all. b) “Let he who is free of sin cast the first stone,” which is to say, don’t judge me harshly, since you’re just as bad.
Jesus never suggested that being cleansed of spiritual sin meant you were exempted from temporal punishment.
The problem with this is that Jesus never suggested that being cleansed of spiritual sin meant you were exempted from temporal punishment. A murderer who accepts Christ might still get to heaven, but he doesn’t get sprung from Leavenworth.
Mark Sanford complicated matters by adding a new biblical metaphor: David, who became a great King, despite performing one of the most odious acts in the Bible, sending Uriah to the front to be killed, so he could snag Bathsheba. The message: you can behave horribly and still have a good political career.
Rabbi David Wolpe argues that this analogy is “as inapt as it is self-serving.” Far from being given a pass, he notes, King David was condemned by the Prophet Nathan for abuse of power. David begged mercy from God, who ultimately allowed for David to continue in leadership.
But Rabbi Wolpe points out that David was operating in a theocracy, under which God is the ultimate Decider. In a democracy, though, that power of forgiveness rests with voters. Unless Mr. Sanford can offer substantial proof — perhaps a YouTube video? — that God is thinking of him in the same way he did David, voters may be more inclined to side with the Prophet Nathan.
crossposted at The New York Times forum