http://www.governorsanford.com and Facebook page, and broadcast via Twitter.
The heart of the message:
So in the aftermath of this failure I want to not only apologize, but to commit to growing personally and spiritually. Immediately after all this unfolded last week I had thought I would resign – as I believe in the military model of leadership and when trust of any form is broken one lays down the sword. A long list of close friends have suggested otherwise – that for God to really work in my life I shouldn’t be getting off so lightly. While it would be personally easier to exit stage left, their point has been that my larger sin was the sin of pride. They contended that in many instances I may well have held the right position on limited government, spending or taxes – but that if my spirit wasn’t right in the presentation of those ideas to people in the General Assembly, or elsewhere, I could elicit the response that I had at many times indeed gotten from other state leaders.
My first reaction when I read that was how remarkably similar it sounded to the dozens of such communiques that have come from errant evangelical preachers of various stripes over the years. I find the idea highly debatable in the church setting, but completely unacceptable in the political one. It is hard to maintain any sympathy for Sanford’s personal issues, when he is spinning it in such a way as to try and maintain power.
Redemption is a personal matter, sin is a spiritual one. Both are very important to any individual, but neither are material to job performance, and that is what him keeping his job is all about. Set aside for a minute the why’s of his absence and consider that he simply disappeared from the job. I don’t know about where you work, but that’s a firing offense most places – no questions asked. However, he is just doing what errant politicians always do, spinning to try and hold his job. – there is certainly a far more appealing logic to his argument here than trying to figure out the definition of “is.”
My very strong objections lie in his invocation of God in this spin. He is sayng two things here that find highly objectionable. First of all he is saying that God wants him to keep his job and secondly he is saying that such is the case because that his how God intends to work out his (Sanford’s) personal redemption. Not only is that a direct imposition of theological and faith concerns on the function of government – such imposition is entirely personal and individualistic and has nothing whatsoever to do with the function of government or the rest of the citizenry of South Carolina.
What really saddens me is that this is probably pure, calculated political maneuver. South Carolina is a deeply evangelical state, and this seems purposefully designed to appeal to that fact. But in doing so it does two things that are just abhorrent. For one, it will feed and encourage the very unheathy imposition of theological concerns on politics in the state. If you will remember, the very first public religious attacks on Romney came in South Carolina in the form of Cynthia Mosteller. Secondly and more importantly, it cheapens genuine faith. By turning his personal repentance and efforts towards redemption into political fodder, Sanford has erected a barrier between himself, his family, and perhaps even God – staying in office is avoiding the issue. It certainly is not, “personally easier to exit stage left.” Faith is not a “get out of jail free” card.
Lowell Adds: I’m on vacation too, but because the Internet is available just about anywhere on the planet these days, here I am, albeit a little late. The Sanford debacle, it seems to me, is highlighting the peril of American politicians wrapping themselves in religion. I’ve never liked it, Americans have never liked it, and it really hasn’t worked in two centuries of our nation’s politics. G.W. Bush did benefit politically from his Evangelical faith but he did not run on it or use it to justify gloss over his personal or political mistakes. Mike Huckabee tried to run on his faith, and painted himself into a politico-religious corner he will probably never get out of. Sanford is helping no one, except possibly himself, and he is damaging the cause of conservative religious voters every time he attempts this smarmy tactic.