Cheap Grace

Discernment-free conservatism rejoices at the spectacle of Mark Sanford, who ditched his wife for a Latin American hottie on the public dime and lied about it, winning an election. Cue Sanford, spouting the rhetoric of Christian Tofu Moralistic Therapeutic Deism:

“I want to acknowledge a God not just of second chances but third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth chances, because that is the reality of our shared humanity,” Sanford said at his victory celebration after defeating his Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch. “I am one imperfect man saved by God’s grace.”

Man. That dude must have gone through an epic Jean Valjean conversion, repented his manifold sins and changed completely right?

Well no. Actually, he ditched his wife and kids (though he did have the testicular brass to ask her to run his campaign–she declined) and has now taken up with the Latin hottie. Then his very next thought was “I want my power back.”  Right wingers worried about “anti-family socialists” who steal your tax money to fund the breakup of families were thrilled and gave him that power–the power he used last time to use state monies to fly to adulterous trysts while lying to his family and to the people who just voted him back in. But who cares? A “family values” Republican has power and he does blather on about whatever focus-grouped culture war red meat plays with FOX watchers and talk radio drones, so that makes him an apostle of grace. The Conservative Anti-Charism of Discernment marches on!

Compare and contrast this man’s behavior with that of a real penitent.

Ross Douthat is absolutely right: “I’m a John Profumo guy living in a Mark Sanford world.”

Mark Sanford is Exhibit #909840982432 in why I will never ever support the GOP and its filthy exploitation of God-talk ever again. Do I believe he should be extended mercy? Sure. “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25). But do I think that forgiveness means that anybody in their right mind should vote for such a despicable impenitent man? Of course not. The very last thing that any Christian who really cared about this guy should do is give him back the very power he showed himself so radically incapable of using well the last time. You might as well reward an alcoholic with an open bar tab as he stands there clutching his last bottle, bleary-eyed, covered with vomit and babbling something about “grace”. We are not to be wise as doves and innocent as serpents.

And before anybody says it, refusing to vote for this man would not have meant compulsion to vote for his opponent. It simply means exercising some common sense and not bringing the gospel into disrepute, yet again, by letting some God-talking pol do a Bill Clinton Bible-totin’ photo op. Oh. Wait! I forgot. Bill Clinton actually stayed with his wife! He’s a better man than the GOP’s “family values” candidate in SC.

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