The Louder They Are the Harder They Fall

This week’s news has been dominated by the unofficial viral coverage of the situation in Iran, and rightly so. But while you were busy putting a green overlay on your Twitter avatar, another political story has been brewing in this country and that is the downward spiral of the political career of on John Ensign, Republican Senator from Nevada.

It’s really not news that a legislator has had an extramarital affair. Duh. It would be more newsworthy if he hadn’t. The newsworthy part of this is his vociferous calls for the resignations of others when they were caught in similar situations. He called for the resignations of Bill Clinton and Larry Craig during their respective scandals. Here’s the beauty of Ensign’s “wide stance” on the Larry Craig incident: he actually said that if he were in a similar situation he hoped he would have the integrity to resign, and he said all this WHILE HE WAS HAVING AN AFFAIR. Is Ensign planning to resign? No, of course not. He did step down from his position as head of the Republican Policy committee, but he’s clinging tenaciously to his Senate seat.

The story of Ensign’s indiscretion has begun to spin out into more sticky criminal territory as the more sordid details come to light. First, while he was having an affair, both the woman he was having an affair with and her husband (Cynthia and Doug Hampton, respectively) worked for organizations that are directly linked to Ensign. During the tenure of their relationship, Cynthia’s pay suddenly and inexplicably doubled and her 19-year-old son was hired on as some sort of “political consultant.” When the relationship ended, both Doug and Cynthia immediately found employment at companies from which a straight line to Ensign can be easily drawn.

Just for grins, let’s add on top of this that Ensign claims to be a devout, born-again Christian and has been very active in the Promisekeepers movement.  If the promises he was supposed to be keeping had to do with the career advancement and fiscal enrichment of his mistress and her family, I say mission accomplished.

Ensign joins a long line of conservative political and religious leaders who are vocally opposed to some vice or another and end up getting caught in the act of that very vice. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

Jim Bakker
Jimmy Swaggart
Ted Haggard
David Vitter
Eliot Spitzer
Mark Foley
Larry Craig

That’s a very short list of ones I could come up with off the top of my head. There are others that I can think of that aren’t household names, but did damage nonetheless. This week the Southern Baptist Convention is meeting in Kentucky, and it’s anecdotally well-known that when the SBC is in town, strip clubs and gay bars do record business.

Here’s where I give my “I’m not judging” disclaimer, b/c I’m actually not. I don’t think I’m better than any of these people, in fact I know I’m not. My point is that these people are under the impression that words are louder than actions. The ones on this list that claim faith in Christ have missed the gospel completely – it’s a relationship with a person, not about imposing external morality on yourself and others.

Being a person of faith is all about who I am becoming not what I am vocally for or against. The internal transformation causes changes in my outward behavior, but not the other way around. The God that most fundamentalists believe in is very small, and can’t handle the gray areas of life that make up the majority of all of our journeys. Their God lives in a very small box that they can control, manipulate and fully grasp as finite humans. I don’t know about you, but for me that’s not much of a God at all. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of faith in that. I’m constantly struggling against the human tendency to cast God in my image. It’s a scary thing to let God be God and relinquish control of life’s circumstances but that’s ultimately what people of faith are called to do.

Ensign needs to resign and take care of his family, his faith and himself. God has forgiven him and I hope he can learn to accept that. However, God rarely removes the natural consequences of our actions and Ensign needs to face them and bow out gracefully. I hope he’ll learn something through this experience but keep it to himself and not try to profit from it with a book deal.

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