Thursday, 25 June 2009

Sex, lies and power

The list goes on, the names quickly come to mind — South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., Sen. David Vitter, R-La., former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., one-time Democratic presidential hopefuls John Edwards and Gary Hart, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, current New York Gov. David Paterson, former President William Clinton.

It’s neither a Democratic list nor a Republican list. It’s a list of men who abused their authority by the use of power.

Many leaders are susceptible to this temptation.
There are businessmen who verbally abuse their employees.
There are Priests and Ministers who believe in themselves more than they believe in God.
There are Bishops who are tyrants.
There are husbands who are brutes.
And, of course, there are the political and national leaders.

Long before our time, many Kings were also sexual predators. Because they were Kings they “got away with it”.

The Biblical King David “got what he wanted” with Bathsheba, so this story is not only contemporary.


I make a few comments.


1. Leaders who abuse their power should resign. I thought and said this about President Clinton, and I believe it for the more recent transgressors. My reasoning is simple. If my leaders betray the trust of their spouses, then they are also quite likely to betray my trust.

2. Leaders need “court jesters” or truth tellers. In the case of King David he was well served in this respect by the prophet Nathan. They need followers who will “name it”. (Remember the story of the Emperor’s new clothes? That’s an old story which contains great wisdom.


3. Each time we read of the fall of a star we may not gloat. We must acknowledge that “this could be me”.

4. We must be careful about the things we condemn. It may well be that our words of condemnation arise from our own sense of struggle with that which we condemn. (c.f. Ted Haggard et al)


5. “Apologising” is not enough. “I am sorry” is no substitute for “I was wrong”.

6. For Christians, forgiveness is the only option for those who admit their wrong. The Lord ’s Prayer speaks to this.


7. Admissions of guilt and subsequent forgiveness are acts of grace, but they should not in and of themselves lead to an “automatic” reinstatement to power or authority. It may well be that the most “forgiving” thing which we may offer to an offender is to say “you are forgiven, but you may not be re-instated to your former position - for your own good”. Seek another, more humble place in life where the temptations to the abuse of power are minimal.


I add two more thoughts.


First, abuses of power are not just about sex. It’s just that we find sex to be juicier than, for example, financial shenanigans.

Second, of course women can also abuse power. But the fact is that there are far more men than women in power/authority in this world.

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Older folks such as I will remember the “John Profumo” scandal. In the end, John Profumo, M.P. was brought down not because of his dalliance with a prostitute, but because he lied to the British Parliament. (Therein is wisdom. Political lies may well be symptomatic of other lies).

But his story did not end in disgrace. The scandal changed him (repentance and amendment of life?)

That’s exactly what we hope for all the men named in my first paragraph.


For more on John Profumo, see

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Profumo

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