It’s agonizing to watch the excruciating ordeal of Herman Cain as accusations of sexual harassment–and now an extramarital affair–have been made against him by various women. As we watch this tawdry spectacle, it’s critical to keep in mind the philosophy both Americans and Christians must adhere to: A person is innocent until proven guilty. The Bible has it as, ““One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” (Deuteronomy 19:15) Of course, “witnesses” must be tested to be sure they are true witnesses and not false witnesses. Mr. Cain’s problem is that outside the test of a courtroom or credible investigation, the more accusers that surface, the more credible their charges become.
IF the charges are true (and that’s a big “IF” because at this point only the accusers and Mr. Cain know whether they are), my pastoral advice to Mr. Cain would be to withdraw from the race immediately and give his full attention to his family, his relationship to God, and his interior life. This is precisely the advice I’ve given to several prominent public figures. Some took the advice and stepped down; others did not.
If there is a lesson in this wrenching saga, it is that private life does matter when it comes to public office. (Questions are being asked about Mr. Gingrich for the same reason.) You could say that Americans are too prudish (as my European acquaintances often opine), or that it’s pharisaical to point the finger at another person while three fingers point back at you. (See Luke 18: 9 – 14) On the other hand, you could also say that Americans on the whole know that if you have a hard time keeping to your most intimate promises of fidelity, you just might have a hard time keeping to your most public promises on policy. (Luke 16:10 in the Bible in Basic English, “He who is true in a little, is true in much; he who is false in small things, is false in great.”)
When these revelations of infidelity come up in my private conversations with office holders–or candidates–(and they often do)–I always deliver the same counsel: “Nothing is as important as your relationship to your spouse, your family, your children, and grandchildren. And nothing–absolutely nothing–trumps your own interior relationship with God and your conscience. The best thing you can do for your loved ones and yourself, is to step away from the unmitigated demands of public life and give yourself completely to the ones you love and that love you.”
Mr. Cain is a praying man. (For that matter, as far as I know, all the candidates are praying people.) Mr. Cain–and each of his rivals–must pray, contemplate, and take under wise counsel the question of whether their personal failures (and they all have them–together with the rest of us) require their full and undivided attention. I, for one, have enough confidence in Mr. Cain to believe he will, in fact, do just that and make the right call in the end.
My prayers are with him–and I hope yours will be, too.
Tonight (Tuesday, Nov 1, 2011), Congress will vote on House Resolution Number 34, reaffirming our country’s national motto, “In God We Trust.” This is more than a symbolic exercise. Earthly governments have God-ordained boundaries. Political powers, for instance, cannot control the conscience, inner thoughts, opinions, or speech of its subjects–and there are many more such limitations on human authorities. When this supreme limitation is forgotten, the boundaries around government are inevitably violated and the result is a form of idolatry. A false god, made in a human image (whether dictator, absolute monarch, tyrannical oligarchy, terrorist regime, etc., etc.,) is substituted for the One True God. Human arbitrariness is put in the place of absolute truth and all foundations for law, morality, love, dignity, and the Divine are destroyed, leading to an ultimate insecurity of mind, body, and soul. Witness the sad histories of places like the former Soviet Union, the “People’s Republic” of China, and Castro’s Cuba.
Now, before I go any further, let me address those readers who are already typing out their objections with arguments like, “Yeah, well look at the tragic history of theocracy–religious wars, hypocrisy, oppression, the Taliban . . .” Exactly. The religious power (i.e, the Church, community, etc.) also has its God-ordained limits. We rightly use the phrase, “Church AND state,” not “Church OR State.” The religious power declares the Truth of God’s will–in spirituality, morality, ethics, salvation, eternity; but not in the temporal, secular, political, or governmental realms. The “state” acts in response to the Truth declared by the church. (But not the other way around.) The so-called “wall of separation” between church and state, a phrase coined by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Baptists assuring them he would not declare his beloved “Church of Virginia” as a national denomination, is really more of a one-way gate: The church speaks into the conscience of government so that it can better execute its earthly role of ordering society.
All of this is loaded into our simple statement, “In God We Trust.” By making this joint, positive affirmation, we eschew any notion that one or more human beings in the form of human government can dictate to every part of life and living. The American Founders wisely established checks and balances, breaking up the government power into three co-equal branches (executive, legislative, judicial) to ensure no one authority would become absolute. At the same time, they appealed jointly to the “Supreme Judge of the World,” and, 100 years later, when, during the Civil War, a new idol threatened the whole of American civilization, they incised, “In God We Trust” on our coinage. A century after that, the Congress passed legislation and the President signed into law a national motto saying the same, effectively placing all three branches securely under the One, Supreme, Eternal, and Absolute Authority.
Today, 56 years after the National Motto took effect, we will see whether the political power still understands the gravity of the question–and whether it is humble enough to stay inside its borders.
Thank you Congressman Randy Forbes of Virginia, for helping us keep all of this in perspective. The consequences, one way or the other, will be enormous.