Standing In The Gap Of The Real And Perceived
Yesterday, in Part 1 of this discussion, I reiterated and clarified some points I’d made in recent articles concerning the failings of Anthony Weiner. Some of you out there thought I was being a little soft on our Congressman, and in your zeal, spliced reports to accuse him of crimes he had not committed.
All of this had to be corrected. But behind the issues concerning Congressman Weiner, who has announced his resignation, but is not out of office just yet, lie fundamental questions about how we are to handle the personal moral shortcomings of those in the public trust.
To be sure, the public should continue to expect exemplary moral behavior from all of its civil servants, right down to dogcatcher. But you don’t fire the dogcatcher because he cheats on his wife. That is, unless he cheats with a dog.
Let’s raise the bar a little bit. Certified Public Accountants, for instance, have a serious fiduciary responsibility to their clients. Surgeons regularly hold the lives of their patients in their hands. Judges determine the sentences of the convicted, and by association, their families, everyday. We expect everyone in these professions to act impeccably when it comes to honesty, selflessness, and objectivity. Does that mean that they should all be dismissed immediately when they are caught in immoral, but not legally prosecutable, sexual improprieties?
No, it doesn’t. In the case of the CPA, we don’t connect committed sexual infidelity with an increased potential for fiduciary malfeasance. Most of us understand that although all sins are equally damning from an eternal perspective, they are not equal on this side of mortality. In the foxhole, there are guys I might trust with my life, but not my wife.
Sexual sin, then, is in a different category than other sins for this reason: stealing, lying, and murder are sins against the person of others. But sexual sins, in addition, are sins against one’s own person. Other sins are purely self serving, but sexual sins are also self hating. Saint Paul, by the way, agrees with this assessment (1 Corinthians 6:18). So when sexual sin lacks a real victim apart from the perpetrator, we should be inclined to grace, especially once the sinner has confessed and repented. Otherwise, we tread on shaky ground, all of us. Because sexual or not, we are all idolaters in some form or fashion.
Once our servants have disappointed us, then, the issue, assuming no laws have been broken, is the reaction of the offender when confronted. Congressman Weiner tried to cover it up at first, like many of us have at one time or another. King David comes to mind.
But like the king, once cornered, Weiner acknowledged the substance of the charges. There are also some things he didn’t do that impressed me at that point. He didn’t try to minimize his sins, redefine the category of his actions, or justify them. He didn’t deflect responsibility to other people, his loneliness, the pressure of his job, or his childhood. Nope. He just said, essentially, “I’m wrong, I’m sorry, and I’m making myself accountable to all under whose authority I stand.” These would be his wife, his constituents, and law enforcement. It’s very telling that he resisted calls for his resignation until his wife got home. In that is an untold story about how much these two want each other, and one which I would suspect is touching and admirable.
In Part 3 of “Anthony Weiner: Standing By My Man?”, we’ll dabble in the power of habits, and entertain the possibility that we might all be victims of Congressman Weiner’s shenanigans. Surely all of those attorneys advertising on television should be trampling each other to take our case for a percentage, don’t you think?