Like many conservative Christians, I had hopes that Herman Cain might be the conservative of choice in a republican pool of murky water. I say might because I had some reservations about him regarding abortion. My position is that I am willing to support a gay, atheist (and you know how high on a pedestal I put those folks), as long as they are officially, in public policy, 100% pro-life and, therefore, willing to prohibit the murder of unborn children. I call it prioritizing; something republicans are complete failures at doing. So, I was not overly excited (but optimistic) about Cain’s prospects in that respect, because while he did verbalize the often pacifying position of being personally pro-life, his public policy stance seemed to be something different. However, I did give him the benefit of the doubt -without throwing my support behind him- after he re-articulated what he understood his public policy stance to be.
Recall the terrible dialogue Cain had with Piers Morgan at CNN, during which Cain presented an unusually strange articulation of his supposed pro-life views. So strange was his conversation, I wanted to believe that his statements were attributed to simply caving in under pressure. Holding a 100% pro-life public policy position is not real popular today among the left and moderate sects and it can be difficult to openly maintain for those running for high profile public offices (but not excusable). Cain shortly, thereafter, clarified his statements on Face the Nation affirming that he is in fact, 100% pro-life and would support a human life amendment to the constitution. The discerning reader understands that there are two considerations in his revised statement. First is his personal feelings and the second is his official, public policy position. I do not know if he intended to be crafty with his official position or if he meant exactly what I understand the meaning of “human amendment” to express. The only human amendments even being seriously discussed is the personhood of the baby in the womb, and that I support. However, lingering in the back of my mind were questions of untruthfulness. No supporter of a personhood amendment would falter and speak the way Cain did. That concerned me; which is why privately I engaged in a lot of discussion but I never publicly put my support behind him. I just was not convinced that he was being as truthful and accurate as he could and should have been.
Then the no-holds-barred character assaults on Cain heated up. Tales of sexual harassment from four different women surfaced with questionable credibility, but the allegations were enough to blacken Cain’s eye. A lone female without convincing evidence is not credible; but four separate accusations, even without hard evidence, are worth our attention. If that were all, Cain would still be on the party nomination campaign trail.
When the sexual harassment accusations failed to draw Cain off course the show stopper made her debut. Ginger White (hereafter referred to as the Great Whore of Babylon), an Atlanta businesswoman, came forward with the claim that she had been involved in an extramarital affair for thirteen years with another women’s husband. This too, Cain denied but with a different ending. Up until this point Cain handled the accusations fairly well. But, the real question is how should we handle Cain or any candidate for public office under the examination of past behavior?
Social conservatives can be fickle when it comes to their candidate’s past indiscretions. Depending on the seriousness of the ethical violation responses can range from full forgiveness, allowing the candidate to remain in the good graces of the people, to complete abandonment, often times ending even all future efforts. As is usually the case, the candidates with a turbulent (and human), yet repented history get knocked off, while the candidate that mocks the moral standard that destroys their opponents, receives the coveted support. This is unjust and indicative of the corrupt morals of the people and their inability to make good, moral judgments. So this raises the question: how should we evaluate our political leaders in terms of their personal lives?
We need to have a strategy in place beforehand so that we can prudently examine and assess candidates without unnecessarily throwing them under the bus and destroying them and the hard work. Of course, that is exactly what the left and moderates want to do; destroy any honest conservative. But, conservatives need to take the high road (and so should liberals for that matter but if they do not let them walk it alone). Further, the method needs to be based on the biblical pattern of forgiveness. Everyone has a past that is tainted, corrupt, hurtful, and sometimes even criminal. However, a man should be known by what he does, not what he did. These two considerations are the ground work for a just and right method for dealing with political candidates.
First, we should consider the nature of the alleged offense. The more serious the offense, the greater the scrutiny needs to be. There exists a hierarchy of wrong doing or in other words not all sins are equal as many, many Christians believe. Some offenses we can move forward with a watchful eye while others we simply cannot co-conspire with them. There is no hard and fast rule to govern this inquiry. It requires skilled, moral judgment on an individual basis. Some people do not have a problem with anyone caught cheating on their spouse. However, I could make a clear case that there is a difference between a CEO cheating on his spouse and an elected official doing the same thing in terms of its impact on their job.
Next, how did the candidate respond to the actual offending behavior? Did they deny it even when it was clear they did it (Bill Clinton)? Or did they humbly acknowledge their wrong doing and respond appropriately? How they responded to the original offense is tremendously relevant to note. In fact, it is the most important. Pay close attention to how they respond or responded and that will make up the majority of your available information from which you judge from.
Lastly, how far removed, in time, is the candidate from the offense? This also requires clear thinking and principled moral judgment. I am not suggesting a strict time line, but an examination of the totality of the circumstances to include the time separation from the offense. An event that took place twenty years ago certainly does not carry the same weight as something as fresh as last month. This principle is foundational because time is needed to not only heal wounds but to reestablish the offender as someone who has changed their behavior and also forgiven by those affected the deepest. A person can most definitely change immediately, the very moment after a bad decision, and never return to engage in that same behavior again. We can accept their claimed change in behavior as genuine but, that person still needs to step aside, and allow time to confirm the change. I think Herman Cain did the right thing. I also feel that conservatives fail to judge rightly; this needs to change.