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Mark Sanford and Christian Morality

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (R) I wasn’t going to comment on Governor Mark Sanford and his Argentinean affair because that sort of thing seems to happen all the time in politics. However, there have been a few revelations that have added a bit of eyebrow-raising interest and I found myself thinking that, not only is the guy a scumbag for cheating on his wife, but he seems to be a hypocritical religious zealot as well.

From what I understand, Sanford has been a big proponent of “Christian values, character, and honesty” in South Carolina. Since he’s also a Republican, one can generally assume that he’s onboard with the “morality platform” of the Republican party.

That’s just some of what makes his infidelity a bigger deal than it would be for the average person on the street… or Democrats, for that matter. While Democrats do speak of values, honesty, and faith, they don’t do it in the same heavy-handed, in-your-face kind of way that Republicans do, so to the casual observer, it’s a bigger show of hypocrisy when Republicans have a adultery-related scandal than when Democrats do. That said, Sanford seems to have ratcheted up the negative appearance all by himself.

Not only did he have the affair with the Argentinean woman, which reportedly turned sexual only during the last year of their eight-year relationship, but he’s admitted to having “crossed lines” with other women during his twenty years of marriage.

Sanford also said that he “crossed lines” with a handful of other women during 20 years of marriage, but not as far as he did with his mistress.

“There were a handful of instances wherein I crossed the lines I shouldn’t have crossed as a married man, but never crossed the ultimate line,” he said.

He didn’t define the “ultimate line,” but the general assumption is probably that he meant intercourse. Whether he defines it the way Bill Clinton did is another matter.

However you define it, the trouble seems to run deeper than just sex. Sanford repeatedly refers to the woman as his “soul mate,” which seems, to me, like something he wouldn’t say… or feel… if he’s telling people that he’s committed to working things out with his wife.

In emotional interviews with the AP over two days, he said he would die “knowing that I had met my soul mate.”

Sanford insisted his relationship with Maria Belen Chapur, whom he met at an open air dance spot in Uruguay eight years ago, was more than just sex.

“This was a whole lot more than a simple affair, this was a love story,” Sanford said. “A forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story at the end of the day.”

How is his wife supposed to take him seriously or trust him at all when he says things like that? I’m not suggesting he lie about it. I’m just pointing out that he doesn’t sound like someone who really wants to make nice with his wife. He’s throwing himself a pity party by telling the public that he’s doomed to a life of unrequited love… but, oh yeah… he’ll still try to fall back in love with his wife.

And then, of course…

“I owe it too much to my boys and to the last 20 years with Jenny to not try this larger walk of faith,” he said.

Notice that he doesn’t owe anything to his wife… just to the boys and to a twenty-year timeframe. And what is this “larger walk of faith” to which he refers? Faith in what? Sadly, he doesn’t say.

Perhaps Sanford has faith that he’s just like the biblical King David and will be forgiven by God and allowed to continue on his merry way. Evidently, he’s fond of referring to “moral absolutes” and “God’s law” and other faith-based ideas, regardless of how hypocritical it makes him seem.

He doesn’t seem to be alone in his hypocrisy, either. According to an Associated Press story, Sanford’s “spiritual advisor,” Warren Culbertson knew of the affair, yet in his spiritual “boot camp,” he “passed” Sanford and his wife with flying colors. Defending Sanford, Culbertson said he was simply caught off guard by “the power of darkness.”

Culbertson also thinks that the only thing holding his friends’ marriage together right now is “their vow to God.”

“Because it’s not feelings — it’s not emotions,” Culbertson said, the smile fading from his tanned face. “For most Christians, at some point in your marriage, if you’re married long enough, you do it because that’s what we’re called to do — out of obedience instead of out of passion. And I think that’s where Mark and Jenny are right now.”

Funny how Sanford’s “vow to God” didn’t mean much when he was chatting up his Argentinean mistress… but that’s what’s going to save his marriage now? I find Culbertson’s statement of marriage infuriating and insulting because it implies that only Christians have marital issues and they stay in a marriage out of “obedience” instead of out of love, loyalty, or honor. It’s morally despicable to do what’s “right” because of obedience of the rules in a 2000-year-old religious text rather than doing what’s right simply because it is right… because it’s what you promised to do… because it’s what’s best for your wife and family… because you don’t want to hurt those you love… because you can intellectually overcome your baser nature.

It seems Sanford can’t do that, and despite his spouting biblical statements and comparing himself to King David, he seems to have no grasp on morality… or on decency… or on honesty. The bible doesn’t give him that and it never will… nor will it give it to anyone. While it has some nice things in it, it’s sadly lacking in any meaningful moral guidance, something that is demonstrated over and over and over again, not only in politics, but in everyday life.

Sanford shouldn’t be asking for help from any gods or for forgiveness from anyone other than his wife and kids. They’re the only ones who can grant him any kind of meaningful forgiveness.

Anything else is imaginary.