In the wake of Mark Sanford’s (re) election to congress I hastily tweeted that conservatives have no credibility when it comes to moral questions. I was (and still am) disgusted that men like Sanford can be so blatantly hypocritical about the “sanctity of marriage” or “family values” and yet still be popularly elected. It is embarrassing (and maddening).
I also find it annoying that his “redemption” is framed in some sort of Christian piety. Sanford humbly proclaimed at his victory party, ”I am one imperfect man saved by God’s grace.” This morning he compared his return the Lazarus rising from the grave. And this is somehow OK? Patriarchal and misogynist religious institutions are so quick to decry the evils of same sex marriage and equally quick to forgive men who shatter lives (I’m looking at you, Roman Catholic Bishops) and wreck marriages (hello Mr. Sanford and Mr. Gingrich) with their penises.
My immediate reaction was to make this a conservative problem. Then I started thinking about my own political leanings and the people who represent them. It is true that liberals have similar indiscretions and recover from them (Anthony Weiner for Mayor!). The difference is that they don’t run on a platform to protect marriage or decry the evils of our secular world. What they do focus on is the need to strengthen social networks to protect poor, marginalized, and vulnerable people. Here’s the rub–liberal leaders suck at that too. The recent scandals that have rocked Albany, New York, the incredible dysfunction and cronyism of the Chicago machine (and Illinois in general), the failure of the Senate to pass background check legislation, and on.
This is how I see it–conservatives focus on individual responsibility and thus by definition flout social responsibility. But it is not like they are living individually responsible lives either. Liberals, on the other hand, focus on social responsibility and therefore pay less attention to individual culpability. And at the same time they behave in ways that wreak havoc on social support systems. Both sides blatantly disregard all forms of morality, all the while pointing out the flaws in the other sides’ values. What. The. Fuck.
I am sure that this needs to be more carefully nuanced. I also think that this critique could be extended non-political folk (I already mentioned the church). Why do we struggle so deeply to live in healthy, constructive relationships with one another? Why is it so hard to do the right thing, whether as individuals or as a society? Finally, in the midst of all this, is there such a thing as transformative grace?