MORE QUESTIONS: Though GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain denies the latest allegations of sexual impropriety, he's "reassessing" his campaign in light of the scandal. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)
Although the Republican Party has unofficially branded itself as the party of family values, I’m wondering if this party and all political parties should reassess how we choose our candidates. Should we leave the personal affairs of candidates, married or not, out of politics? After all, the candidates are not running to be pastors or deacons or even husbands or wives of the year, they are running to be president.
Clearly, New Hampshire’s largest newspaper, the New Hampshire Union Leader, managed to look past Republican nominee Newt Gingrich’s personal failures in its recent endorsement of him.
“Newt Gingrich is by no means the perfect candidate. But Republican primary voters too often make the mistake of preferring an unattainable ideal to the best candidate who is actually running. In this incredibly important election, that candidate is Newt Gingrich. He has the experience, the leadership qualities and the vision to lead this country in these trying times. He is worthy of your support on January 10,” wrote Joseph W. McQuaid, New Hampshire Union Leader publisher, in his editorial on Sunday.
ANOTHER OTHER WOMAN: Ginger White claims she and Herman Cain were more than friends.
Even ultraconservative 700 Club host and former presidential hopeful Pat Robertson, who is famous for having extreme views, is taking a more pragmatic approach to campaigning. “Those people in the Republican primary have got to lay off of this stuff. They’re forcing their leaders, the front-runners, into positions that will mean they lose the general election,” Robertson said. “You appeal to the narrow base and they applaud the daylights out of what you’re saying, and then you hit the general election and they’ll say no way.”
CNN contributor Anne-Marie Slaughter considered this issue in her blog post “Why Anthony Weiner Should Not Resign” when former Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner was lambasted after his sexting scandal earlier this year. (Weiner, however, ultimately did resign.) Slaughter points to former President Bill Clinton as an example of a political leader whose failures in his personal life did not negate his effective governing. She writes:
I for one am deeply glad that Bill Clinton did not resign; he was one of the best presidents of my lifetime and left the country in far better shape than he found it. His wife and daughter chose to forgive him and to preserve their family, which is their business, not ours. He also breached the public trust by lying, but in my view not to an extent that it affected his ability to govern successfully.
And there is even precedent for this stance in the Bible. In spite of King David’s flagrant cheating with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband, he was not removed from the throne. Read 2 Samuel 11 and 12 if you don’t believe me.
But, of course, Cain hasn’t been elected to anything yet, and our perception of a candidate’s integrity and commitment to family are two important ways for us to gauge how much we like him. If he lies and cheats on his wife, will he lie and cheat the American people? This is a fair question.
If Ginger White’s story is to be believed, Cain ended his alleged affair with her prior to jumping into the presidential race. So, again assuming White’s story is true, at least Cain doesn’t have the hubris to believe he can juggle an adulterous relationship while persuading the American people that he’s the man to lead the nation. His 9-9-9 plan? Well, that’s another story.
Although as Christians we do not condone this kind of behavior, many powerful men down through the ages have struggled in their personal lives. And in today’s political scene, sex scandals seem to be a common denominator. If we subtract every candidate that has failed personally from the race, we may be left with very little to work with.
In fact, when you consider all the male politicians who we eventually discovered were unfaithful to their wives (think: John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Ensign, Mark Sanford, Rudy Giuliani, Gary Hart, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and the list goes on), one might begin to wonder if having the gumption to run for office predisposes one to philandering.
Abraham Lincoln, another male politician, once said: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
Among other things, power provides a person with greater opportunities — opportunities to do good or to act selfishly. Whenever we pull the lever or mark the oval for our candidate on Election Day, we’re putting faith in that person to choose the former.
May God help us to do the same.
U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters
Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank (D-Ma.) announced his retirement this week after 32 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Ca.) is first in line to take his powerful seat as Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. But Waters potential ascent isn’t without controversy. Here’s a roundup of the criticism so far:
Ethics Violations Will Sink Her
The biggest threat to Waters’ elevation is an ethics investigation into whether or not she abused her power to acquire federal bail-out money for a bank in which her husband had a financial interest.
“Waters’ husband was a former board member of the bank and held more than $300,000 in stock,” ABC News reported. “A trial scheduled for last November was postponed indefinitely and the investigation effectively reset after two lawyers on the ethics committee resigned following allegations they secretly communicated with Republicans on the panel and compromised the investigation. Outside counsel was then hired to determine whether the case against Waters should proceed. That report is due on Jan. 2,” the article said.
Criticism of the President Will Do Her In
“Waters made waves this year when she publicly criticized President Barack Obama,” Roll Call reported. Next in line after her is Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and she “played a key role in addressing the financial crisis of 2008,” the article said. But Waters has backing from the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).
“I resent any attempt by the financial services industry to prejudge Maxine Waters with no legitimate reason. I think that’s stupid,” CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) told Roll Call. “They can’t say, ‘Well she doesn’t know the issues.’”
She Doesn’t Have the Financial Chops for the Job
However, that’s exactly what Atlantic economics blogger Megan McArdle said in response to the possibility that Waters could replace Frank.
After summarizing a televised exchange between Waters and former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, in which Waters flubbed her question, McArdle concluded that the exchange was “kind of hilarious, until you realized that this was her job, and that she voted on critical financial regulatory questions.” It wasn’t the only instance, McArdle said, of Waters’ revealing scant knowledge of finance.
“Every time I see Maxine Waters at a hearing I know that the questions are going to be bizarre, and that Congresswoman Waters will make them even stranger with garbled readings and off-topic follow-ups,” said McArdle.
She’s a Bomb Thrower from the Far Left
Meanwhile, The Hill reported that “Wall Street executives are bracing for the possibility” that Waters will take the top spot. The outlet said Waters is “considered to the left of Frank on financial and housing issues.”
“She’s not a good face of the issues,” an anonymous financial executive told The Hill. “She’s too much of a bomb thrower.”
She’ll Slow Growth by Injecting Affirmative Action into Business
At Intervestors.com, the editorial board took Waters to task for “injecting affirmative-action decision-making in financial transactions, slowing the flow of capital and economic growth.”
How, you ask, did she do that?
“As a key member of the Dodd-Frank conference committee, Waters authored the ‘practical’ rule of requiring every bank regulatory agency to create an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion,” the editorial said.
It’s Time to Pass the Baton
“With decades in Congress comes more cynicism and opportunities for political shenanigans that can lead to ethics charges,” wrote Zerlina Maxwell at The Grio in a call to reconsider support for aging CBC members like Waters. “It’s not about whether we like the seasoned members of the CBC who have worked tirelessly for a generation; it might just be that it’s time for new ideas and a new perspective on political power representing the African-American community in Congress.”
What Do You Think?
Has Waters earned the right to chair the House Financial Services Committee, or will her perceived weaknesses sink her?
African American Atheist might seem like an oxymoron to some people. After all, black Americans are among the most churchgoing folks in the nation. But for those who know the African American community is not a spiritual monolith, the existence of black atheists should come as no surprise. Nevertheless, the notion that there are African Americans who actually do not believe in God still has that “car wreck” quality to it that at once produces a bounty of incredulous rubberneckers. So there’s no wonder that a new article from The New York Times has got people talking. Here’s a roundup of some of the different opinions.
Black Atheism Is Old News
“Coming out” as an atheist is a particular challenge, according to that November 25 article in the Times, but the report doesn’t break any new ground according to Patheos blogger Hemant Mehta. Writing at the Friendly Atheist blog, Mehta says the article restates what atheists already know: “An overwhelmingly majority of black people are religious, black atheists are a minority within a minority, communities for black atheists are growing, and it’s tough to be a black atheist.”
Atheism Is for White People?
Twenty-seven year old atheist John Branch told the Times that he thinks “in the black community, not believing in God is seen as a thing for white people.” But, quoting stats from the Pew Forum 2008 United States Religious Landscape Survey, The Times reported that “88 percent of African-Americans believe in God with absolute certainty, compared with 71 percent of the total population” and “less than one-half of a percent of African-Americans identify themselves as atheists, compared with 1.6 percent of the total population.”
The NY Times Story Is Too Predictable
At The American Conservative, blogger Rod Dreher snarkily declared the Times article typical for the paper, implying that it’s just more liberal reporting. It could only be improved, he said, if it “included a component about elderly secular Jews who live next door to the gay black atheist’s in a fabulous Manhattan apartment building, and who take him in over the holiday season as surrogate parents because his Christian family makes him feel rejected.”
The Dialogue Is Worth Having
Back in July, at The Lower Frequency blog, a Christian friend of Black Atheists of America (BAAm) founder Ayanna Watson took a more conciliatory approach to the subject, interviewing Watson about her decision to become an atheist and then allowing her to interview him about his faith journey as a sometimes-restless Christian. Watson tells her friend (who goes by the humble moniker “TheMostInterestingManintheWorld”) that she came to see her Christian faith as logically inconsistent when she learned critical thinking skills in a Philosophy 101 class, but her experience with prayer also contributed to her deconversion.
“There were times when I felt that my prayers were answered. There were plenty of times when I felt that they were not answered. Back then, I wrote it off as it not being in ‘God’s will.’ The prayers that were ‘answered’ were not done so without an effort on my part. … I do not think my decision not to pray had much to do with the ratio of answered prayers to non-answered prayers. Instead, because I believed that god was omniscient, I did not see the purpose of prayer,” Watson tells her friend.
When she questions him, he says that he’s always found apologetics “counterproductive and unneccessary” becuase faith in God is “inherently illogical and unreasonable,” but that’s not a problem for him.
“One of the things I’ve always been intrigued by, when it comes to Atheism, is that it seems atheists only require proof for things unseen when it comes to religion and spirituality. I think there are plenty of other unseen forces that impact our lives daily that we cannot prove exist. One example being the entire spectrum of human emotion – from love to hate,” said “Most.”
Is Black Atheism a Function of the Church’s Waning Influence?
In April, at Zion Hill Baptist Church in Los Angeles, Morehouse educated pastor Seth Pickens hosted a dialogue with the L.A. Black Skeptics group, according to secular humanist Sikivu Hutchinson, who wrote about the discussion at LA Progressive. Pickens was open to the dialogue because he “seemed deeply concerned about the ongoing national critique of the Black Church’s waning influence,” Hutchinson said.
What Do You Think?
Is the story of black Atheism old news or is it a function of the black church’s alleged waning influence? What is the role of reason in faith?