Character matters in public leadership

This morning I was thinking about our current political moment and about the nation’s indiffernce to moral character in public leadership. I was reminded of a short essay that John Piper wrote nearly twenty years ago during the impeachment scandal. The essay was such a beacon of prophetic moral clarity then. I think it still is now. And it is relevant to our current moment. 

Piper gives six reasons why he believed that the President of the United States should resign. Each reason has to do with moral character and how the lack of it can make a man unfit for office. Piper concludes with this:

 The president should have known that the stakes of his moral life are this high, and added that to his disincentive to gratify himself at the expense of the nation. This reckless, foolish and faithless behavior unfits a man to be a world leader in this moral context.

It is hard to believe that it has been almost twenty years since this was written, but it is nonetheless relevant. When all of this was unfolding, the President’s approval rating among the American people remained very high, and of course he never resigned. The nation decided that these moral failings didn’t matter. I guess it should be no surprise that so many Americans have decided that such failings do not matter now either.

Our current political alternatives didn’t arise ex nihilo. There’s a long backstory. The culture we make is the culture we must live in. And it is an inescapable conclusion that our alterntives are to some extent a reflection of us as a people. 

And that is why it is all the more important for Christians to be salt and light. 

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” -Matthew 5:16

“Walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.” -Ephesians 5:8-11 

Our job isn’t to sit on the side cursing the darkness. We are light. We bear witness to a kingdom that is not of this world—to a Redeemer King who even now is seated at the right hand of God and who will appear again in judgment. This reality has implications for all of life, including the stewardship He’s given us as citizens of a democratic republic. 

Our alternatives may be a reflection of our culture, but Christians cannot give the impression that they are a faithful representation of us or of the Kingdom we represent. Clarity on this point may be difficult, but it is nonetheless necessary. To obscure this point is to cover up everything that matters. And that we cannot do.

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Listen to the Democratic Convention applaud when speaker says she had an abortion.

Yesterday, NARAL president Ilyse Hogue told the Democratic Convention that she had an abortion. You can watch her remarks above, but here’s what she said:

…when I found out I was pregnant years ago. I wanted a family, but it was the wrong time. I made the decision that was best for me — to have an abortion and get compassionate care at a clinic in my own community. Now, years later, my husband and I are parents to two incredible children.

After she said that she had an abortion, delegates applauded. They applauded.

The Democratic platform supports the regime of Roe v. Wade, which means that the party believes that it should be legal to take the life of an unborn child at any stage of pregnancy from 0-9 months. About one million unborn children are killed by abortion every year in the United States alone. Since 1973, nearly 60 million unborn children have been killed legally in our country. That is the holocaust times ten.

Abortion-on-demand is the greatest human rights crisis of our time. And this party applauds a testimonial of participation in our great national shame.

Have mercy.

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The Son’s willing submission to the Father in the pactum salutis

Last month, I commended to you Michael Allen and Scott Swain’s article titled “The Obedience of the Eternal Son.” That essay was so helpful that I was eager to get my hands on their new book Christian Dogmatics (Baker, 2016) which came out earlier this year.

In this book, Swain has a really helpful chapter on the Trinity which is immediately followed by a chapter on the pactum salutis (a.k.a., the covenant of redemption). This is an edited work with multiple authors. But thankfully, Swain wrote both of these chapters, and they should be read together.

Among other things, Swain notes that the pactum salutis has been a fixture in reformed theology since the seventeenth century, and it refers to a pact or a covenant that the Father enters into with the pre-incarnate Son. The pactum refers to the Father’s “eternal appointment of the Son of God, by way of covenant, to become the incarnate redeemer and head of his adopted siblings” (p. 109). Continue Reading →

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Pepperdine asks to have its Title IX exemption removed

This is fairly significant news reported by The Huffington Post. Pepperdine University has asked to have its Title IX exemption removed. From the report:

Passed in 1972, Title IX “protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance.” An educational institution that is “controlled by a religious organization” may apply for a Title IX exemption if it “would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.” Pepperdine had originally filed a request for a Title IX exemption in 1976 that was later granted in 1985. The request allowed Pepperdine to take disciplinary action against those who were found “to be involved in heterosexual relationships outside the holy union of wedlock or in homosexual relationships” as well as exclude women from various activities.
Continue Reading →

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“Morning Joe” says Trump is not on the side of social conservatives

I don’t think we can overstate the significance of Peter Thiel’s speech at the RNC on Thursday night. It’s not just that Thiel spoke nor that he said what he said. What was stunning was that the GOP delegates stood to their feet and cheered. No matter where you are in the culture wars, all sides can acknowledge that this represents a sea change for the Republican party.

On Friday morning, the “Morning Joe” crew commented on Thiel’s reception by the GOP delegates. The panel rightly comprehended the significance of it. But what interested me about their discussion is something that Joe remarked on near the end of the video above. Joe directly addresses social conservatives and evangelical Christians and says something that should have been obvious but may not be to some:

It really speaks to Donald Trump’s worldview that he hasn’t really shown during the primary campaign… Social conservatives, if Trump is elected, duck because he’s not on your side on these issues. It’s not like this is the first time we’ve been saying that. He does not care. He has a more open view, and certainly he’s more in line at least with millennial voters and with an awful lot of voters. So that wasn’t a real surprise to any of us that know Donald. It may be a surprise, though, to Jerry Falwell Juniors that go out and say certain things…

It is clear what Joe means by “say certain things.” Throughout the primary season, certain evangelicals have declared Trump to be a born-again Christian or at least to be one who bears the fruit of being a Christian. With that, they have been assuring voters that Trump will take up the causes that evangelicals care most about.

Joe is essentially saying that such a view of Trump is badly mistaken. Trump doesn’t care about sanctity of life, marriage, or religious liberty. He just doesn’t. That is not who he is, although he’d like enough evangelicals to think that he is so that he can get their votes. Is that cynical? You bet. And it also happens to be the sad truth about this candidate.

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Russell Moore on David Duke’s announcing for the Senate

Russell Moore just published a series of tweets about former KKK leader David Duke, who just announced his intention to run for Senator from the state of Louisiana.

I grew up in south Louisiana, and I too remember when Duke ran for governor back in 1990. I also remember that there were plenty of people who thought his candidacy was a great idea. I also remember people driving around town with “Duke” stickers on their vehicles. Those stickers were often accompanied by displays of the Confederate battle flag. Everyone knew what those displays meant. And they didn’t just mean, “I think Stonewall Jackson was a fine Christian gentleman.”

I couldn’t agree more with Moore on this one. See below. Continue Reading →

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The Ruination of GOP Statesmen

Michael Gerson’s column in The Washington Post today is a burst of moral clarity. Gerson argues that Republican politicians endorsing Donald Trump have sullied themselves, and that includes Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who is the GOP vice-presidential nominee:

Pence did his part at the convention. He displayed considerable political and rhetorical skill. And he brought great shame on himself and the Republican Party in the process…

Every serious Republican who crosses the event horizon of endorsing Trump is sucked into a black hole of compromise and self-deception. And many of us — still loyal to a humane conservatism — will never be able to think about such leaders in the same way again…

The reputation of any politician close to Trump will eventually be ruined. But it is particularly sad when good and decent people vouch for Trump’s character, knowing almost nothing about him… The only politician who will be proud of what he did on Wednesday evening is Ted Cruz, who refused to endorse. He may have been booed on the floor, but I imagine he slept well. And he won’t be ashamed to recount that night to his children and grandchildren.

This is a hard-hitting column. I recommend that you read the whole thing. It really sums up the malaise I’ve felt while watching the GOP convention this week. How can these serious statesmen line-up to endorse a constitutional menace? Ryan, Walker, Rubio, Perry, and others. How could they?

I am with Gerson. I will never be able to think about these leaders in the same way again. Trump has exposed the limits of their judgment and principle. When they should have stood up, they stood down. It is as sad a spectacle as I have ever seen in politics.

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Ross Douthat’s Lament for the GOP…Twitterized

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