Christianity,  Politics

Governor Mark Sanford practices Buddhist meditation

Former Governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, has been trying to rehabilitate his political career after a personal scandal that seemed to end it only a few years ago. In his recent bid to reclaim his old congressional seat, he has been talking about the Christian theme of redemption and second chances. In an article with Yahoo News, he also explains his regular practice of Buddhist meditation. Here’s a brief excerpt from the interview:

Sanford told me that his interest in Buddhism stretched back three years, when he retreated to his remote family farm after the scandalous end to his term as governor when he secretly left the country to have an affair with an Argentine woman who he now plans to marry.

While in exile, Sanford began studying meditation, a practice he continues to this day.

“A buddy of mine said, Mark, you’re becoming a Buddhist Christian. I come from the Christian faith. That’s my faith tradition. But what I do like about Buddhism is the idea of being present,” Sanford said during the car ride. “I think that that’s missed in Western culture, where we’re so busy looking a week out, two weeks out, a month out, a year out and we’re hurried and we’re busy. And I think if there’s any one thing I learned from that year I spent on the farm in the wake of getting out of office and just having a very, very quiet year, is the importance of stillness and quietness. And that extends beyond just the physical location. It extends really into the moment of, Are you really with that person or are you thinking of the next thing you’ve got to do? So I do like very much that part of Buddhism. I think it’s right.”

Sanford declined to describe his meditation techniques, but said, “I’ve tried to be disciplined about a quiet time each day.”

Everyone should be skeptical of redemption without repentance, and that is why I am not buying Sanford’s “contrition.” It would appear that Sanford has invoked Christianity to paper over his misdeeds in a bid to revive his political fortunes. In my view, his appeals have had the ring of opportunism and exploitation. His syncretism of Buddhism and Christianity only reinforces that impression. (HT: Sarah Pulliam Bailey)

UPDATE: In February, Albert Mohler commented on Sanford’s reentry into public life. I agree with every bit of this. The relevant portion begins at about 13:00. Listen below or download here.



  • Lauren Law

    Why do people think living in the moment and meditation are ideas of Buddhism. Meditation is mentioned over two dozen times in the Bible…the “Christian” Bible (weak smile). And we are encouraged to live in the present…to not worry about the future but to prepare for the future in the Bible. These are not Buddhist ideals. They ARE Christian ideals. This is a man using “religion” to appease the people. There is no such thing as a Buddhist Christian or a Christian Buddhist. Putting Buddha before God or on the same level as God is an affront to God. Apparent Mr. Sanford’s time alone with God did not help him to grow closer or understand God more.

    • Jim Shrub

      “These are not Buddhist ideals. They ARE Christian ideals. “,
      Perhaps, these are ideals of both Buddhists and Christians, have you every considered that? Anyways as a faithful Christian, I don’t think you are in any position to say which ideals are Buddhist and which ideals, just like I as Buddhist wouldn’t be in any position to say which Ideals are Christian and which ideals aren’t Christian. So please be a little more mindful next time you blurt these things out.

      • Lauren Law

        Jim – I’m not concerned about Buddhism. It’s a false religion serving a false god. I did not blurt out anything that was untrue because I HAVE studied God’s Word…because I DO have a personal relationship with Christ. God’s Word promotes meditation. God’s Word promotes living in the moment. There is no need to claim this is a mixture with Eastern religions.

        By the way…what you see as “paranoia and distrust” about Buddhism is really a truthful expression about the deceit and falseness of that religion. In encouraging men to follow a false god, Buddhists lead people astray from the Truth of the One True Living God. Christianity has nothing in common with Buddhism or Islam…because both those religions deny the deity and messianic mission of God’s Son, Jesus Christ…making them false religions. We’re not “scared” of them. We don’t “mistrust” them. We’re not “paranoid”. We just know Truth because we’ve read Truth’s Word. We are not afraid to be bold…we are called by Christ to be bold. We are told that if we deny Him before men there will be consequences. Jesus claimed over and over again that He was God’s Son…that He and His Father were one…and that there was NO OTHER WAY to God except through Christ. So he was either speaking the truth…or he was a liar (or lunatic). That means He couldn’t have been just a good man or prophet because good men and prophets are neither liars or lunatics. His language was clear and plain…and people of his time refused to believe Him…and people like yourself refuse to believe Him today. Your decision not to believe does not change the truth.

        • buddyglass

          “Christianity has nothing in common with Buddhism or Islam”

          That’s kind of a silly statement. For instance, Christianity and Islam are both monotheistic.

        • Jim Shrub

          “Christianity has nothing in common with Buddhism or Islam” .
          Thank you Lauren. You’ve definitely convinced me that Christianity has nothing in common Buddhism and everything in common with Islam. FYI, Islam and Christianity are both Abrahamic religion, worship the same God and have a common origin in the middle east.

          You may hate your relatives, but you can’t deny they are yours. Good luck πŸ™‚

          • Lauren Law

            Jim…since Islam denies the deity of Christ, they do NOT have anything in common. We do NOT worship the same God. We may come from Abraham’s seed as humans…but our human backgrounds are worldly and have nothing to do with our spiritual lives. Jesus taught that no man could come to the Father but by Him…so the Muslims are not worshipping the same God since they’ve rejected Christ as the Messiah. By the way…Islam is a religion…Buddhism is a religion. Both were created by man who chose to worship something other than the One True Living God. Christianity is NOT a religion. It’s a relationship … established by God with His chosen people…chosen because we are made righteous through the sacrificial death of Christ Jesus. You do not know as much about “religion” as you think you do if you do not understand these fundamental differences.

          • Lynn Burgess

            Jim: I have a challenge for you, get out your Bible and your Koran, and make a list of how they describe God and Allah. Begin with the God of the Bible being Trinitarian, “in the beginning we created,” an idea the Koran clearly rejects. When you have done only a brief, but honest study of the attributes, you will find they are not at all the same deity.

    • Lynn Burgess

      Lauren: How does Buddhism define meditation? If I understand correctly, it speaks to emptying the mind.

      The Bible commands us to take every thought captive, never to empty the mind. Biblical meditation is ruminating on scripture, probably memorized scripture, the way a cow chews the cud, swallows it to the fist stomach and then spits it up and ruminates on it some more.

      Same word, yes, but very different meanings.

  • Bill Haynes

    The sad thing is that the Republicans of that district voted for him . . . with full knowledge (one would assume, I know) of who and what he is. If this is the best the Reps have, then the party is worse off than I ever imagined . . . and that is really, really bad!!

    • Lauren Law

      Bill…Republicans probably didn’t vote FOR him as much as they voted AGAINST a Democrat. It is very sad if that’s the best South Carolina Republicans had to offer. They were obviously looking for someone who has experience in “politics” more than they were looking for someone decent who will make a positive “change” instead of the incredibly negative “change” that Obama has given us.

      • Tom Parker

        Lauren: You said:”they were looking for someone decent who will make a positive β€œchange” instead of the incredibly negative β€œchange” that Obama has given us.” Would you please be a little more specific about this negative change you are speaking of?

        • Lauren Law

          Tom…I was referring to the “negative” push for gun control…the “negative” push for socialized medical care that forces Christians to pay for abortions…the “negative” assault on Godly marriages between a man and a woman…the “negative” impact on un-employed and under-employed Americans because of business-bashing policy decisions…the “negative” assault on Christianity while promoting Islamic beliefs…the “negative” impact of a president who keeps referring to “my” policies and not crediting anyone else for the work of government but so quick to blame and fault others when his policies fail. I’m talking about a president who has the lowest approval ratings of his career…the “negative” impact of an indecisive president who left 4 men unguarded in enemy territory to experience death at the hand of terrorists. I’m talking about a president who has divided our country…a president who continues to apologize to other countries for the country in which he was raised and promoted to the highest office. I’m talking about a president who uses people (the Sandy Hook families) to promote his personal agenda. I’m talking about a president who uses situations (gun control) as a smoke screen to take the heat off other incredibly poor policies. I misspoke when I said they were looking for someone “decent”…they were just looking for someone with decent political policies who wouldn’t continue down the indecent path of destruction that our country’s leader is asking us to follow.

          P.S. My apologies to Denny Burk. This is HIS blog and I don’t mean to continue to stir up controversy when he shares stories that impact Christian values.

        • James Stanton

          Tom, it seems it pretty much boils down to Obama pushing policies that someone who didn’t vote for him would probably oppose and also that everything that goes wrong in the world can be blamed on him. But, hey.. the liberals did the same thing with Bush so that makes it just fine.

          • Akash Charles

            Obama did something?!- this should be breaking news.

            one things for sure- during Bush Asian democracies had way more respect for America.

        • Lauren Law

          I’ll say again, Bill…I think they were looking for someone with political experience…and our nation has already proved that religious beliefs and personal ethics apparently do not mean much when it comes to politics…experience is what matters because experience = power in politics. I would not have voted for this man…I am not endorsing this man. I was trying to “guess” why people would.

          I do want to say this. I am a believer and do know that God can turn a man’s life around. Paul is a perfect example in the New Testament…King David in the Old Testament. Unfortunately…Mr. Sanford sounds more “political” when he tries to blend Buddhism and Christianity…he sounds like a man trying to please all of the people all of the time. That sounds quite different from Mr. Obama who doesn’t care who he pleases as long as he gets what HE wants.

      • Paul Reed

        If we believe it’s okay to vote for an unrighteous candidate because he isn’t as bad as the Democrat, then we basically have to accept whatever the Republican party gives us. We can’t have it both ways.

        • Lynn Burgess

          Paul: Less evil is always preferred, so we vote for the lesser of evils. Last election I heard someone ask given the choice of Hitler or Mussolini how would you vote. They were trying to encourage people to stay home and not vote (which many evangelical did). But some brave soul spoke up and said given those choices he would vote for Mussolini; so would I.

          However, in our society those are not the only options. We can run for office ourselves and champion better candidates. The argument about term limits is always interesting to me. We already have term limits; they are called elections.

          But to be honest, increasingly, I am persuaded that our problem is not political at all, but that we are failing at being salt and light and in winning our neighbors to Christ.

  • Andrew Orlovsky

    I bet its the same demons that lead Sanford to believe he can be a Christian and still love a women not his wife are leading Sanford to believe he can be a Christian and also practice Eastern Meditation.

    True the bible does speak of meditation, but Biblical meditation is the polar opposite of Eastern/Buddhist meditation. Biblical meditation is deep thought on the scriptures, not the process of emptying the mind.

    • Lauren Bertrand

      So Christians cannot practice eastern meditation, because its “demonic” influences will somehow nullify their Christian faith? At my last recollection, the Bible Belt still had its fair share of yoga studios. Are Christians who practice yoga and the relaxation mantras that come with it (clearly intended as meditation) committing blasphemy? Are they allowed to read “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse? Is reading a book by Rob Bell now anti-Christian and heretical? Who gets to make these decisions as to what defines “being Christian”?

  • Ken Abbott

    1) Christians would be wise to consider why they need to adopt eastern mystical religious practices. The western tradition is rich with distinctively Christian prayer and meditation practices–although even here discernment is needed because some have gone off the rails

    2) The practices of undiscerning Christians hardly constitute legitimization.

    3) If you like that sort of thing, the Christian can read “Siddhartha” with eyes wide open to what Hesse was trying to communicate. “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” The same applies to reading Rob Bell.

    4) Who gets to make the definitions? The catholic church in its corporate consensus, considered across all times and places, is a good place to start, but for specific circumstances I would seek the guidance of Scripture, prayer, and my earthly spiritual authorities–my pastor and elders–in tandem.

  • Jim Shrub

    I am actually quite surprised at how much paranoia and distrust people are expressing against Buddhism because it’s eastern. Because if you had even a superficial understanding of Buddhism you would know that Christianity has far more in common with it then it does with the other western, Abrahamic religion, namely Islam.

    • Ken Abbott

      1) Buddhism denies the existence of a personal, eternal Creator. That would seem to put a significant hitch in the “far more in common” theme. But wait–there’s more.

      2) Buddhism accepts the idea of multiple rebirths; Christianity affirms there is one life, and then judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

      3) According to Buddhism, man’s basic problem is ignorance. According to Christianity, it’s sin–willful rebellion against God and his precepts.

      4) Buddhism denies the existence of an eternally enduring soul. The Bible affirms a conscious immaterial existence after death with promise of a future resurrection.

      5) Buddhism has no place for an atonement. Christ’s substitutionary death on behalf of sinners is central to Christianity.

      6) Buddha died. Christ died, but was raised to life and now lives and reigns forever.

      The two would appear to be radically different, with nothing of important in common. The question is: Who do you say the Son of Man is? Everything hangs on the answer.

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