Once upon a time in this country, moral integrity, emotional (and even spiritual) maturity, and a servant’s heart were considered important characteristics of public leaders. In Mark Sanford we find a case study in how far removed we’re becoming from that standard. When did abandoning one’s spouse and children for an extramarital affair become compatible with conservativism? Apologies are meaningless when they are followed by more of the same. Sanford describes himself as “one imperfect man saved by God’s grace.” But the problem with this win (and here is who South Carolina voters could have elected if they had put values first) isn’t that Sanford isn’t perfect. Marriage is hard, and every spouse has virtues and vices — defects of character with which they will struggle throughout their married lives. But marriages don’t “fall apart” as a result of falling in love with another person; they are all too often destroyed from within by a self-love that transcends marital bonds and spills over into every aspect of one’s existence. It is time for conservatives to publicly recognize the widespread phenomenon of spousal abandonment, and the system of “family law” that supports it, for what they both are — a national scandal.
Among other things, this election result is a searing reminder that we have, as a nation, lost touch with what “redemption” really means — with the true power of God’s grace, which is the power to transform behavior. And behavior, after all, is a reflection of the heart. How much longer can conservative stewards of family values turn a blind eye to the very narcissistic lifestyle choices of our leaders that we are fighting so hard to weaken (and ultimately transform) in society at large?
— Hilary Towers is a psychologist and mother of five.