’Condit Criticized for not Disclosing Affair with Levy,” read the Washington Times headline. It may as well be a generic headline for the hundreds of news articles written on the topic, all of which miss the bigger point: the moral point, the spiritual point, even — one is hesitant to use the term in contemporary political discourse — the religious point.
Ultimately, civilized human behavior is based on the traditional moral values that come from religious teachings. One of those teachings is honesty. So, in that sense, the Times headline is correct: Condit should have honestly disclosed all information to law-enforcement authorities. However, in addition to the moral dictate of honesty, there is the religious value of marital fidelity. It is codified in the Sixth Commandment, which says plainly, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” To miss the point that the married Condit is a serial womanizer overlooks something much more basic: Gary Condit disobeyed the Sixth Commandment. Repeatedly.
Judeo-Christian religions teach that marital fidelity and faithfulness are the building blocks of a civilization and society. Without them, there can be no stability. This is not a trifling point. It is a major point. It’s not merely that he covered up the affair, but that he had the affair. Now here’s the more accurate headline: “Why Isn’t the 54-Year-Old Congressman Being Criticized for Having an Affair with the 24-Year-Old Intern?”
“He wanted to protect his family and his own privacy,” says Condit lawyer Abbe Lowell. Oh? How does marriage-wrecking infidelity protect his family?
Then it is said that we should leave Condit alone as he’s already come clean on the Levy affair. The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz said on CNN’s Reliable Sources that “it could still be the case that Gary Condit has absolutely nothing to do with Chandra Levy’s disappearance.” CNN reporter Bob Franken chimed in that “we have to always wonder about the relevance of one’s private life as far as somebody missing is concerned.”
So, it’s okay to be unfaithful to your wife — worth nothing more than a nod or a wink from the elite media. It’s not nearly as important as, say, the Patients’ Bill of Rights. Right? Wrong.
Completely wrong. Morally wrong.
What about the view that private actions determine “public” behavior? The public officials who routinely deceive in their private lives — giving that deception even less thought than flipping a candy wrapper out the car window, or failing to switch off the computer before going home at night — lack moral character in their personal lives. It follows that they cannot be trusted in their official capacities to prudently manage taxpayer monies or safeguard our nation’s security.
You see, everyday decisions in our so-called private lives inform our so-called public lives. If you flunk the former test, it is likely you’ll flunk the latter test. Former congressman and Senate candidate Rick Lazio told CNN’s Inside Edition that it’s easy to stray in Washington D.C. Sorry Rick. Dogs stray, responsible adults don’t. Then Lazio revealed that he got to know Condit while the two attended Bible study. “He was somebody who had a strong sense of self and religious grounding,” Lazio noted.
Well, Mr. Condit apparently forgot to do his homework.
Bible students would know that Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” This heavenly order, one that is to be obeyed through thick and thin, is part of the same group of Ten Commandments that the political class has worked so hard to keep out of government buildings, courts, legislatures, schools, and other public meeting places. But it is exactly those ten thoughts that lay at the heart of civilized behavior. Those ten lifelong behavioral directions form the Judeo-Christian basis for society. Without them, we are doomed to an uncivilized, heathen existence. With them, however, we will love thy neighbor as thyself. And the spiritual love (agape, in the Greek) between husband and wife flourishes in the framework of doing to others as they would you, to borrow C. S. Lewis’s Biblical paraphrase.
Flimsy distinctions between private and public behavior ignore all this and serve merely to muddy the waters of proper conduct. Those Ten Commandments should govern our behavior at all times. There is no difference between public and private actions; they are all of the same piece.
Anyway, when the road taken should not have been taken, and great harm comes to friends, coworkers, employers, and spouses, then surely personal actions that lead to public harm deserve careful investigation. In a moral society it cannot be otherwise. Think of it, the Washington D.C. legal code makes adultery a crime punishable by a fine not exceeding $500, or by imprisonment not exceeding 180 days, or both. Numerous other localities and states around the country make adultery a crime. Is Condit’s personal behavior not therefore a public harm?
Indeed, Condit’s poor personal choices have left a trail of wreckage. His marriage is ruined. His congressional staff is furious at him. His congressional constituency is ready to unseat him. The life of Chandra Levy looks to be lost. Is it not right then that Condit’s flawed private decisions should be placed under public scrutiny?
Of course, all men and women are fallible; to be human is to err. Mere mortals make mistakes, take wrongful actions, commit sins. Some small, some very large. Only the Creator is perfect. But — and this is a very big but — the adult process of character building, taking personal responsibility for our mistakes and then accepting the consequences, requires an admission of bad behavior and a serious effort to change it.
In ten years as a congressman, Mr. Condit has had — at last count — seven extramarital affairs. This recurring behavior strongly hints at an addiction. So do his obsessive, self-serving, and ego-driven attempts to control the behavior of his partners in crime. It is precisely these failed attempts to control the people, places, and things surrounding his sexual encounters that point even more strongly to the illness of addiction. From my own experience, as one who is recovering from alcohol and substance abuse, I recognize the addiction symptoms. Be it alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, or whatever, addiction stems from an obsession of the mind and a soul-sickness of the heart. The only solution is an honest admission of the problem, a sincere desire to ask for help, and then a strong commitment to a clearly prescribed process of spiritual transformation.
Gary Condit should immediately resign his office, seek professional help, and begin the process of behavioral change. Attempts to continue his charade of denial will only create an even greater harm to himself and others. But he can salvage his self and his soul by rigorously pursuing the spiritual way out. Regrettably, the tragic public damage resulting from his selfishly personal decisions can never be undone.
As for those Ten Commandments, the sooner we post them in public places, the sooner we can help heal the nation and its people.