God Doesn't Care How It Plays in Peoria
I've been watching some of the news reports regarding the accusations made against Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain. I have no idea if the charges against him or true. Only God, Herman Cain, and the accusers do. When the first accuser came out I thought perhaps it might be a political dirty trick, an opposing campaign or a media campaign against a conservative candidate. But now that there has been five women who have stepped forward, it's a bit hard for me to believe that this is some coordinated attack. Perhaps there's a pattern here.
What's most distressing to me is the way that Mr. Cain, a man I admired and was actually considering voting for, has handled this whole situation. He's shown no remorse. He's blamed other candidates. Then he's blamed the media. Now, to be fair, I think he has a right to defend himself and his honor, especially if the charges are not true. But Cain has swung wildly and has not appeared contrite or professional.
Furthermore, Mr. Cain has used his campaign to dig up dirt on the accusers and then spread that to the media. This is dirty politics. Smear the accuser and muddy the waters. It's what Bill Clinton did when facing his own charges. I think this is reprehensible for a man who not only calls himself a lifelong follower of Christ, but is an ordained minister. Smearing the other person, even if the charges against Cain are false, is the lowest form of politics.
But perhaps the most distressing part of this whole sordid affair is how I've heard conservatives, many Christians, discuss this about Cain. Some have defended him and have blamed it on the "lamestream media" as if any negative reports against a conservative candidate are automatically an attack. Or they've given the whole "if this was a Democrat ..." defense. This is lame. We all know that if a liberal had these problems, the conservative media would have no problem rushing to judgement against him or her.
Others have written off Mr. Cain. They say they are glad this was exposed in the primary because if it came out in the general election, it would sink the candidate and give President Obama a win. The discussion has all centered around "How will this play among women?" and "How will this play in a Republican primary in Iowa?" Those are valid discussions, but I hear no one saying: "Maybe what Mr. Cain did was wrong. Maybe he's not a man of character. Maybe this should disqualify him from being president." There is such an impulse to protect our own. Partisanship is so blind.
As followers of Christ, our first concern should not be "How will this play in Peoria?" but "Is this right and good and does it please God?" Christians are supposed to be the people of character, right? Haven't we hammered liberals for not having character?
I think there is a lesson here not simply about politics, but life. We live in a world seemingly run by PR and spin. So many of our decisions are based on "What will people think?" or "How does it poll?" or "How will this play?" There is some merit to knowing where people are so you can effectively lead. But our first impulse should be do what is good and right, not what will win affections.