If you are a self-defined conservative evangelical the Left is counting on you. They are counting you for one of two things. First, they hope you will be so discouraged by the recent spate of moral failures by high profile Republicans that you will chose to stay out of the 2008 race for president. For those of you who decide to rise above the discouragement the Left has a plan B. It involves confusing the moral issues by pushing life and gender issues to the back burner while elevating environmental and health care issues.
The fall of GOP leaders like Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, whose phone number surfaced in a D.C. madam's phone records, and Rep. Mark Foley, whose sexually lurid instant messages and e-mails to teenage pages made the headlines just before the elections in 06, have many evangelical voters reeling in disgust. Just when it seemed it was safe to go back to the voting booth we run headlong into Senator Larry Craig who is accused of soliciting an undercover police officer in an airport men's room. Craig pled guilty to the charge of disorderly conduct, presumably to keep the story from reaching 24-hour cable news headline status. But Senator Craig forgot the intensity of the culture war and the determination of those who will stop at nothing to add another fallen conservative leader to their wall of shame. It is entirely possible that Sen. Craig is guilty of nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time and inadvertently appearing to use recognized gay signals for solicitation. Guilty or not, the 24 hour news cycle and Leftist spin machine will see to it that Craig's political career is over. His resignation gives the Democrats an opportunity to expand their thin majority in the Senate.
How should evangelical voters view the shortcomings of their leaders? We should pray that those who are guilty will turn to God in repentance and be forgiven and restored to a right relationship with Him. We should pray that God would give us wisdom to be able to discern the difference between a genuine fall of a leader and a contrived hatchet job. And we must never allow the moral failures of the few destroy the will of the faithful.
King David of Israel was forced to endure the betrayal of his own son. 2nd Samuel 15:1-6 describes how Absalom "stole away the hearts of the men of Israel" (vs. 6). Verse 2 tells us Absalom would "rise early and stand beside the way to the gate." The gate was the place where people came to have their differences settled and their grievances heard. Absalom was able to portray his father as uncaring and distant. He positioned himself as the one who truly cared about the people's troubles. Before long, Absalom won the peoples hearts and David was forced to flee Jerusalem.
The Left is counting on the tactics of Absalom to win the hearts of discouraged evangelicals. They "tisk, tisk" over the moral failures of prominent conservative leaders while ignoring the immoral antics of their own such as Barney Frank's brothel and Ted Kennedy's well known philandering. Their manufactured scandals against Donald Rumsfeld, Scooter Libby, and Alberto Gonzales drove good men from office and left Republicans divided. Gonzales finally succumbed to the incessant drum beat for his resignation even though months of trumped up congressional hearings and investigations failed to produce even the smallest shred of evidence that he had done anything wrong.
Evangelicals must not listen to the voice of Absalom and abandon our commitment to morality in the public arena. It is natural to feel discouraged but we must not allow our discouragement to be translated into victory for those who would radically change the cultural map of America.
We must also not allow the Left to drive a wedge into the evangelical camp by redefining the moral issues in liberal terms. Former President Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, and Bill Clinton have committed themselves to convocation of Baptists to be held in Atlanta in February of 08. The banner they are waving is one of unity at the expense of conviction. They will say that it is all right to be pro-life as long as we address this issue only from the viewpoint of the economic plight of the mother rather than the life of the baby. Oh sure, the Left leaning evangelical leaders will still talk about abortion but only when they chose to say abortion should be legal, safe, and rare. That is a bit like saying murder should be legal as long as the victims are treated humanely and the perpetrators have not other choice. When it comes to homosexuality, the Left will simply say evangelicals who stress biblical definitions of sexuality and marriage are being unnecessarily divisive.
Evangelicals must not allow the Left to discourage us or to succeed in redefining the great moral issues of our time. We must follow the Apostle Paul's admonition to the Thessalonians to "not grow weary of doing good" (2 Thessalonians 3:13).
Dr. Tony Beam is Vice-President for Student Services and Director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville University in Tigerville, South Carolina.