"We need models of conduct, faithfulness"
Rev. Steve Cornell
Award of Outstanding Merit - $1,000
Steve Cornell is founding and senior pastor of Millersville Bible Church (25 years), Millersville, PA. Steve attended Citadel Bible College, Philadelphia College of the Bible, Institute for Biblical Studies, Lancaster Bible College, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Biblical Theological Seminary. He has a wide-ranging ministry on radio, in newspapers, among university students, and at conferences. Steve and his wife Becky are parents of four adult children. Steve is also a two time previous Amy Writing Award winner.
I feel like I am sitting through an unbearably long episode of a Jerry Springer show, pummeled with high-profile sex scandals from senators, governors and mayors.
Their secrets become headline news and like the flow of a polluted river, their stories seem to have no end.
Most recently, South Carolina governor Mark Sanford admitted to an affair with a woman in Argentina after a strange six-day disappearance. Nevada senator John Ensign admitted an affair with a staffer last week. They join a long list of fallen leaders including James E. McGreevey, Larry Craig, David Vitter, Eliot Spitzer, David Paterson, Kwame Kilpatrick, John Edwards and Vito Fossella.
Accusations of homosexual trysts, madams, prostitutes and affairs are followed by words of self-defense, court battles and tearful apologies. In some cases, resignations follow. Communities and families have been betrayed and traumatized. Behind the scenes, children suffer.
What's our problem? Do we expect too much of our leaders? Are we too Victorian about sex? Should we shed the "myth of monogamy" and take our cue from the animal kingdom -- as suggested in a New York Times piece? ("In Most Species, Faithfulness Is a Fantasy" by Natalie Angier).
I am not ready to let the great grey shrikes and long-tailed macaques mentor me in behavioral ethics. But is it unrealistic to expect exemplary moral character from our leaders?
Sex scandals rocking the political world and bringing down powerful leaders is an ancient story line. Even the Judeo-Christian scriptures are peppered with powerful stories of sexual deviance and disgrace. King David's encounter with Bathsheba and murderous plot against her husband is one example.
These stories are not limited to politicians. During the '80s, sexual scandals of high-profile ministers like Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggart were prime-time news. Later, a string of Roman Catholic priests became embroiled in allegations of sexual misconduct costing the Catholic Church millions in legal fees and settlements. Most recently, Ted Haggard, former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, was exposed for soliciting a former male prostitute.
Political sexual scandals reached an all-time low in American history during the Clinton presidency. I remember how hard it was to explain the president's behavior to our children during that time. Most people are frankly cynical about the personal lives of politicians. Hypocrisy is expected. The question is not whether political office demands certain character traits but which ones it requires. Does it require those relating to sex: self-restraint, fidelity to past commitments and honor in personal relationships?
Is the behavior of our leaders reflective of deeper societal changes regarding sex? Have we become a culture of sex without standards? For years, liberal sociologists told us we were too inhibited and repressive. They warned that this was the cause of many sexual disorders. If we wanted a sexually healthy society, we needed to become more open and sexually expressive. Overall, our new openness has not abolished sexual disorders. Instead, we've gone from a sex-oriented culture to a sexually disoriented one.
The new code has resulted in empty and broken relationships, self-hatred and worthlessness, unwanted pregnancies and an epidemic of deadly venereal disease.
Serial divorce is common. Most marriages are fragile at best. Severe marital breakdown has produced a tsunami of shattered and dysfunctional lives. The effects of sexual promiscuity consume us: teen pregnancy, abortion, fatherless children, sexual abuse, venereal disease, rape and abandonment.
We need role models for our children in sexual conduct and marital faithfulness. Scripture says, "Marriage should be honored by all" (Hebrews 13:4). It seems right to want our leaders to offer such examples. But, the changes we need must go far deeper. A look to the Creator is what we need -- not lessons from the animal kingdom.
Published in the June 27, 2009 issue of The Morning Call; Allentown, PA.
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