A Pastor or A Politician? The Unfolding of Governor Mark Sanford?

June 25, 2009

What’s the difference between a Pastor and a Politician? Both are highly public figures. Both represent something larger than themselves. There are similarities that are eerie and sometimes dangerous, and we could go on and on about them. But there are some important distinctions to make too.

When a Pastor fails morally, he or she most often loses everything, their job, their church, often their support system, kids often lose their friends from church or their school if a move is necessary; sometimes they even lose their marriage and family.

When a Politician fails morally, he or she may take a hit in their approval ratings, but rarely do they lose everything around them. Sometimes they do, but not often.

With this week’s news about the bizarre story of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford being on a secret trip to Argentina having been about an adulterous affair he was having with a woman who lives there, he joins the ranks of a few politicians who have failed morally.

  • Just last week, Nevada Senator John Ensign admitted to an affair with a campaign staffer.
  • This generation’s most visible political figure to fail morally is President Bill Clinton, who denied having an affair with a White House staffer for seven months before he finally admitted it, all while he was President
  • Presidential hopeful John Edwards admitted to an affair a few months ago and it’s still making news.
  • New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was tough on prostitution in his state, and then lost his job when it was discovered he had been hiring them personally.

There are more examples, but that’s enough for now. Please note that this is NOT a post about whether or not Pastors or even Politicians should resign or lose their jobs as a result of adultery. I am not saying here that they should or shouldn’t.

We don’t yet know what will happen with the situation for Mark Sanford. His wife’s statement clearly says she is ready for reconciliation should Mark want it. That’s a good thing, and I hope it happens for the sake of their entire family.

But back to the question … what’s the difference between a Pastor and a Politician? We can mark several differences:

  • Pastors “work” for God; Politicians “work” for the constituents who voted for them.
  • Pastors represent something sacred; most seem to believe Politicians represent something pretty secular.
  • For the sake of “political correctness”, Pastors stand for the Church, while Politicians stand for the State, two institutions in America that have a weird relationship.

Let me boil this down. The point of this post has been primarily about the differences between Pastors and Politicians. But the real answer to the question, “What’s the difference between a Pastor and a Politician?” is, bottom line, NOTHING.

Part of our problem is that we make them out to be MORE THAN HUMAN. Certainly, there is a greater standard for spiritual leaders biblically, but we still make them out to be something more than flawed humans.

The more we can see that we are ALL flawed, imperfect human beings, the greater our ability to actually HELP each other when we fall, and help each other to stand again.

Your thoughts?

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