The Mighty Have Fallen
If you’ve lived long enough in this world, you’ve seen your share of men and women who have fallen off their pedestal. These are folks who, until exposure lit up their world like a night in Saddam’s Bagdad when “shock and awe” became the operative words of description, were deemed to be “good guys.” And, there is no doubt that some of them were, in an overall perspective of their lives, decent human beings.
There are enough “bad guys” who have plunged headlong over the cliffs of greed, lust, pride, arrogance and utter stupidity to allow media moguls to feed off the carnage left in the wake of these men (and women) with movies and television specials—history specials, news specials, and a few shows loosely based on the “exploits” of the infamous “bad guy.” (For example, Bernie Madoff has been featured in scores of news stories, magazine articles and media pieces.)
But, it seems nothing catches the attention of the public like the fall of a “do gooder,” a man (or woman) who has somehow held himself out to be the paragon of virtue, or somehow convinced those who surround him that he captures the essence of what a “good man”—especially a “good Christian”—should look, act, talk and live. These men and women, if they are already in the public eye, will always garner front page attention. But, different classes often get different treatment.
The Fall of Politicians
Politicians are a class unto themselves and their treatment for their often “bad behavior”—or positions they might take—depends on several factors, with three being the most critical. .. The first, and perhaps the most important, is who owns the medium through which the news will flow. Second, who are the staff for those media outlets. Third, to which political party does the “offender” belong.
Contrast coverage given President Clinton during the Monica Lewinski scandal and the coverage given the candidate for the Republican Vice-President, Sarah Palin when it was discovered that her daughter was unwed and pregnant. The Democratically inclined media made Palin’s daughter into a huge story and often used it as a launching pad to make unprecedented attacks on Ms. Palin. In the Clinton scandal, it became fairly clear early on that the Democrat “camp”—the media, talking heads, etc—were defending Clinton and even downplaying the importance of what he did, while the Republican “camp” was outraged and demanding resignation or impeachment, arguing that his actions had besmirched the office of Presidency and made us the laughing stock of the world. (Some of the ironies of that whole drama is that several politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, calling for Clinton’s resignation would later be caught up in their own morality play of sex and lies, some resigning as a result.)
We saw the whole Clinton drama played out as a political war. It showed us that sexual proclivities of even a sitting President was a matter the Democrats would both forgive and defend, if it was important to their political power base. There is little question that no Democrat wanted an impeached Democratic President. They remembered the disasters that befell the Republicans after the ouster of Richard Nixon. The morals of a sitting President, even one who seeks to qualify the definition of the word “is” were never a critical factor for the Democrats insofar as to whether or not they would support him.
Later, we would see the Chicago Congressman Mel Reynolds who was convicted of 12 charges, including having sex with a 16 year old child and asking her to take pornographic pictures of her 15 year old friend. He would be pardoned by President Clinton, no doubt persuaded by feelings of “there but for the grace of God go I.” In a rather terse, but succinctly brilliant statement, Snopes noted: “An ex-Congressman who had sex with a subordinate won clemency from a President who had sex with a subordinate, then was hired by a clergyman who had sex with a subordinate (Reynolds was hired by Rev. Jesse Jackson.).
The Clinton scandal and how it all played out showed us all that in terms of raw power, clearly the Democrats—called by the Republicans “the left” because of the extreme social policies long held by the Democrats and endorsed by “leftist” media outlets—was held by the Democrats. The media in the United States was clearly a powerbase inclined to favor Democrats and those extreme social policies. Later elections have shown that these “leftist” media power moguls hold enormous power over the minds of the public at large.
The media power base has slowly changed over the years in some respects, due
largely to the enormously successful radio talk show talents such as Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin and Sean Hannity, among others, who have captured the airwaves and the interests of the political “right”—social conservatives not eager to make radical changes to society on a federal or state level. These conservative voices—often called the “far right”—are not always in sync with the Republicans or their ideas. But, if it comes down to voting for a Republican or a Democrat, though they might despise the Republican candidate the followers of these kinds of voices will vote for the Republican (assuming there is no third-party “right” ticket).
The Fall of Clergy
The fall of Jim Bakker seemed to set the stage for future treatment of those who hang the Christian sign around their neck. The coverage and treatment of his case became something of a model for broadcasters. They learned that there was a huge interest in the American public, ranging from the Christian crowd—itself an enormous market—to those in the general public not particularly enamored with Christians in particular who took almost gleeful delight in pointing out the moral deficiencies discovered to exist in the fallen one. If that fallen Christian was a political conservative, all the better. The left-leaning media could eliminate his political clout as well as his standing within the Christian community.
Few of those Christian pastors or leaders who have been on the mountain tops of success and fell into the moral traps that lurk for all of us, have ever risen back to the same level of success, at least in terms of favor with the public. But, contrary to popular opinion, the truth is that some have actually become better men than they were before the fall. There is nothing better to wipe away pride and arrogance brought to a man by power and position, than the collapse of his “empire,” or the shredding of his image. Being humbled is actually a good thing.
Of course, not all of the fallen will benefit from their public disgrace. Some will ever remain schemers and dreamers, lusting for the day they can get back into the pulpit or other such position and exert their power over the lives of others. Some will seek power to the end. It is a corruption of the soul that is as addictive as heroin is to a “main line” addict.
But, many do become truly repentant before God and before mankind. It is difficult, indeed, impossible, for us to judge and/or truly evaluate the validity of one’s profession of repentance in the early stages. Something like that takes time and observation.
But, for others it is a sincere and genuine effort, not a momentary thing done to please others, but instead, a heartfelt sorrow towards their offense against God and others. It is something that will have a lasting, life-long impact on them and how they conduct their lives ever after. In short, they do become different people. They do change. Unless we are up close and personal with them, we are unlikely to be able to really see that change. We are not likely to hear of them nor see them a dozen years from now. And, if we do, we really have no serious data or foundation with which to make a judgment. The caution urged by Jesus is definitely applicable:
We are told that if we do render a judgment, it is not to be on appearance alone, but is to be a righteous judgment (John 7:24).In short, if we are going to make a judgment, it had better be right. And, even if right, it should be a judgment that is truly called for and necessary. If it isn’t, we are likely to see judgment of ourselves meted out by others along the same lines we rendered judgment. That is what is known in the Bible as a spiritual truth, but which I call a “spiritual law” that is as true to its design as the law of gravity.
Crucifying the Christian
In this day of social media, we are quick to grab up the hammer and join in the nail pounding frenzy. I’ve watched as men and women, Christians, have been vilified and verbally crucified by others. Much of the crucifixion, sadly, is done by Christians, or at least those who have and do make a profession. Let me confess up front: I’ve hammered my share of nails in my day. But, I’m not so quick to grab a nail any more. Oh, it isn’t that I am too pious. Trust me, I can hammer with the best and I can give you brilliant, biblically based orations on the rightness of my hammering. If there were contests for such things, I’d surely have awards cluttering my walls. But, these days I’m more inclined to sit back and leave the judgment to God and to those closer to the matter than myself. And, even if I’m close, I’m not so quick to make a judgment. I’m fearful of making an unrighteous judgment. One thing I’ve learned about God is that He never makes a promise He cannot or will not keep. And, if He placed into the lives of mankind a spiritual law, then just as gravity works all the time, so does the spiritual laws put into place by God. The profound seriousness of Matthew 7:1-2 does not escape me.
My “epiphany” on this matter came about in several stages. The first came many years ago with the sudden glimpse of a spiritual law that came to me as clearly as if it had been spoken. I was struck with these words: “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” Matt 12:36
I suddenly realized that if I were going to give an account to God Himself, in person, for every idle word I spoke, how much more every word spoken on purpose. I fear God too much to take Him or His truths for granted. His words impacted me deeply and thereafter, I became very careful of what I said or wrote.
This is not to say thereafter, everything I wrote or said was as it should have been, or that I am now perfect and never regret something I said or wrote. I’m not. But, there is an awareness in me now that did not exist before, and as I age, that awareness has grown. I still have to wrestle with my tongue for it is indeed an “unruly evil,” as is said in James 3:8. But, I can say I am mindful of the things I say and am not so quick to write or say something unless I’ve carefully thought it out.
The second stage came about as a result of something I prayed to God in sheer ignorance. He answered the prayer. It took me 3 years to recover from that prayer. It was 3 years in which I came to believe that I was utterly unfit to be a servant of a holy God. I was teaching a men’s Bible Sunday School class. I quit that class and quit teaching because my sense of unworthiness ran so deep that I simply did not feel I was fit or capable of teaching God’s Word.
My prayer was a simple one. I prayed: “God, show me, me. Show me myself as I am.”
He did. I saw myself, gradually, over time, in the light of God’s righteousness. I understood, for the first time, how the Apostle Paul could declare himself to be the chief of sinners. It wasn’t that I was doing anything seriously wrong. I have never been unfaithful to my wife and there were no moral issues in my life, nor had I done any particular sin of which I was mindful. It was, instead, this bone-deep feeling of unworthiness and a sense of the absolute holiness of God. It shook me. I could not escape it. I felt that I could never, in all of my lifetime, measure up to God’s standard of holiness. We are commanded to be holy, even as God is holy (1 Pet. 1:16). I felt about as holy as a used piece of toilet paper. (I know that is repulsive, but it captures how I felt, perfectly. Forgive me.)
God brought me out of this time with various “revelations”—understandings of God and truths in the Bible—which gave me great relief. The first came from 2 Cor. 9:8 which says: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:” While reading that one day, God allowed those words to leap into my heart and flood my being. It was as though God were asking me: “How much grace do you need, Voyle?” I suddenly knew that whatever task He gave me, I was “up” to it. He would give me, up to “all grace,” the means to do that job.
Now, there were several other things He showed me that assisted in bringing me out of these dark days of feeling unworthy, but I’ll not go into them here. My intent here was to show you how important the Word of God is, and how important it can be to our spiritual health and well-being. God used a spiritual truth, indeed, a spiritual law, to deliver me from a time of darkness and ignorance and to soften my heart towards others, particularly other Christians who have managed to become victims of their own lust, arrogance and pride (in truth, victims of the snares of Satan – see, e.g., 1 Tim 3:6,7; 2 Tim 2:26). We must take God’s Word seriously. God cannot lie. So, when God inserts into our world a spiritual law, we absolutely must take it serious because it is a promise. It is an absolute law that works every time.
This is not to say there is never a time to call a brother or sister in error, or even to “rebuke” them—assuming we understand the meaning of that term and how it was applied back then. But, it is to say that we need not rush to judgment, and if we are to say something, we absolutely must follow another of Paul’s admonitions, to wit, to “speak the truth in love.” (Eph. 4:15). It is relatively easy to speak the truth. My experience is that speaking those truths in love is a far more difficult task, one that many of us are not up to doing, and a task that many are not spiritually fit to perform. (I must confess to being numbered in that group, to wit, often failing to speak the truth in love, and at times, being spiritually unfit to even speak the truth because of my inability to speak that truth in love.) Moreover, Paul would have us convey a gentler, kinder persona for the most part. As he admonished: “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient” (2 Tim. 2:24).
So, let us speak and write carefully brethren, especially when it concerns one of us. We are to love one another. None of us are immune to correction or above rebuke. But, we can all be terribly hurt, indeed, permanently wounded, by other Christians who, thinking they are God’s spokesman to write or declare the truth about a brother or sister, or a perceived evil under the sun within the land of Christendom, undertake the task with such passion and fervor that they destroy one or some of us. Today’s landscape is littered with Christian reputations, lying beside the road for all to see. We drive by and make observations about them (usually unkind), and somehow are oblivious to the fact that this is or was our brother or sister.
I do not want anyone to think of me more highly that they should. I’m pretty ordinary. And, while God has given me some insight and motivation to be careful about the things I speak and write, I am not perfect. Do not be surprised if one day you read something I have written and seemingly violated everything I’ve written about here. I am capable. Trust me. I really am capable. I have a temper. I have some “hot buttons” and when they are pushed, I truly struggle to not respond. As a lawyer, I learned where the “dotted line” is on a throat and became an expert at the art of handing someone their head. I became very good at it and was very proud of my ability to do so. Like anyone, if I get “in the flesh,” I certainly can fall into pride and hurt someone with my words. I trust I will never do that, but I’m a realist and I know me better than you do. There is a love deep in me for the art of warring with words. It is not a love that comes of the Spirit, but is a fleshly thing, something I dare not indulge.
So, even when I do think things out carefully, and even when I pray about things I write, I still can be in error or can say things that probably should not have been said. And, when I do write something I wish I hadn’t written, that writing makes me even more careful for the future. As God shows me things about myself and reveals to me weaknesses that need correcting, then those things do get special attention. I thank God that I am still capable of being convicted of my wrong by the dear Lord. And, I would hope that, in the spirit of love, that one of you would tell me of my error, if such a time comes and you read it. I promise I will give serious attention to your admonishment and respond in love.
This piece was written to remind us all, particularly those who call ourselves Christian, to be kind to one another, and to polish our words with a coat of love before we place them on our tongue or set them out for others to view. Wounding one another with words has become a way of life these days. Our words now can hurl through the space of glittering electrons and burst forth on hundreds of locations like a fireworks display, setting off a range of emotions in others that provoke ventings: a time to spew forth all the anger, rage, bitterness, hurt and disappointments we all have stored within us. For many, their real anger is something buried deep within having little to do with the offending Christian at whom their rhetoric is directed. It becomes a time to vent. Words are hurled at someone, perhaps a public figure who has been shown to be something of a hypocrite, and the instant effect is to produce in many a response of sympathetic language, endorsing the declarations and pronouncements of judgment on the guilty Christian. But, for the guilty, especially those truly repentant, those words can have the caustic effect of missiles bursting all around them, riddling them with fear, terror, anger, and after a time, for many, a turning away from anything remotely looking like or sounding “Christian.”