In this morning’s Washington Post Sally Quinn contributes an essay that is critical of politicians who have admitted their adulterous actions and then, in one way or another, invoked their Christian beliefs as a means of gaining sympathy and forgiveness.
She points out that Governor Sanford of South Carolina specifically apologized to “people of faith” and then seems to totally ignore all the other folks who he might have offended by his actions. She illustrates the hypocrisy of Senator John Ensign who was quick to call for the resignation of Idaho’s Senator Larry Craig after his airport incident but then refuses to resign himself after admitting to an adulterous affair. And in her attempt to be fair she lists two infamous adulterers from the other side of the aisle (John Edwards and Bill Clinton) and suggests they are all giving Christians a bad name.
Over at BCC, Margaret Young posted a story about a young couple who intended to be married in the temple until their youthful hormones overpowered everything else and they found themselves expecting a baby – before the temple wedding. The parents of the groom totally mishandled the situation and eventually the groom, his wife and six children left the faith because there seemed to be an unforgiving attitude on the part of the parents for years thereafter. One of those posting a comment recalled a story of a father (who was then, and still is now, a bishop) who refused to attend his daughter’s wedding because she got married in the wrong temple (DC instead of Atlanta) but he apparently had no problem paying for and attending the reception. Apparently his absence from the wedding was a sort of punishment to the daughter for a lifetime of “being difficult.”
And so I wonder, do we really believe – or better said – do we practice our belief in the atonement. On the one hand, I have always thought that the sin of adultery is not just a garden variety sin that can be just another sin covered by the atonement. It takes some serious (doesn’t every sin take serious) repentance. On the other hand, my limited knowledge of the rest of Christendom – at least Protestant Christianity – tells me that, in fact, even adultery is something that is almost casually accepted as being part of the human race with all our weaknesses and imperfections and is totally covered by the Savior’s atonement and if I have committed myself to Christ he will forgive me immediately. I may be wrong about that. I hope I am and I’m sure someone will set me straight if I am. But a work associate of mine, who calls herself an evangelical Christian, scoffs at the idea that young adults can remain sexually pure before marriage. I certainly don’t pretend that it is an easy goal to achieve but to essentially write it off the list of possibilities but then claim you accept the gospel of Jesus Christ seems hypocritical to me, or at least inconsistent.
So if we as Mormons believe in Christ, or to paraphrase the book title from the recent past , if we “believe Christ”, why would it be so hard for a parent or other family member to forgive a child for making a mistake – no matter what it was? Are we grateful for the atonement when it applies to our own sins but aren’t so sure about it when it comes to the sins of others? On the other hand should we be quick to forgive politicians, or other celebrities, whose lives and sins are much more public than our own? Why should there penance be greater than anyone else’s?
Are we too quick to forgive or are we too late in offering forgiveness? What is the right balance?