Will Sanford's Apologies Pass Muster With the Pro-Family Movement?

Why the South Carolina governor's mea culpa may disappoint the pro-family crowd.

By + More

By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

In a phone conversation about South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's admitted affair, Concerned Women for America president Wendy Wright argued that the test of a politician's character was not necessarily his or her ability to avoid immoral behavior but how the politician responded to a personal moral lapse. "As Christians, we recognize that we are fallible and need a savior," Wright said. "We have high standards, but we know that people are not always going to meet those standards. What people can do is repent and stop doing what you did wrong and make amends and commit to trying to live up to those standards."

"There have been two ways that political figures have dealt with being caught in adultery," Wright continued. "One is repentance and a commitment to restoring their marriage, and the other has been defiance, that adultery is no big deal. The case in point there is Bill Clinton."

At his press conference yesterday, Sanford was certainly not defiant; he admitted he'd done wrong and recognized all the hurt his actions had caused. But neither did his performance appear to meet Wright's standard for responding to revelations of an extramarital affair. If Sanford had stopped doing what he was doing wrong, as Wright suggests, he wouldn't have been in Argentina over the weekend.

And at his news conference yesterday, Sanford appeared less than unequivocal on his commitment to restoring his marriage to Jenny Sanford, another of Wright's prerequisites for political redemption. "I'm committed to that process of walking through with Jenny, the boys . . . with the people of South Carolina, in—in saying, where do we go from here?" Sanford said. That's a pretty ambiguous way forward.

Asked point-blank by a reporter if he was trying to reconcile with his wife, Sanford managed this limp response: "I am, yeah."

All of which is to say that any hopes Sanford had for a national political future have been razed—and his close relationship with the pro-family movement badly damaged—not just by dint of having had an affair, but by the way he's handled it so far. It's worth noting that Sanford's wishy-washiness jars dramatically with a statement released yesterday by his wife, a clarion call to marriage and family that would make any conservative Christian leader proud:

. . . I personally believe that the greatest legacy I will leave behind in this world is not the job I held on Wall Street, or the campaigns I managed for Mark, or the work I have done as First Lady or even the philanthropic activities in which I have been routinely engaged. Instead, the greatest legacy I will leave in this world is the character of the children I, or we, leave behind. It is for that reason that I deeply regret the recent actions of my husband Mark, and their potential damage to our children.

I believe wholeheartedly in the sanctity, dignity and importance of the institution of marriage. I believe that has been consistently reflected in my actions. When I found out about my husband's infidelity I worked immediately to first seek reconciliation through forgiveness, and then to work diligently to repair our marriage. We reached a point where I felt it was important to look my sons in the eyes and maintain my dignity, self-respect, and my basic sense of right and wrong. I therefore asked my husband to leave two weeks ago.

This trial separation was agreed to with the goal of ultimately strengthening our marriage. During this short separation it was agreed that Mark would not contact us. I kept this separation quiet out of respect of his public office and reputation, and in hopes of keeping our children from just this type of public exposure. Because of this separation, I did not know where he was in the past week.

I believe enduring love is primarily a commitment and an act of will, and for a marriage to be successful, that commitment must be reciprocal. I believe Mark has earned a chance to resurrect our marriage.

Psalm 127 states that sons are a gift from the Lord and children a reward from Him. I will continue to pour my energy into raising our sons to be honorable young men. I remain willing to forgive Mark completely for his indiscretions and to welcome him back, in time, if he continues to work toward reconciliation with a true spirit of humility and repentance.

This is a very painful time for us and I would humbly request now that members of the media respect the privacy of my boys and me as we struggle together to continue on with our lives and as I seek the wisdom of Solomon, the strength and patience of Job and the grace of God in helping to heal my family.