Mark Sanford: South Carolina's Bible-Quoting Governor

Sanford apologized to his cabinet with a biblical story and quoted another in a note to his mistress.


By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

Embattled South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is not known as a Bible thumper. Conservative evangelical leaders love him, but he's an Episcopalian. As a congressman, he condemned Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, yet he's not known to be a public moralizer.

But, boy, can he quote the Bible.

Here's how Sanford opened his apology this afternoon to his state cabinet (video above): 

Based on the way that I've disappointed my wife, my boys, close friends, family, South Carolinians at large, I think always the question you've got to ask yourself in the larger context of leadership is what's it all mean and where do we go from here. And so I've been doing a lot of soul searching on that front and what I find interesting is the story of David. And the way in which he fell mightily, he fell in very, very significant ways, but then picked up the pieces and built from there. And it all really began with the larger quest that I think is well expressed in the Book of Psalms and the notion of humility. Humility toward others, humility in one's own spirit.

Sanford didn't quote the Bible during his dramatic Wednesday press conference, when he came clean about his affair. But he referred to God's law and spoke to the significant role that a Bible study group is playing as he works through his current ordeal:

There are moral absolutes and that God's law indeed is there to protect you from yourself, and there are consequences if you breach that. This press conference is a consequence.

We've been working through this thing for about the last five months. I've been to a lot of different—I was part of a group called C Street when I was in Washington. It was a, believe it or not, a Christian Bible study; some folks that asked of members of Congress hard questions that I think were very, very important. And I've been working with them.

Is all Sanford's recent Bible talk genuine? Some evidence that it may be: He quotes Scripture—and says its where he will "often look for advice and counsel"—in an E-mail to his mistress that South Carolina's largest newspaper, the State, published:

I wish I could wish it away, but this soul-mate feel I alluded too is real and in that regard I sure don't want to be the person complicating your life. I looked to where I often look for advice and counsel, and in I Corinthians 13 it simply says that, "Love is patient and kind, love is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude, Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice in the wrong, but rejoices in the right, Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things." In this regard it is action that goes well beyond the emotion of today or tomorrow and in this light I want to look for ways to show love in helping you to live a better—not more complicated life.