But that's not the point of my article. Neither is it the fact that moral indiscretion is viewed as a campaign killer for a Republican, but no big deal for a Democrat. The point I want to examine is this: Does character matter when picking a leader? And then I want to ask: If it does, how can we vote for those with great character flaws?
Before I start, however, let me state my bias. I am an Evangelical Christian. A candidate's position on the moral issues ranks at the top of my consideration. I will always vote for the candidate that is the strongest pro-life and pro-family candidate. That's why I could not bring myself to vote for President Obama even though he seems to be a nice man with a solid marriage and a good family. His radical promotion of abortion and the homosexual agenda precludes me from ever voting for him.
Does that mean I would support Newt? Not necessarily - I'm not sure he is the one most committed to family and moral issues - and nothing I say here should be viewed as an endorsement. I do want people to be fair in how they evaluate him and all the candidates, however.
But it does beg the question: How can evangelicals who condemned Bill Clinton's dithering support Newt? The answer is Newt's repentance. I remember listening to a Focus on the Family radio broadcast as Dr. James Dobson interviewed Newt. Newt freely admitted his sin, freely admitted he had been a scallywag; but he also stated that he had now had a religious conversion, and he humbly begged for forgiveness.
Was it genuine, or just for political convenience? Only God can see inside a heart. But the Scriptures are clear. We are to forgive and restore those who have fallen, being aware how easy it is for any of us to fall. The Scriptures are also clear on what takes place after a person comes to Christ for forgiveness. Second Corinthians 5:17 says,
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new."If Newt was indeed born-again, and we have to take him at his word, the old sins are erased.
That is why the drunk driving charges against George W. Bush shouldn't have mattered to his election. That he would drive drunk was certainly foolish and irresponsible - not the qualities we would want in a President; but they took place when he was much younger and much more foolish, and they took place before he came to faith in Jesus Christ. They were a part of his past, but we all have some skeletons in our closet. And as Jesus said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."
What kind of moral character does the man have now? That is the question to ask. Can we trust his word? Does he live by what he proclaims? Rick Santorum, for instance, has demonstrated a solid family life and a solid stand on the family issues for decades. That is why a group of 150 evangelical leaders who met in Texas earlier this month chose Santorum as the candidate that best reflected their views. He was their preferred candidate both for his impeccable lifestyles and for his stands on the moral issues.
So, no, old sins don't necessarily disqualify a candidate. Yet, moral character does matter greatly. How can we expect a candidate to make a vow to support and uphold the Constitution when he has violated his sacred vow to love, honor, and cherish his wife till death do them part? How can we support a candidate that switches positions as often as the political winds switch? These are not unrelated issues. Character does matter.