Sanford and Soul Mate and Smoking

Governor Sanford.

Back during the whole “Hiking the Appalachian Trail” fiasco, I wrote a lot about my state’s governor, Mark Sanford.  I’ve written about his marriage, I’ve written about his infidelity, I’ve written about his ties to C-Street’sThe Family.” I’ve created an entire tag, Annals of South Carolinian Ridiculousness, largely thanks to his antics, though Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham have certainly contributed to that category.

And now, my fair governor is in the news once again.  His wife having filed for divorce and written a tell-all book after their efforts to save their marriage failed, he is trying to reunite with the Argentinian woman he calls his “soulmate.” And the thing is, I’m fine with that. I can’t say why exactly, but somehow, I’m less bothered by a man who simply fell in love with the wrong woman at the wrong time, than I am with an Elliot Spitzer screwing prostitutes behind his wife’s back after making a career going after prostitution rings, or John Edwards cheating on his dying wife with a bimbo, and then failing to wrap it up, all the while thinking that he could still run for president and no one would know about his love child.  Somehow, I’m sympathetic to love, even if it’s narrated by poorly-written email poetry about tan lines.

This is a slide from a presentation my husband gave on the subject of childhood smoking.

What I’m less sympathetic to are Sanford’s policies, particularly his veto this week of a proposed tobacco tax increase in a state with the lowest tobacco taxes in the nation.  As someone concerned about childrens’ health in particular (and the wife of a pediatrician), I know that higher tobacco taxes are a proven way of keeping tobacco out of kids’ hands and a great way to fund tobacco use prevention programs.  According to the SC Tobacco Collaborative, “Studies show that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by about 7 percent and overall cigarette consumption by about 4 percent.”  Keeping kids from smoking is a key way to prevent adults from smoking and make our nation a healthier place, keeping health care costs down for all of us.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most smokers have their first cigarette between the ages of 11 and 14!  Thankfully the House overrode his veto, and there is hope the Senate will do the same.

It’s just a shame that yet again, the governor’s love life is detracting attention from his more serious missteps, like the ones that put SC children at risk.

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Jon Stewart and I are both uncomfortable

You may have been seeing more of Jenny Sanford, Governor Mark “Appalachian Trail” Sanford’s soon-to-be-ex wife, because she’s doing a lot of publicity in promotion of her new memoir, Staying TrueAs I’ve written before, I like Jenny Sanford.  I respect the way she has handled herself, for the most part, with grace and dignity.  However, with the release of this book and a seeming rush to capitalize on her family’s breakup, she’s beginning to lose me as a fan.  She was on The Daily Show last night, and it wasn’t just Jon Stewart who was uncomfortable (If anyone can tell me how to embed video from TDS on my WordPress blog, let me know. Copying and pasting the embed code doesn’t work).  Stewart is a divorced kid, like me, and his joke about how after his parents’ divorce, his mom “only said bad things about my dad on the radio, not national TV” rang true for me. Continue reading

More Focus on “The Family”

C Street Band

I wasn’t intending to do any blogging today or this week, but I like to watch the video from the most recent Rachel Maddow Show on my lunch break, and when I saw that she was covering The Family again, I knew I had to do a post.  You can see my previous post on the subject here.  You can watch the video clip I’m discussing here (I would embed it but MSNBC isn’t playing nice with WordPress).  All quotes from The Rachel Maddow Show taken from this transcript.

In the wake of the Sanford and Ensign sex scandals, the C Street house/Bible Study/group looms large, as does The Family, the organization behind it.

One of the more interesting bits was clips of sermons from the leader of The Family from original reporting by Andrea Mitchell.  In one of the clips, the leader of The Family, Douglas Coe, says:

DOUGLAS COE, “THE FAMILY” LEADER: I‘ve seen pictures of the young men in the Red Guard. They would bring in this young man‘s mother. He would take an ax and cut her head off. They have to put the purposes of the Red Guard ahead of their father, mother, brother, sister, and their own life. That was a covenant, a pledge. That‘s what Jesus said.
COE: Jesus said, you have to put me before other people. And you have to put me before yourself. Hitler, that was a demand to be in the Nazi party. You have to put the Nazi party and its objectives ahead of your own life and ahead of other people.
COE: One of the things [Jesus] said is “If any man comes to me, and does not hate his father, mother, brother, sister, his own life, he can‘t be a disciple.” So I don‘t care what other qualifications you have, if you don‘t do that, you can‘t be a disciple of Christ.

So basically this guy sees a lot of parallels between following Jesus and being a member of the Red Guard or Nazi Party? I’m already terrified.

During the show, Rachel also interviewed Jeff Sharlet of Harper’s Magazine, who infiltrated The Family and lived at C Street before writing a book on The Family.  Here’s one of the things Sharlet said about The Family:

They believe in something called “biblical capitalism,” and biblical capitalism is the way they‘re going to bring the gospel to the already powerful. Where the money goes they believe God goes.

“Biblical Capitalism? Wonder how they’d square that with this vision of the early church, from the Book of Acts:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:45-47

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Acts 4:32-35

Nevermind their downright unbiblical fetishization of capitalism, according to Sharlet, the group has been involved in shady dealings with brutal dictators:

SHARLET: Well, you know, we heard in that clip, we heard Coe talking about Mao‘s China and so on. And we also hear him again and again using the model of Hitler as an ideal of strength. And I‘ve heard him—this is really boilerplate sermon for Doug Coe.

It‘s not that he‘s a neo Nazi of some sort. It‘s that they fetishize strength. They look for the leader who they believe is chosen by God. Evidence is his power, his wealth, and his willingness to align himself with their version of American power.

The dictator Suharto in Indonesia was one such. They organized meetings for him with American defense contractors, with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the secretary of defense, and most notably, since Indonesia is a major oil producing company with American oil executives, who described their meetings in memos of Congress as great moments of spiritual honesty between themselves and the dictator.

Finally, Maddow asks Sharlet, if, since religion is a private matter in this country (ha! Yeah, the Values Voters and people who are convinced Obama is somehow a secret Muslim, as if that disqualified him from office, really believe in religion as a private matter.), if he believes the members of Congress who are affiliated with C Street and the Family should disclose their involvement in the group. Sharlet responds:

I think when you have—when you have members of Congress who are looking to a particular religious group for a sense of authority, which is explicitly antidemocratic, that explicitly fetishizes strength and dictatorial power, if they want to do that, that it‘s their choice. But I think they owe it to their constituents to say, “Here is why I have chosen to leave the mainstreams of American religion and affiliate myself with this sect that is so unorthodox and so really brutal in its theology.”

I bolded the parts above because, based on everything I know of Jesus, I feel quite confident in saying that the theology of this group is NOT “Christian.” It is extremist, it is unorthodox, and true Christians should point out groups like this and say, THEY DO NOT REPRESENT US, OUR GOSPEL, OR OUR GOD.

Personally, I do think these men, Sens. Ensign and Coburn and Gov. Sanford, should be asked some really hard questions about their involvement with this group, and whether or not they feel its views conform to biblical orthodoxy and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Focus on “The Family”

C Street Band

In the wake of the Sanford “crying in Argentina” affair and Sen. John Ensign’s ongoing saga of sex with a subordinate and payoffs and other favors to the subordinate’s family, much is being made about the secretive C-Street house/Bible study/organization that Sanford, John Ensign, and Sen. Ted Coburn (a major player in the Ensign scandal) belonged to. C-Street supposedly provides accountability, counseling, and Bible studies to powerful men in politics. Of course their credibility is somewhat in question now that it turns out that so many of their members have had such public moral failings, and as Jon said to me last night, “Maybe they need to re-think their mission.”

But what if it turns out that keeping flawed powerful men in power is exactly their mission? Not to help these men lead moral lives, but to help these men wield power? That’s the distinct impression I got watching last night’s Rachel Maddow show. You can see the clip I’m going to discuss here. All quotes are taken from the transcript.

On her show last night, Maddow interviewed Jeff Sharlet of Harper’s magazine, who has written a book on “The Family,” the “Christian” (you’ll understand those quotes in a second) organization behind C-Street, the house/Bible Study group which connects Sen. Ensign, Sen. Coburn, and Mark Sanford. From what Sharlet said of the organization, I’m terrified AND outraged. Sharlet first hand heard the leader of C-Street describing their goals and objectives:

He said it‘s sort of a totalitarian idea of Christianity and he gave his examples of men who he believed, understood the way power should wielded. He actually gave his examples, Hitler, Pol Pot, Osama bin Laden and Lenin.

Maddow summarized the ideas of The Family thusly:

Its role is promoting American power worldwide, unfettered capitalism, no unions, no programs to help poor people—all with this idea that godly, powerful rich men should get at many resources as possible personally and they should just privately help everyone else. That was the impression that I was left with. Was I close?

SHARLET: That‘s dead on the money.

HOW THESE PEOPLE CAN GET THIS FROM JESUS, I HAVE NO IDEA. THIS IS NOT THE JESUS I KNOW AND LOVE, THAT’S FOR SURE. And this “theology” goes back 70 years to the founder of The Family who

believed God came to him one night in April of 1935 and said, what Christianity should really be about is building more power for the already powerful and that these powerful men who are chosen by God can then—if they want to dispense blessings to the rest of us, through a kind of trickle down fundamentalism.

I know I’m quoting a lot here, but really, this is ghastly stuff and you have to read it. Sharlet says he was living with The Family when

one of the leaders in the Family was explaining why King David was important. And he says, it‘s not because he was good man, it‘s because he‘s a bad man. You know, seduced another man‘s wife. He actually had the husband murdered.

And he wants to explain why this was a model—and he says to one of the men in the group, he says, “Suppose I heard you raped three little girls. What would I think of you?” And this guy, being a human being, says, “You would think I was a monster.” Well, the leader of the Family says, “No, not at all, because you‘re chosen. You‘re chosen by God for leadership, and so the normal rules don‘t apply.”

I’d say this certainly makes clear why it seems only Democrats resign when caught in affairs.  And perhaps even why these men are not ashamed by their hypocrisy: these are “family values” guys.  Guys who flaunt their status as Promise Keepers, who called for the impeachment of Bill Clinton, who think that homosexuals are the moral problem of our society, and yet, when they engage in the very activities they condemn in others, they think they are above the consequences.  They think they don’t have to resign.  Because they think they are “chosen.”

This goes against everything I know and love about the gospel.  The idea that Jesus came to save the least and the lost.  The idea that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.  The idea that we are all equal in the eyes of God, both equally culpable for our sins, and equally bestowed with crazy abounding grace.  The idea that one of the worst things you can possibly be is a Pharisee– one who loudly proclaims his righteousness, without having the heart-condition to back it up.  These men make me SICK, not just because of their actions, but because of the damage their witness does to the real, true gospel.

the sanfords, spiritual leadership, and submission

Image via the Washington Post

Image via the Washington Post

I’m with PunditMom: I LIKE Jenny Sanford. Reading this Washington Post piece on Jenny, after her eloquent and, I believe, genuine press statement about her husband’s oh-so-public failing, I get the feeling that she is smart, strong, and looking out for herself and her family. I also get the feeling she’s a genuine Christian, and her example stands in stark contrast to the hypocrisies of men like her husband, particularly this, from The American Prospect’s Tapped blog:

Sanford advised spending more time with one’s family (ahem) and praying together. “I don’t want to be old-fashioned here,” he added, “but I think the father has the responsibility of being the spiritual leader of the house, and there are some lessons on a daily, nightly, morning basis that need to go from the father to the little ones in talking about how shall we then live. And I think that particular responsibility is on the backs of fathers.”

Seems to me that Jenny Sanford is the true spiritual leader in that household.  And that her husband abdicated this role when he disappeared to be with another woman ON FATHER’S DAY.

And here’s the part that I’m really thinking about, pondering, and questioning: doesn’t this traditional gender role, male-as-spiritual-leader system really set a marriage up for failure?

Here’s where I’m going with this.  So the Sanfords believe that, despite having an equal education and career experience, despite an equal role in running her husband’s campaigns and PR strategies, despite keeping the home fires burning in such a way that Mark was even able to sustain his political ambitions, Jenny is spiritually inferior to her husband, in need of his leadership, headship, and “covering.”  She is the one expected (I’m fine if it’s just her freely-made choice, as someone who hopes to be a SAHM someday) to give up her Wall Street VP job to raise kids and bake oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for staffers and reporters.  She’s the one who disappears into home life, to the extent that I’m willing to bet that she wasn’t even the same person Mark Sanford fell in love with in the first place.  And then we act surprised when Mark Sanford, bored with this rigid assignment of roles, perhaps even with his no-longer high-powered wife, decides that a fling with an Argentinian is more exciting?  The entire system is unfair to both Mark AND Jenny.

I’m not excusing Mark Sanford’s actions.  I believe that there is no excuse for cheating on a spouse, and at the VERY least, he should have gotten a divorce before pursuing another woman, preferably not one who is also married (his mistress was apparently “separated” at the time that they met).  However, what I am saying is, this religiously-motivated gender-based spiritual hierarchy that its adherents believe protects marriage and ensures spiritual order actually creates a system in which both spouses are doomed to failure. The woman is left at home with the kids, deferring to her husband constantly, trying not to question him and his spiritual “headship,” and is expected all the same to remain attractive and attracted to her husband.  It’s like asking her to fight with one hand behind her back– how can she still be interesting and challenging and compelling to her husband if, after getting married and having kids, she’s no longer allowed to be the hard-working, high-powered, highly-intelligent person who first attracted him?

And the man is put on a spiritual pedestal, where, instead of answering to his wife, conversing with his wife, being challenged spiritually “as iron sharpens iron” by his wife, he meets with groups of men like C-Street or this Cubby character Mark Sanford seemed to be more broken up about disappointing than he was about disappointing his wife and kids.  And these men, I believe, often feed the very beast they are supposedly trying to tame.

This is why I don’t go in for this “headship” stuff.  I wasn’t looking for a leader, I was looking for a partner.  I wanted someone who can call me on my BS, and who I can call on his.  I wanted someone who would be just as devastated as I would be if I had kids and suddenly lost myself, my biggest fear about parenthood.  And that’s what I have in my marriage.  We see it as “iron sharpening iron,” not one of us inferior to the other.  When I talk about my desire to stay home with our children, my husband asks me if I would really be happy in such a role.  He knows me well enough to know I need challenges and mental stimulation, that I need to feel like I’m being productive and contributing to the world in a meaningful way, using my mind and my talents.  We will raise our children the same way we currently go through life– holding hands and picking up each other’s slack and doing the best we can.  But we’re certainly not going to handicap ourselves with outdated ideas of patriarchal leadership and one-sided submission that set us both up for failure and disappointment.

programming note

I’ve decided to stop doing posts on the weekend, as no one reads them anyway, and I should really be trying to interact with humans instead of screwing around on the interwebz on my days off.  So.  Check out some of the fun stuff you may have missed this week, like the post about my pet-chauvenism, my take on Jon & Kate + Hate, and a lot of special Mark Sanford news including the Crying In Argentina Playlist.  And now, just for funzies, I will leave you with two videos.  The thing they have in common?  Both are local TV specials, made in the South.

First up is Turtleman.  I love this guy.  As my husband says, “You can just tell that he loves life.”  I’m sure anyone from the South could tell a story of an encounter with someone just like him.  As my boss says: “America.  People are doing crazy shit all over it.”

Next up is Skidboot the Dog.  He’s amazing.  Now my dogs commonly hear the phrase “WHY CAN’T YOU BE MORE LIKE SKIDBOOT??”

Y’all have a great weekend!

crying in argentina: the playlist

After much joking about Mark Sanford’s country song, “Crying in Argentina,” it occurred to me, I should make ol Mark a special playlist for this special time– I guess it’s a playlist to listen to while hiking the Appalachian Trail all the way to Argentina.

First up, Weezer’s “Island in the Sun“.  Included for the line “We’ll run away together, we’ll spend some time forever, we’ll never feel bad anymore.” (It wouldn’t let me embed the video, but it’s directed by Spike Jonze and pretty cool)

Then:

Next, another one I can’t embed: Justin Timberlake’s Senorita. “Senorita, I feel for you, you deal with things that you don’t have to.” That one could practically BE one of Sanford’s emails.

And speaking of the emails, since Sanford says “there is something wonderful about listening to country music playing in the cab, air conditioner running, the hum of a huge diesel engine in the background”, I give you “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”:

Then Janet’s “Escapade.”  Think by ditching the governor’s office for a week he was trying to save his troubles for another day?

Think the ladies in Argentina are like the ladies in Spain?  “Can’t refuse it.”

And what’s acting like an idiot teenager in love rather than a governor with a wife and kids without a lil Tiffany?

And finally, Madonna, “Holiday.”  “It would be so nice” if you could just get away with disappearing from your elected office for a week, wouldn’t it?

Got any additions to make to the list?