Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mark Sanford's "Redemption"

Today is Tuesday, 14 May 2013.

To my mind, the most significant and valuable Christian theologian of the 20th-century is the German Lutheran, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945).  He believed that Christian faith was neither a decoration nor a get-out-of-hell-free card that enabled one to continue a previous life of harming and exploiting others. 

Bonhoeffer believed that Christian faith must be lived in the world, for the world, at whatever cost to oneself.  He lived up to this goal in many ways, including opposition to Hitler from the beginning.  His brother and two brothers-in-law were executed for their participation in various attempts to overthrow Nazism.  Bonhoeffer himself was hanged on 9 April 1945.  (In a grim irony, the Gestapo had originally arrested him for smuggling Jews out to Switzerland in return for bribes, instead of to save them from death.  It was only in the aftermath of the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler on 20 July 1944 that the Gestapo realized that he was part of the Resistance, and handed him over to the SS.)

One of Mark Sanford's themes in his recent campaign for Congress was God's alleged redemption of him.

Bonhoeffer wrote:  "Cheap grace is the grace we award ourselves.  Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance ... grace without discipleship ..."

What did Sanford do differently after he was supposedly "redeemed"?  He violated a protective order by breaking into his wife's home to watch a football game.  His lust for power and profit was unquenched and undiminished.  (I would suggest to his "soul mate" that, should Mark tell her that he'll be gone for a few days "to climb Mt. Everest", she run swiftly and permanently in the other direction.)

Sanford epitomizes "cheap grace".  He forgives himself, grants himself redemption, and then merrily continues on his morally corrupt way.

But then, perhaps Sanford imagines that he is God.


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