Politics, sin and the church's response

April 1st, 2016

Not even governors of states are exempt from the scrutiny of the church. That’s what Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley learned last week.

Bentley, who is embroiled in what may be the biggest sex scandal in the history of our state, is no longer a member of First Baptist Church Tuscaloosa, according to Senior Pastor Gil McKee. Neither is Bentley’s alleged paramour, Rebekah Mason.

“I continue to pray for each of them,” McKee told AL.com.

McKee hasn’t said whether or not Bentley and Mason left voluntarily or were removed as members. Either way, it’s impossible to separate the timing of their departure from the allegations of adultery and the recordings of Bentley engaging in sexual patter with someone who apparently wasn’t his ex-wife — and presumably was Mason.

The painfully irony is that it was Bentley’s church-going image — he taught Sunday School and was a deacon at First Baptist — that helped him get elected in 2010 and re-elected four years later. Things began to unravel for him last year when his wife filed for divorce. Months later, the cheating allegations began to leak out.

The phone sex recordings, reportedly made by a family member, are especially damning. Bentley can be heard telling a woman that he enjoyed kissing her and touching her breasts. It’s widely believed that the woman is Mason, a point neither the governor nor Mason have denied. Mason, by the way, works for the governor and is married.

Sex scandals are not uncommon in politics, but it must be especially tough to be caught in one when you are a family-values, conservative Republican — who, by the way, opposed same-sex marriage because it interferes with the "rights of children to be connected to their biological parents." Doesn’t infidelity or divorce involving heterosexual parents do exactly the same?

Nevertheless, this scandal has made Bentley — politically speaking — a homeless man. A growing number of his fellow Republicans are calling for him to step down. So are Alabama’s Democrats.

Media reports say Bentley is being investigated by state and federal agencies. It’s hard to believe that he will still be living in the governor’s mansion by the time his successor is elected in 2018.

But politics is not the only consideration here. Bentley, like him or not, is a child of God. Agree with his politics or not — and I don’t — he undoubtedly is, on some level, a broken man, spiritually speaking.

Jesus said let him who is without sin toss the first rock. As I am far from being sin-free, I am not even going to walk near any rocks, let alone throw one at Bentley because of his alleged behavior.

I know first-hand that believers need spiritual fellowship in times of personal crisis. And who could be in need more than a recently divorced governor and his alleged lover in the middle of a very public sex scandal?  

It’s when we are in the midst of our mess that we need God and godly people the most. I hope Bentley and Mason have people in their lives who can give them the spiritual fellowship that they apparently won’t be getting from their former church. Forcing out members who have gone astray, allegedly or in reality, seems counter to the logic of helping them find whatever spiritual healing and repentance they may need.

But what do I know? Churches have been kicking out sinners for centuries. I guess it must be working.

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