The Easiest Test To Fail
Former US Representative Tim Murphy was, evidently, a very optimistic man:
A text message sent in January to U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy by a woman with whom he had an extra-marital relationship took him to task for an anti-abortion statement posted on Facebook from his office’s public account.
“And you have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options,” Shannon Edwards, a forensic psychologist in Pittsburgh with whom the congressman admitted last month to having a relationship, wrote to Mr. Murphy on Jan. 25, in the midst of an unfounded pregnancy scare.
A text from Mr. Murphy’s cell phone number that same day in response says, “I get what you say about my March for life messages. I’ve never written them. Staff does them. I read them and winced. I told staff don’t write any more. I will.”
I say he was optimistic because he evidently thought that he would survive this. It was reasonable for him to believe he would survive the affair itself. Many don’t, but some do. Having had an affair – even as a theoretically socially conservative congressman – doesn’t make a whole lot of news these days. There usually has to be something especially salacious like sexts or at least hookers. Abandoning your state and dropping off the map for a few days. Cancer. The only real angle with Murphy is the hypocrisy angle, and really nobody is surprised by that anymore. I hadn’t even heard of it.
I did not share his optimism about the other thing, however. I knew he was done as soon as I heard about the proposed abortion. For anyone ostensibly against abortion, that is the easiest moral decision that there is. And if you fail it, and you rely on pro-life groups for support, you’re in a lot of trouble.
Getting away with having had an affair is pretty formulaic these days. You say that you were weak. Or in Mark Sanford’s case, you say that you finally found true love. If you break up your family and leave your spouse people might see something about new beginnings. If you stay with your family, you can spin that, too. In any event, weakness of the flesh is assumed on the part of a lot of people, including and especially social conservatives if that’s your base. It’s one of the reasons the Pence Rule has some traction. Avoid temptation, for we are weak.
It ties in to some of the issues with young Christians and contraception:
The psychology, as I’ve seen it, basically works like this: Sex before marriage is wrong. It is a sin. Now, lots of things are a sin and we all sin. Most Christians do keep this in perspective. Everyone makes mistakes. However, there is a difference between spontaneous sin and premeditated sin. It’s one thing to have a moment of weakness where you give in to the flesh. it’s spontaneous. You were weak. Maybe you are weak whenever you are around a particular guy or gal. Not good. Beg for forgiveness. Onward and upward. However, if you are on the pill or are taking a condom with you, that’s a different ballgame. That’s premeditation. That’s willful. It’s the difference between a child breaking the rules on a lark, and a deception meticulously planned and executed. Would your response be the same? Mine wouldn’t. And so it is with God.
There are some people in some situations who will get away with just about anything because there is so much on the line or they have such a deep well of support. And if there is some sort of defense you can hang your hat on such as having found Jesus in the interim, then people who want to believe you will. But it is easily one of the most difficult arguments to make in politics. It’s more difficult to justify than things that are actually objectively worse (say, the Chappaquiddick incident) because of the absence of an accidental or split-second decision component. It’s not strictly about how bad the sin is, but the premeditation and planning involved.
I am not pro-life the same way that Murphy professed to be, but I nonetheless see it as among the easiest decisions there is. And it involves not just doing a bad thing, but coercing another into doing the bad thing. At the least, you actually have to argue and convince someone else of the bad thing. It is just layers of bad on bad. You could see the thorough darkness in the tepid tone of the few defenses people put up. They weren’t active defenses and they were barely even passive defenses. It mostly came down to some variation of “The media is hypocrites!” and “Look at that shiny thing over there!” Even for the most rabid partisan, it was hard to put any sort of positive or defensive spin on it.
With the exception of virgins, most anti-abortion people I know well enough to know about it have been tested in this regard. If you are sexually active, this is one of those moral views that definitely has rubber meeting road potential. And in fact, I have more often seen these situations push people in the opposite direction towards anti-abortion hostility once they are contemplating a child that is potentially theirs. Nature does afford anti-abortion men the ability to punt in a way it does not afford anti-abortion women the same, but Murphy couldn’t even manage to do that right. It’s noteworthy how he evidently didn’t even try to justify its accordance with his stated beliefs on abortion. He just outsourced the latter to a staffer, as though he somehow had never taken a position on the subject.
I call this the “unforgivable sin” but of course under the right circumstances nothing is completely unforgivable. But if you’re a Republican who ever encouraged your mistress to have an abortion, you’d best hope that it was a long time ago (before some sort of religious conversion, preferably) or the Supreme Court hangs in the balance, or that you have some fixed hold on public opinion. Because if you’re just some congressman from Pennsylvania, nobody is going to perform the mental gymnastics required. Start slathering yourself in butter, because you’re toast.