Two apostles can teach us much about handling a current scandal.
For a little over a week now, we’ve been . . . treated . . . to a bit of a media circus revolving around a couple of tea party legislators in the Republican House Caucus in Lansing. Predictably, there has been much hand-wringing and calling for heads coming from key figures within the statewide republican establishment. Also predictably, there has been much hand-wringing and calling for heads from within the statewide tea party movement.
I say “also predictably” because many of the high profile tea partiers in this state have developed a habit of happily piling on any politicos from “our side” who screw up publicly. Given the way that these people are finding fault with every single republican POTUS candidate for 2016, I suspect that Jesus Christ himself could be on the ballot, and two out of every three tea partiers in Michigan would still figure out a reason to crucify him. Speaking of which . . .
A couple of millennia ago, a rabbi by the name of Jesus of Nazareth set up shop in a place called Capernaum. As part of his mission work, Jesus commissioned twelve apostles, likely a symbolic move to indicate himself as the fulfillment of Israel’s messianic prophecies. The Greek word rendered “apostle” in the New Testament includes more than merely the concept of being sent (as an envoy, messenger, or ambassador); it encompasses also the direct commissioning and empowerment of an individual, with the emphasis on the person doing the authorizing, rather than the one so authorized. Thus, out of all of his followers, Jesus personally trained a dozen men, and then commissioned and empowered them as direct extensions of his messianic ministry. This was in spite of knowing their human shortfalls, and specifically knowing what two of those apostles would do roughly two years later.
Simon Peter is someone we remember as the leader of The Twelve, and rightly so. Yet students of Scripture will also remember that Peter was impetuous and a tad thick-headed, not exactly head-of-the-class material. And then there was that debacle in the high priest’s courtyard where, three times in the space of probably five hours, Peter publicly denied even knowing Jesus. The last of those denials was laced with curses, uttered just as Jesus was being escorted along the balcony between the offices of Annas and Caiaphas, just before the rooster crowed the first time. The subsequent eye contact between Jesus and Peter couldn’t have been pleasant.
Judas Iscariot is someone whose name is now rightly synonymous with the worst form of betrayal. Yet students of Scripture will also remember that Judas was, along with the other eleven, directly commissioned by Jesus, empowered to heal the sick and cast out demons, and authorized to preach the gospel to all who would listen (clearly not an assignment given to just anyone). He was also apparently credible enough to occupy a seat of honor at the table at the “last supper,” and reliable enough that Jesus entrusted him to be his treasurer. Yet, for a bag of money worth about four months’ pay to a common laborer, Judas betrayed his Lord and Friend to the very authorities who wanted him dead.
Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot, both of them directly commissioned by Jesus Christ as apostles (no inconsequential matter), and both of whom failed him at critical junctures. Yet how history treats both men two millennia later is directly connected to what they did in the wake of their greatest failure. Judas’ conscience-stricken remorse degenerated into despair, and then the desperate act of placing himself on the business end of a noose. All he left behind was the carnage his greed had driven him to cause. Peter, on the other hand, turned to his Lord and Friend in repentance, and was not only restored to his apostolic office, but also became a recognized leader within the post-ascension Christian church as a powerful preacher of repentance and forgiveness (concepts with which he now had first-hand experience).
Now, with that lesson in mind, let’s shift our focus to today.
A week and a weekend ago, nearly all of us were flabbergasted at the breaking news that two of “our own” had been caught, not only doing the unthinkable, but then compounding their act of stupidity with a boneheaded stunt that even Nixon might have advised against. My published reaction to this mess (and commentary elsewhere) was cutting, though directed at their behavior. I was much more interested in contrition and an explanation, but to be fair, I wasn’t particularly gentle with my rebuke.
After a weekend of silence, last Monday Todd Courser released an audio explanation that was, to put it charitably, difficult to listen to. The subject of the explanation centered on an alleged blackmail scheme, which blackmailer the false flag e-mail was supposed to smoke out. Subsequent releases of text message transcripts provided some credence to the blackmail subplot, but what I found most disturbing was that the multiple communiqués from Mr. Courser seemed to focus on assigning blame to anyone and everyone who put him in a situation where the false flag e-mail was necessary, yet displaying more cynicism than actual public contrition.
A full week after the scandal broke, Cindy Gamrat, who’d been effectively off the grid until Friday afternoon last, finally surfaced long enough to conduct a brief press conference. In a very emotional ten-and-a-quarter minute presser, Mrs. Gamrat expressed genuine remorse and sincere contrition, two things that we have yet to see come out of Mr. Courser (though his FaceBook post from Saturday may be leaning in that direction). Also, while the option of resignation is still on the table, Cindy is quite certain that the ongoing investigation will clear her of any legal wrongdoing (thus making a resignation unnecessary).
In this, Cindy has wisely opted for the path of repentance, and I am thus compelled to announce that, for Jesus’ sake, her sins are forgiven, the eternal consequences washed away on Calvary’s cross two millennia ago by that very same Jesus of Nazareth who was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, was denied by Simon Peter, was crucified on order of Pontius Pilate, and then rose from the dead as divine proof that his ultimate self-sacrifice was once-for-all sufficient to cancel all the sins of all people of all time.
In choosing this path, Cindy has also given herself the best possible chance to come through this a better grounded and much stronger public servant. (Personally, I’ve learned more from my failures and mistakes than I have from my successes.) Interestingly, this has also set up a situation that must have the political elites quite nervous right now, as full cooperation with the House Business Office investigation is likely to (a) actually exonerate Cindy of any legal wrongdoing, and (b) overturn some stones that the elites don’t want touched. Those howling most stridently for her resignation are most likely those who have the most to lose if she stays put, and you can interpret that any way you want to.
At one point last week, I’d posited on social media that Cindy had spent the week “off the grid” for good reason, likely to give her family some space, get her head screwed back on straight, and figure out if there’s any path toward restoration and reconciliation (all wise moves). I’d also said that, at a bare minimum, Cindy hadn’t been adding to the media carnage, which at least credits her with some sense of discretion, and that all she had to do Friday afternoon was present herself as well-reasoned and cool-headed in order to give herself a chance to salvage both her career and the initiatives that she’s sponsored. As for Todd, would that he’d take that advice, as he could do himself a few favors that way.
In the aftermath of his greatest failure, Simon Peter turned to his Lord and Savior in repentance, desiring only forgiveness. He was granted that, and so much more, as he now had the necessary grounding to become the Christian leader that he desired to be, and ultimately would become. In the aftermath of probably her greatest failure, Cindy Gamrat has reached out with genuine and heartfelt sorrow, regret, and repentance, asking us only for forgiveness, and the patience to let due process run its course.
I’m comfortable with that.