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Right, Wrong, “Mistakes” and Character

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We all feel much better when we find out we did not really screw up, our hearts were in the right place, we just “made a mistake.”  But wrong is wrong, “mistakes” have consequences, and sometimes those consequences matter more than our feelings.  Yet in this age of identity über alles, we increasingly seem to think that in pursuit of maintaining our ego strength it is “OK,” to spin even the biggest and most consequential of screw-ups as mistakes.

But until this administration,we have reserved the “mistake” ploy for matters personal.  Obama’s justice department actually played this card overtly in a prosecution that was overturned in 2012:

Matz cited “flagrant” misconduct in a scathing order of dismissal. He lashed at the “many” mistakes self-identified by prosecutors in the case, saying in the ruling “they add up to an unusual and extreme picture of a prosecution gone awry.”

[…]

The company fought the conviction, filing a motion to dismiss that argued there was a pattern of misconduct on the part of prosecutors. Prosecutors, meanwhile, admitted to mistakes but said those mistakes should not imperil the conviction. Matz disagreed.

And from the Wall Street Journal this morning, comes word that they still have not learned their lesson:

On Thursday District Judge Andrew Hanen of Texas found that Obama Administration lawyers committed misconduct that he called “intentional, serious and material.”…

Justice’s only explanation is that its lawyers either “lost focus on the fact” or “the fact receded in memory or awareness”—the fact here being realities that the DOJ was required to disclose to the court.

I think this explains so much of what is happening in the current election cycle.  This is the kind of stuff that has eroded confidence in our government to the point that when elections do happen we thrash around looking for something from outside the box just to have solid ground on which we can stand.  These are more than “mistakes.”  This is simply wrong conduct, intention not withstanding.  This is not solid ground upon which we can stand with confidence.  This is a toxic stew that along with a few other sociological trends, creates the impression of standing on the weakest of foundations.

We have forgotten that “solid ground” in such matters is in the end a function not of laws, regulations, or systems but of honor and character.  In the end, no matter what the endeavor, we have to rely on people and that means we need those people to be people of good character, or else we are on shifting sands.

Way back, a couple of thousands years ago, the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy about what it takes to lead a church:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.  He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?  He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.  Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain.  They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.  And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless.  Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.  Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well.

Don’t you find it interesting that those qualifications  are not about being exceptionally widely-read or well-spoken?  There is nothing about media ability or even policy stands – what matters when selecting leaders for a church is character: sobriety, family, humility.  That is solid ground on which we can stand.

Clearly, the current administration has us feeling as if we stand on quicksand.  Anybody that has watched TV knows that thrashing about in quicksand only makes matters worse.  The way back to solid ground is to be slow, thoughtful and deliberate.  We are up to our necks, but we are not dead yet.  The time for our panicked thrashing must end now.

Addendum:  Looks like Glenn Reynolds was thinking about the same things in his weekly USAToday column.

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