Hugh made news yesterday asking Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum if they would attend a loved one’s same-sex marriage ceremony. Both seemed to stumble. Can’t blame them, it is one heck of a difficult question, balancing moral conviction and individual love, balancing social order with individual conviction, and balancing very personal decisions with the role of POTUS candidate. As John Eastman pointed out, some of what makes that question hard to answer lies in decisions made several decades ago. But since it was asked of Rubio earlier in the day yesterday it’s going to be the great gotcha question of the moment, so it is best these guys figure it out. Better they figure it out on Hugh’s show than in the pages of the NYT or WaPo.
The question has yet to arise in my own personal life, but it is one I have pondered, for it seems inevitable. I have yet to arrive at a clear cut answer, but as I have reflected on it, I am reminded of what I wrote a couple of days ago about character.
When confronted with questions like this, my mind seems always to turn to Jesus’ encounter with the “Woman at the Well” as told in John 4. I shall resist the temptation to do all the set up and retelling that a preacher would do and focus on a single exchange:
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
That exchange always stuns me. It stuns me not so much because Jesus knows what’s going on in the woman’s life even though she has not told him about it, but because Jesus very directly points out that by the standards of the time, the woman is a slut. I dare say if any of us tried that in a casual conversation we struck up at the grocery store we’d get slapped. And yet in this case the woman was further intrigued by Jesus. How in the world did he pull that off?
The only answer I can come up with is that there is something about the character and demeanor of Jesus that spoke of love in the midst of his potentially destructive accusation. This message implicit in his character and demeanor somehow overrode verbal message, “You’re a slut.”
It would be easy at this point to tell the candidates that they have to work on their character to be able to answer this question. Frankly, they do – we all do. But that said, even the best of them will find an even more daunting challenge in trying non-verbally communicate that character and demeanor through the filter of media.
Long form interviews like those that Hugh conducts are helpful in that regard, but even those interviews end up excerpted and bullet-pointed to an extent that the non-verbal message is lost. The media also buries biography. For example, anyone that watched Rick Santorum’s struggles with his daughter’s health through the 2012 primaries would have to know he is a man of extraordinary character, but that story seems to be known only to the politically hyper-observant.
Which is why our character matters just as much as that of the candidates. When we speak for a candidate or a position even just to a friend or co-worker, our character and demeanor is directly observable to those to whom we speak. So rather than tell the candidates they need to work on their character, I’m going to ask you to look at yours. It matters.