The recent revelation that Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered an illegitimate child while married has the media decrying conservative hypocrisy on the family values issue in their never-ending assault on conservative principles.
Two examples of outlandish behavior from figures at polar opposites of the political spectrum highlight the media hypocrisy evident in its coverage. Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger’s revelation that he had fathered a child with his housekeeper some ten years ago sent the media into frenzied hysterics as they gleefully held up another Republican violating the family values platform, while coverage of Socialist IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Khan’s arrest for the brutalization and attempted rape of a hotel maid merited coverage limited strictly to the facts. Media bias in favor of progressive leftists is well documented and recognized by Americans who increasingly turn to independent sources for their news. No surprises there.
The far more insidious problem is denigrating the concept of family values by exposing its proponents as being unable to uphold the very values they espouse in an attempt to discredit their worth by making these values appear to be impossible to keep. The pattern goes that a conservative politician is elected on a family values platform, gets caught violating these family values, therefore the family values are revealed as a worthless Republican wedge issue and should be banished from the political arena. Democrats have never faired well when it comes to the question of family values as Republicans have owned this issue, and they cast the issue as a holier-than-thou attitude that average Americans can’t live up to by pointing out those proponents who fail to keep them.
Family values are an ideal on the same level as perfection, a sinless life, and truth, justice, and the American way. They are what we strive for knowing that they are unattainable but also knowing that by striving for these ideals, we raise our effort by so much more than by settling for what we think is possible. As Christians, we struggle to avoid sin with God’s help and often fall short, but we continue to strive for perfection and ask for forgiveness when we fail. Those who lead perfect and sinless lives have no need of forgiveness, but the rest of us do. The fact that we commit sin does not mean that God is not perfect; it just means that we’re not perfect. Likewise, a breach of family values does not diminish their usefulness or correctness; it just exposes the weakness of the one committing the breach.
Family values espouse a commitment to the sanctity of life and the worth of every individual. The sanctity of marriage is upheld, and it is recognized that marriage between a man and a woman is the most stable environment in which to raise children in order to nurture them into productive and stable adults. Evil influences such as pornography, narcotics, and criminal behavior are recognized as negative effects that lead to destruction of an individual with negative consequences for all those who surround them. Adherence to family values promotes civility in society, lowers the crime rate, and enhances productivity as individuals focus on positive influences that enhance their lives.
We all struggle with demons of some form or another in our lives. Some demons are more serious than others and possess the ability to destroy our lives while others are more benign and lead to embarrassment or other minor consequences. Sometimes we succeed in our struggles and sometimes we fail, but our ability to resist temptation does not alter right and wrong. We often look upon those who fail to resist temptation with an incredulous attitude smug in the conceit that we would never fall into that particular trap, only to find ourselves in an equally vicious trap of our own flawed decision making. We ostracize the fallen when we should reach out to embrace with an understanding word and a humble attitude of “there but for the grace of God go I.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger is suffering the loss of his marriage, the trust of his family, and the respect of his peers as the price for his indiscretions and no amount of money can buy back those things. Dominique Strauss-Kahn faces additional criminal prosecution and possible jail time for his fall from grace. To those who laugh and point out Schwarzenegger’s inability to uphold the family values platform he ran on and supported as proof they are meritless, consider the fact that if he had, he wouldn’t be facing the consequences of his poor choices and inability to resist his demons of temptation. Progressive leftists argue that family values are irrelevant to modern society, but Strauss-Kahn is rediscovering their importance in a painful way.
As a society, we build up heroes only to tear them down at the first hint of humanity. Technology and a 24/7/365 news cycle have increased the speed of this process and created a voracious public appetite that constantly seeks new input to feed the beast. One can go from nobody to hero to has-been in record time, only to be left dazed and confused by the whole process. Of course we risk disappointment by making heroes out of politicians, entertainers, and sports figures who have neither the ability nor the desire to be cast in such a role when things go wrong, but are all too willing when the money’s right. The Bible in Matthew warns us to strive for heavenly treasures over earthly treasures as earthly treasures do rot and corrupt. Sage advice from an analog age to ponder in the digital age.