What the Fallen Governor of Alabama Can Teach Us
No amount of privilege or power can shield us from temptation.
I am not writing this column to throw stones or condemn. Rather, I am writing this column to help us learn some important lessons, because sin’s pain is always greater than sin’s pleasure. Whatever rewards sin promises you, whatever pleasure it gives you, whatever thrill or excitement you experience because of sinful behavior, one thing is certain: In the end, it is never worth it. Dr. Robert Bentley, who was forced to step down as the governor of Alabama after an embarrassing sex scandal, has learned this the hard way.
What Bentley’s Actions Cost
Just think. Robert Bentley is a medical doctor, representing years of hard work and dedication. And he rose to one of the most powerful positions in America, one of just 50 state governors.
Robert Bentley professed Christianity and rose to one of the most powerful positions in America. Now he is disgraced and mocked.
Now he is disgraced and mocked, accepting a deal to avoid jail time.
As a result, he can never run for public office again. He lost his retirement benefits. And he must do 100 hours of community service as a doctor.
All for what? For a sexual fling? For a romantic tryst?
Yet he was not the only one affected by his actions. There was his sexual partner (and political adviser), Rebekah Caldwell Mason. There was his wife and family. There was his political party. And there was the whole state of Alabama.
As Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey said when she was sworn in as the new governor, “Today is a dark day in Alabama, but also it’s one of opportunity. I ask for your help and your patience as together we steady the ship and improve Alabama’s image.”
A Christian Leader Falls
The governor’s actions also brought reproach on the Church and the name of the Lord. As The New York Times announced, “For Alabama Christians, Governor Bentley’s Downfall Is a Bitter Blow.”
Alan Blinder gives the relevant background:
As governor, Robert Bentley would quote the Bible before the Alabama Legislature and say that God had elevated him to the State Capitol. In his dermatology practice, in the city where he was a Baptist deacon, he sometimes witnessed to patients. And when he was a first-time candidate for statewide office, his campaign headquarters were often filled with volunteers from local churches.
Yet this upstanding, trusted, Christian leader committed adultery against his wife, and he did so repeatedly. How can this be?
Again, my purpose here is not to condemn. My purpose is to warn — and to warn loudly and clearly.
No One is Exempt From Temptation
If a Christian leader like Robert Bentley can fall, you and I can fall. If biblical heroes like David and Solomon can fall, you and I can fall. If Rebekah Caldwell Mason and Monica Lewinsky can fall, you and I can fall.
And that is where we all must start: If we play with fire, we will get burned, no matter who we are and no matter who we know.
No one is exempt, and no amount of privilege or power can shield us from temptation. To the contrary, increased privilege and power often open the door to temptation, especially when we believe we have the right to special perks.
And let’s not think that the older we get, the less prone we are to sin.
Perhaps at a certain point that is true — in terms of some sins that we can no longer commit — but Gov. Bentley was in his 70’s while having an affair. Youthful passions can be alive and well in older people too.
Learn From Bentley
Ironically, some of the people who mocked Vice President Mike Pence in recent weeks because of his safety guidelines to preserve marital purity are now mocking Robert Bentley because of his infidelity. Perhaps Mr. Pence is on to something after all?
Sin makes us stupid, emboldening us to engage in risky behavior and impairing our moral judgment. And sin tells us we’ll never caught, to the point that the most powerful man in the world chooses to have sex with an intern while sitting in the Oval Office. What was he thinking (or, not thinking)?
And one moment of flagrant sin can outweigh years of integrity and honor and sacrifice and discipline. As the Scriptures teach, “Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor” (Ecc. 10:1).
I pray for the Bentley family and for the Mason family and for all those affected by this scandal, believing that God can forgive and redeem.
I also pray for myself and for every reader. Let us learn from the fall of Robert Bentley.
This is a teachable moment.