Dec 102017 15 Responses

Character Trumps Party

Political ideas matter. The differences which exist between (and within) political parties shouldn’t be downplayed. America was created with the idea of robust political debate. Elections have consequences because we do not all think alike. During campaigns, we should verbalize our differences, fight for our beliefs, identify candidates we can support, and attempt to rally others to our beliefs. After elections are over, we should do everything in our power to work with others to find common ground and get work done.

Policies and parties are important, but character is more important.

Having strong moral character should be non-negotiable in leadership. While we should never expect perfection from our politicians, we should carry a high ideal and we should demand a base level of human decency. They should love their spouse, respect their opponents, and treat others with love. Leaders should value the truth, serve those they lead, and sacrifice for the well-being of others.

Of course, leadership includes an element of power. Because of the presence of power and the nature of humanity, we will be fooled. Some will lie, others will scheme, and every leader will not be able to live up to a high standard. However, we should not lower our standards. We should continue to demand strong character from those with whom we entrust leadership. When they fail, we should expect them to admit it, seek forgiveness, and not repeat their mistake. But we should also recognize that some actions disqualify us from leadership.

As a pastor, the expectations to which I’m held is higher than most. Some actions should cost me my job. Other actions should forever prevent me from ever being the senior leader of a church again. Others should prevent me from ever being on a church staff.

While differing professions have different standards, leading communities, states, and nations are important enough that we should have strong standards. National political leaders should be above reproach on key issues. Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse of women or children should forever forbid them from leading. Sexual harassment should disqualify them from politics. An ongoing hidden affair should cost them their current position.

When we fail to hold a simple moral standard, we risk much. It’s fair to discuss what elements define good character and what the exact cost should be for specific violations, but it is not logical to debate the importance of character in leadership. Policies change. Issues evolve. But character can carry a person through a variety of situations. For this reason, character trumps political party or policy.

If I were the President and my party nominated a candidate for major political office who did not fit a base level of human decency and character (Roy Moore), I would go to that state and campaign for the candidate’s opponent. I would do so without reservation in order to make it abundantly clear that character matters. To ignore the candidate, or even worse, to endorse the candidate, is to play a political game. It’s to elevate political party over character.

Sadly, this is a game played by both sides. Proof: how often has one party crucified a political opponent for one action while justifying a political ally for the same activity? It’s a game. It’s politics. We have to stop it.

When I was a kid, I was told character matters. Gary Hart was forced (and rightly so) to withdraw from a Presidential race because he was having an affair and a President was impeached (and rightly so) for lying about his affair. Now a few decades later, those who taught me that character matters are sitting quietly by as a major political party supports a candidate with multiple accusations of misconduct with minors. They applaud the leader of their party who says, “The last thing we need in the Senate” is someone who won’t vote like us. It’s sad. The last thing we need in the Senate is someone who may have abused teenage girls or who has clearly had improper boundaries with young women.

I’m a registered independent. As a pastor, I have to lead people of all political persuasions so I don’t identify with a specific political party. I do my best to irritate people on both sides of the aisle. But privately, I have politicians I like and those who greatly frustrate me. Yet I would crawl to a polling place and vote for someone with whom I have no political agreements if my only choice opposing that candidate was someone who had credible accusations of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse against women or children.

Character trumps party.

15 Responses to Character Trumps Party
  1. J. Parker Reply

    After reading this post, and knowing the pushback I’ve experienced when I’ve talked about that particular candidate, I immediately thought “enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness” (Acts 4:29).

    Thank you for speaking so boldly. In all the mess of today’s climate, I find it so encouraging to see godly men take a stand for respectful treatment of women.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Thank you. The Facebook comments have been encouraging and disturbing.

  2. Mike Nichols Reply

    Kevin, I have a lot of respect for what you stand for and how you speak the truth. However, in this instance I feel you may have fallen prey to presumption. If Roy Moore is guilty, then you are 100% correct. I may be a little uninformed, but to my knowledge these allegations are from many years ago (just now surfacing) and are presently unsubstantiated. I’m uncomfortable with a pastor taking a stand that is, in the end, more political than substantive. That said, none of us should ever condone abuse.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Mike, Thanks for the comment. I believe multiple accusations regarding serious behavior is something that has to be seriously considered. Moore’s response to the accusations did nothing to lessen doubt, but instead greatly increased it. I would say his response alone was enough to disqualify him from leadership. In addition, the things he has admitted to is also enough to disqualify him from leadership. Of course, all of this doesn’t even discuss the strange opinions he has proclaimed such as family life being better in times of slavery, demonizing people of different political beliefs, etc.

      It’s difficult for a pastor to know when to speak and when not to speak. Writing on the website is a different forum than preaching on Sunday morning or pastoring a church. At the same time, I can’t turn off the pastor switch. A key point in this discussion is that I clearly wasn’t playing political games. I was critiquing someone from the party which I would most likely align rather than attacking a political opponent. A pastor should always call for character from individuals, groups, and especially leaders. This was done in a political framework, but the life of Jesus applies in politics just as much as it does outside of politics.

      We also cannot miss the current situation as women have finally been empowered to tell their stories through the #metoo movement. For pastors, churches, and Christians to remain silent, doubtful, or condemning during this hour would be a grave mistake and contrary to the Gospel of Jesus. We must stand for victims, hear their stories, and encourage them to speak. Not to do so in this moment would be to play politics instead of pastoring.

    • AP Reply

      Thank you, Kevin, for all that you have written on the subject. There is no “if” here, sadly, Mike. It was common knowledge to people in that area that Moore sought out young girls; he was especially partial to those under the age of 18. Even if he didn’t assault them, that in itself is disturbing behavior and one we should take that into consideration. These claims are backed up with some pretty good evidence, and as Kevin said, Moore’s stories and excuses arevflimsy, at best.

  3. Phillip Sexton Reply

    Amazing how Sharp these accusers memories are and how gullible you are. The one girl said she was 14 and working at the restaurant when Moote approached her. The owner said he didn’t use help under 16 at his restaurant. Her father said they lived I think about twenty miles down the road. Hmmm. May no one ever accuse you.

    • AP Reply

      You don’t have your stories right at all. You’re getting victims mixed up. The original 4 accusers have not changed their stories or had any facts refuted. In fact, Moore has changed his story more than they have. It was common knowledge in that area that he sought and preferred young girls. Even if he didn’t assault them, that’s disturbing behavior in anyone who claims to be a Godly leader. Your attitude is why women don’t come forward. If they had made their accusations public right after it happened, I’m willing to bet the reactions, especially from men, would be about the same as they are now. Probably worse, seeing as how it was the 70s.

  4. Ashley Reply

    I haven’t followed this too closely, because my own life has enough problems of its own right now without focusing too much on political news. One thing I do know is that things are so hateful in America now. I don’t pretend to know what happened either way, but things are hateful enough for false accusations. It was my prayer that truth would win.

  5. Kit Moulton Reply


    In the words of the great Voltaire, “In the case of news (even unsubstantiated accusations) one must always await the sacrament of confirmation.” Advice that should be healthy for everyone.

  6. Paul Byerly Reply

    Kevin, thanks so much for this. You hit it on the head with grace and love.

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  9. Byron P Reply

    We have lowered our expectations in leaders to the point that cynicism is its own reward. Perhaps it’s subtle pride that lets us overlook their character flaws because in order to do that we must be on higher moral ground than they are, right? We have changed from a population of cynical political critics to a population of cynical critics whose biases are confirmed by whatever media the choose to marinate in. We must look for the good in our leaders and support them and reward those who retain their integrity as their contribution to society, and hold accountable those who betray the precious political resource if trust

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