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Character matters — every single time

By Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr.

It now seems that every day — and some days, every hour — we are hearing “breaking news” about another public figure and sexual misconduct.

As I write this, word has just broken about the firing of longtime news anchor Matt Lauer. A couple of years ago, the Lauer story would have completely dominated the news for days. Now it will probably be quickly overshadowed by more “breaking news” about more sexual misconduct by more public figures.

The story about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein unleashed a tidal wave in our culture. What can we learn from it?

  • We are reaping the consequences of the seeds we have sown.

When Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy, died recently, many articles hailed him as a revolutionary. Hefner was indeed at the forefront of the sexual revolution. But not all revolutions lead to good things.

In the case of the sexual revolution and the flood of pornography, it has led to untold pain and heartbreak. The predatory men who are now being revealed are emerging from a pornographic culture that objectifies women.

  • Sexual misconduct has been going unreported for a long time.

The reason we are hearing so many stories at once is that women and girls have been afraid to speak out. They felt intimidated by older or more powerful or more wealthy men.

They did not want to deal with the publicity. They felt a sense of shame, even though they were innocent. So they kept these things buried or bottled up inside.

This is why it is so important for survivors to speak out. When they do, it emboldens others to speak.

Obviously, false accusations happen, and we must vigilantly guard against them. However, in many of these recent cases, we are not talking about a lone accusation, but many women who are obviously not in collusion with one another.

This is not a surprise: Abusers don’t stop at one. This is all the more reason for them to be exposed and stopped.

  • Put character above political expediency.

During the 1992 presidential election, it became obvious that candidate Clinton was not only a serial adulterer but also a liar. So, as president, when he had an affair with a 22-year-old intern and then lied about it, no one should have been surprised. It was perfectly consistent with his past behavior.

At that point, leaders in his own party had a choice: Step forward and call for his resignation or acquiesce. Their failure to demand his resignation has led us to where we are today, with both Republicans and Democrats defending politicians whose behavior is indefensible.

We are left with men with great power who refuse to resign, because they know people in their own party will continue to support them.

We must stop putting politics above character. Back in 1992, certain leaders were the first to say, “Character matters.” Now some of these same leaders are essentially saying, “Character matters, but we’ll support moral degenerates if we agree with them on the issues.”

Making deals with the devil never pays off in the end. We don’t need to turn to morally degenerate politicians for help. We need to turn to Almighty God for our help.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.