A few days ago, the State of Virginia passed a transportation bill that has a significant number of Virginia conservatives frothing mad. The end result of the bill was a net increase in taxes across the state between $800 million and $1.2 billion (but with specific increases in specific regions, possibly violating the State Constitution) in an attempt to fix an admittedly overtaxed and outdated traffic system around Washington DC.
Now I’m a huge fan of lower taxes. The 1/3 of my income that is taken away each pay period due to taxes (and the social insecurity I’ll never see) annoy me to no end since I believe that the vast, vast majority of it is used in ways that are both unnecessary and improper. However, I pay them, as my Lord commands, as accurately as I can understand the 73,954 pages of the US Tax Code.
As sore as I am about the tax increase, however, it has brought up significant questions that go beyond the tax issue.
During his candidacy, Governor McDonnell’s campaign made a very clear statement that he would not raise taxes.
The exact quote was as follows:
Bob McDonnell will not raise taxes as governor. Virginians know Bob McDonnell, and they know where he stands. They know he keeps his word, and that is reflected in the fact that he kept all seven of the campaign promises that he made when running for Attorney General…It continues with a rehash of his campaign talking points, but that is the essential part of the statement.
In my estimation after reading that statement, the Governor said he would not raise taxes and then tied that statement to the fact that he is an honorable man known for keeping his word. In my mind, that means he has linked his personal honor and integrity to this promise. (If you think I am misinterpreting his comments, please let me know.)
This has created a problem for him and a problem for me.
I am gravely disappointed in McDonnell’s actions, not because of his tax increase but because he gave his word not to do exactly what he did.
Due to my expressed dissatisfaction with the legislation, I was recently challenged that we as Christians are to forgive those who offend us. This generated a fair bit of thought on my part.
On one hand, I have a problem supporting someone who clearly states a position, says his word of honor can be relied on, and then breaks his word. Scripture is quite clear that we are not to be that sort of person. (See Matthew 5:37)
On the other hand, we are commanded to forgive those who sin against us. Matthew 6:14-15 is an excellent example of this. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
I am struggling with the idea that we should freely forgive and then trust someone who lacks political integrity. I do not hold personal animosity nor a grudge toward the people who passed this law.
I’m probably a bit old fashioned, but I was raised with the idea that our elected men and women in leadership were to be of the highest character: men and women of integrity who kept their word, kept their vows, and sought to be “an example by doing what is good (Titus 2:7).” They were to be the best of us. Elected public service was thought to be a calling - a sacrifice - where good men and women would serve our state and nation to the best of their ability.
With the political reincarnation of Mark Sanford in South Carolina, the issues with Gov. McDonnell, and the ongoing scandals in Congress, it seems necessary to remind those in elected office that there is a standard, and though it has been battered by society of late, it still exists and still matters.
I think it is crucial that we remember that forgiveness and trust are not the same thing. Forgiveness we give to all who offend us, trust is different.
Governor McDonnell has done some incredibly good things for conservatives as Governor, by championing life and the second amendment, but the truth is that actions have consequences, and in politics, where trust is the most precious of commodities, a direct violation of your word harms our ability to trust your word.
I forgive because I control that choice, but I trust because you earn it.
By Joel Grewe