I could cite you example after example. It happens. Beloved leaders, in whom people have invested so much, are subject to the same temptations as everyone else. Some of them have deeply hidden places that are broken. All of us fail, and some of us who climb the highest fall the farthest. It happens. And those of us who are left in spiritual leadership, who know only too well that if circumstances were different it might have been us in that situation, are left to help pick up the pieces.
That means holding brothers and sisters to account. Not in anger, but in sorrow: it gives us no joy to deprive someone else of place or authority, but someone has to do it. We had a bishop fall from grace in spectacular fashion and resign, once upon a time. Then he thought better of it, and tried to take back his resignation of his orders. At the clergy executive session that followed this, his petition was turned away. The presiding bishop said, “Sometimes you have to say to someone, ‘We love you too much to let you get away with that.’”
Helping pick up the pieces also means reaching out to those who have been hurt by the leader. It also means reaching out to those who were his biggest supporters. It means dealing with uncomfortable things, painful things. And some people will refuse to let go of the pain. Those who do may take a long time to process it. They may blame you for telling them the truth. They may blame you for being no better than the one who let them down. Oh, yeah, been there, done that.
What is true of spiritual leaders is true of political leaders. We on the right are going to be dealing with President Trump for a long time. This has nothing to do with the Democrats, whose ideas are no more attractive today than they were a few weeks ago. This has to do with us. I am not ashamed to say I voted for Trump on November 3. Given the facts and prospects on that day, he was in my eyes a better choice than Joe Biden. He lost. I’m sorry to say it, but he did. Now, I’ve lost elections before. It’s not fun. But you adjust yourself to the new reality and deal with it. President Trump didn’t do that. He dug in his heels and began to claim all sorts of things that just weren’t true. He went on to try to force reality into a mold it wouldn’t bear. And finally, he tried to intimidate the Congress into keeping him on, even though he lost. And those who believed in him the most – people who have walked a long way with us, on our side – bought into his crazy thinking.
I have been inundated for weeks by friends sending me prayer requests, urgent “share this now” social media bursts, etc. Rational people, good people, people who love America and who love Jesus and who want to stand up for all that is good and true. They couldn’t believe their hero lost, that we lost, that America would be lost. They were clutching at straws. And some of them got caught up in some very ugly business. For there are always a few trolls under the bridge. The left has theirs, and we on the right have ours. (Some just enjoy the mayhem and switch sides from time to time.) And the denial on our side allowed some of those to take over and lead a lot of good people to do something terrible – or to excuse it. And here we are.
I appreciate many things that President Trump has done. But he has now done a very bad thing. Those of us on our side have to hold him to account, to say, This cannot pass. This doesn’t mean the left has won; this has nothing to do with them. This is about us. We have to hold each other accountable, not in vindictiveness, but in sorrow. We have to live in the truth if we are to have anything to offer our country. And once Trump is gone, as he will be gone in a few days, then we have to sit with each other. We have to talk about the things we love, the things that brought us to where we are. It may take a long time.
But the work goes on, and our country needs us.