"I am one imperfect man saved by God's grace," Mark Sanford proclaimed yesterday as he declared victory in a special election for South Carolina's open House seat. "Until you experience human grace as a reflection of God's grace, I don't think you really get it," he said. "And I didn't get it before."
Sanford's victory wasn't a big surprise. He won as a Republican in a district that favored Mitt Romney by 18 points last year.
What would be a surprise, and what I would love to see, is if Sanford applied his new personal understanding of "human grace as a reflection of God's grace" to his new role in government.
He could, for instance, apply some of that grace to women facing often wrenching decisions about abortion, allowing them to make their own decisions rather than pre-judging them with burdensome regulations designed to humiliate them and severely restrict their choices.
He could apply some of that grace to gay and lesbian couples, who, like him, are simply trying to share their lives openly with the one they love. While many public figures have "evolved" on gay rights without even having to be "saved by grace," Mark Sanford just recently reminded us that he hasn't moved an inch.
He could perhaps share some grace with his fellow Americans who are struggling to raise children while working multiple low-paying jobs. Maybe with his newfound empathy, he will understand that pre-K education, health care and food assistance can help those struggling to get by keep themselves afloat in an unforgiving economy.
Maybe he will have some grace left over for undocumented immigrants who are trying to support their families and give back to the country they call home.
Perhaps he could convince his party, which claims to be in the market for a makeover, that a little grace and understanding would do it some good.
Maybe this will happen. But it seems more likely that Sanford's idea of grace, choice and personal freedom applies exclusively to people like him.
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