In the aftermath of a racist photo from his medical school days resurfacing, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam finds himself facing calls for his resignation. Vile and racist, the picture shows one individual dressed as a hooded KKK member and the other individual, a white male, in blackface. At a Saturday press conference, Northam denied being the individual in the KKK hood or the blackface. He issued an apology denouncing the photo on Friday, but on Saturday, while indicating that he will not resign, said it was not him.
Since pressure is mounting within the Democrat Party for Northam to resign, his days as Virginia’s governor are probably numbered.
As the news first broke, Twitter was filled with angry conservatives calling for his resignation. Much of that anger was left over from the response generated by Northam’s public support for infanticide earlier in the week. It didn’t take long, though, for many on the left to climb onto the outrage wagon and join in the chorus condemning Northam.
As I watched the mob grow louder and louder, I had three main thoughts:
- It’s a blight on our nation’s conscience that disgusting photos like that exist
- Governor Northam can’t actually believe that he can politically survive this, can he?
- The demands for his resignation reveal how out of step our society’s embrace of New McCarthyism is with the gospel of Jesus Christ
I’ve already written above that I believe Northam’s days as governor are probably numbered. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if, by the time this article is published, Northam and his family are packing their stuff. And although I believe that the pitchforked responses to his past sins are wrong, I won’t shed any tears for a man who currently supports infanticide if he does lose his job. However, separating my personal feelings for the man from what’s actually happening, it’s troubling that so many people, regardless of their political affiliation, embrace New McCarthyism. And, make no mistake, New McCarthyism is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Anyone who has been taught the “Romans Road” to salvation has Romans 3:23 memorized: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
We are all sinners. Every single one of us. New McCarthyism expects purity from youth into adulthood. Granted, depending on who’s wielding the New McCarthyism sword, “purity” will be defined a little differently. One thing all who wield it have in common, though, is the refusal to accept anyone who may have transgressed in the past. Except, and circling back to the first two sentences of this paragraph, everyone has sinned.
On a human level, this should frighten all of us (this would be a great time for theatres to produce revivals of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible). Since we all have sinful and shameful skeletons in our past, who’s to say that in the coming months or years our skeletons won’t rise to the level of perpetual condemnation? Governor Northam was in his mid-twenties when he allegedly posed for that photo. No doubt, there are many other incidents of disgusting racism in his past that have yet to be uncovered. But if he’s genuinely repentant and has changed, why should he bear never-ending punishment for it? Yet, that’s exactly what adherents of New McCarthyism believe and no amount of repentance and groveling will be enough. Thankfully, the Creator of the universe doesn’t treat sinners that way.
God is eternal; this means that any sin against Him is eternal and carries a weight of condemnation that we can’t fully comprehend. Yet, in His mercy and love, God forgives anyone who repents and places their faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Did you catch that? Our eternal Creator fully forgives us if we repent and believe. Because of that, and among other things, we are commanded to forgive each other. “Seventy times seven” was the imagery that Jesus used to explain that his followers are not allowed to withhold forgiveness from those who have sinned against us and repented.
Along these lines, New McCarthyism denies that people can change. It’s a highly problematic doctrine since society is going to have a hard time finding blameless people. Without question, Northam’s past racism is horrific and should be named as sin. Yet, as vile as his past actions are, that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t genuinely changed.
I have no doubt in my mind that people who committed vile sins in their past can and do repent and change. When I was in my twenties, I was doing ecstasy and notching one-night stands in my belt, among other wicked things. Yet, by God’s grace, I now serve as a pastor at my church. And make no mistake, it is solely by God’s grace that I’m allowed that privilege. But I have changed. I am not the same person I was in my twenties. No doubt, the majority of people aiming their pitchforks at Northam have sins in their past that they’re hoping their fellow New McCarthyites don’t discover. I mean, remember when Ralph Northam condemned Ed Gillespie as a racist (the phrase “hoisted with your own petard” comes to mind)?
Unless evidence of recent racism is uncovered, Northam’s remorse should be taken at face value, and he should not lose his job over his past sins that he now renounces. I do understand that if evidence of recent racism is uncovered, the nature of the job of governor may require him to step down even if he is truly repentant. But demanding that people lose jobs over sins they committed decades ago is a dangerous road for society to go down. The farther we get down that road, the more likely that those holding the pitchforks today will be hoisted on their own petard tomorrow. More importantly, Christians embracing New McCarthyism is a dangerous precedent that runs counter to the gospel of Jesus Christ.