I was excited when I heard Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin was running for controller of California. She has served two strongly effective terms in Fresno, and she held the fiscal and social values on which a resurrected California must depend. So it is with special sadness that I must withdraw my support after she changed her position on traditional marriage in a bid to gain support from the gay lobby.
She says gay marriage is now the law; we must accept the new normal and address the “real” issues impacting California – in her words – the twin mountains of debt and unfunded obligations. She says the controller has no power over marriage, and so her position is irrelevant. She is wrong – dead wrong – on at least three counts.
First, the court overturn of Proposition 8 is not settled law. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturning Prop 8 and refused to rule on the lower federal court decision. California’s constitution makes clear that only a federal appellate court can throw out a constitutional amendment. In other words, although state officials rushed to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, Proposition 8 is still the law in California. On top of that, numerous state traditional marriage laws stand before federal appellate courts. The odds are that at least one of these laws will be upheld. At that point, the Supreme Court will be forced to rule; and Prop 8 is back in the game.
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Secondly, there is wisdom in the saying “Yuh dance with the one whut brung yuh.” Swearengin’s base consists of the values voters who twice elected her mayor. These people are horrified at her about-face. If we learn anything from the current polarization of our culture, it is that political figures who abandon their base must learn to live without it. Politics as usual – changing position when expedient – is dead on arrival. This is what sank Meg Whitman’s run for the governor’s office.
The third and final count is worldview. Swearengin is correct that the controller has no control over marriage policy. But her switched position on marriage is a switch of worldview. Homosexual lifestyles are deadly, as experience in nations embracing gay marriage demonstrate. High rates of disease and death in the gay community are unchanged, and low rates of heterosexual commitment are worsened. Worldview is the lens through which we think – as opposed to something we think about – when making decisions. A worldview that devalues marriage for political expediency can be just as fluid on issues of life, or fiscal policy and practice. It makes trusting the leader difficult.
The tragedy here is that I know Ashley Swearengin to be a decent person and a woman who really loves her Lord Jesus and the people for whom He died and rose. I have met with her and prayed with her. But I cannot vote for her, nor can I urge anyone to vote for her, in the face of her flip-flopping on key issues – regardless of their relevance to the job she currently seeks. She remains a competent, albeit untrustworthy, executive–and arguably the lesser of two evils compared to her opponent. But voting the lesser of evils is slowly strangling our state. It is up to the political leaders to clean their own house and reclaim the integrity of their first impulse to enter public service. It is up to the rest of us to expect no less. Swearengin needs her yes to mean yes and her no to mean no.
Herod and Ahab were two of the greatest kings of Old Testament Israel – from a secular standpoint. They presided over a growing economy and held the enemies of Israel at bay. They were condemned by the prophets for their lack of accountability to God, understood as a lack of integrity. Their embrace of moral and spiritual expediency weakened the fabric of their culture from within enough to ultimately cause the destruction of their nation.
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Ashley Swearengin is neither Herod nor Ahab; she is not unscrupulous. But our state’s structure and economy are already on life support, not to mention our families and our spirits in California. God has spoken clearly about marriage – what makes it healthy and what does not. She professes His Word – with this political exception. But if she is fit to lead, she needs to obey Matthew 10:32-33. “He who acknowledges me before men I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men I will disown before my Father in heaven.” She needs to win her spiritual battle before she is fit to win election.
Photo credit: fresno.gov
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