If I have learned anything in my 40 years working on the religion beat (and studying it), it's this: Repentance is really hard, even for the leaders of religious institutions.
Some would change that to say "especially" for the leaders of religious institutions.
This is true, I have found, for leaders on both the theological left and right (as anyone knows who has covered sex-abuse scandals among Catholic clergy). And many evangelicals choose to hide the sins of leaders. Ditto for leaders of liberal Protestant flocks.
As we are finding out during the current American tsunami of ink about sexual harassment and assaults, this trend is also found in Hollywood, inside the D.C. Beltway and elsewhere. That's rather obvious. It's also obvious that religious leaders should do a better job of handling sin than other folks. Some do. Many do not.
This brings me to an important Washington Post headline that many GetReligion readers made sure that I saw over the weekend: "How a conservative group dealt with a fondling charge against a rising GOP star." Similar stories ran elsewhere.
So how did Family Research Council leaders deal with the sins of Ohio Republican Wesley Goodman? They tried to shut him down, while seeking to keep things private and -- in the age of easy-to-copy emails -- got caught. This journalism truth is also clear: Many evangelical leaders, like their liberal-church counterparts, would rather line up for anesthesia-free root canals than cooperate with mainstream news reporters.
Here's the top of the Post story, which features tons of references to emails and documents to support key points:
On a fall evening two years ago, donors gathered during a conference at a Ritz-Carlton hotel near Washington to raise funds for a 31-year-old candidate for the Ohio legislature who was a rising star in evangelical politics.
A quick aside: Yes, I winced at the reference to "evangelical politics."