The Politics of Power and Lust

by Derrick G. Jeter

The great observer of life, G. K. Chesterton, wrote: “There is only one very timid sort of man that is not afraid of women.” [1] Yes, and his name is fool.

This rooster came home to roost this week once again with the admission from U.S. Representative Anthony Wiener that he had been carrying on a three year sexting relationship with six different women, including an exchange of lewd and pornographic pictures of himself. Wiener’s confession of electronic infidelity comes on the heels of former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s shocking news that he fathered a child with his housekeeper while his wife, Maria Shriver was also pregnant with their child.

However, politicians behaving badly in the bedroom is nothing new. Thomas Jefferson fathered more than on child with his slave, Sally Hemings. Grover Cleveland was accused of having an illegitimate child and was mocked with this ditty of the time: “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa? Gone to the White House. Ha, ha, ha.” More recent political dalliances were John F. Kennedy’s affair with blond bombshell Marilyn Monroe, Bill Clinton’s sexual scandal with a twenty-something Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office, former governor of New York Elliot Spitzer’s high rolling with high class call girls, and former U.S. Senator John Edwards’ impregnating a staffer while his wife was dying of cancer.

Fools all. But lust will rush in where angels fear to tread.

Obviously, we live in a sex-saturated society, as Peter Kreeft observed: “If lust ceased tomorrow, we would be plunged into the greatest economic depression in history. Remove sex appeal from advertising, advertising from the economy, and the economy from our civilization and what would be left?” [2]

Lust is so prevalent because sex is so unique and holy. Sex is the most unique thing in the world, because it is the only doorway by which the Divine daily enters the world to do the miraculous work that only the Divine can do: create new images of Himself. It is this very uniqueness—this very holiness—that Satan seeks to distort, to twist, and to turn into sin. And because Satan is ultimately a counterfeiter and destroyer, Satan’s desire is to take what God intended for pleasure and pro-creation within the confines of marriage and pervert it into the mundane, ordinary, and debase. One way he does this is through the sin of lust.

The relationship between power and lust seems to lie in the amorous notion that power is an aphrodisiac—for the powerful and the powerless who desire to be close to power. Power can feed a corrupted soul to lust, but it cannot nourish a corrupted soul to love. Power can conquer another’s body, but it cannot woo another’s heart. Power can lead you to the salt marshes of lust, a craving that will never quench your thirst for love, but it will make you more lustful.

All of us are sexual creatures—created with sexual desires. Nothing sinful about that. After all, Hugh Heifer didn’t invent sex. Not even the Devil could come up with such a creative and pleasurable invention. Only God possesses the creativity and foresight to invent sex. Sex within the confines of marriage is a holy act because a holy God created it and commanded it. The very first command coming from the throat of God was “Have sex!”—to be “fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). What do you think God was telling Adam and Eve to do, plant fruit trees and learn the multiplication tables?

If God invented sex and created us, including those in power, then He must have instilled within us the drive for sex. How could that be sinful or corrupt? The drive is not sinful or shameful. It’s what we do with that drive that potentially turns it into sin. That’s why lust is willful. It is sexual desire willingly turned in on itself—to bring illicit gratification to the self without regard for others, God, or one’s own reputation or soul.

Anthony Wiener, for all his power and popularity, is living the truth of disregard, the truth of Proverbs 6:27–29:

Can a man take fire in his bosom

And his clothes not be burned?

Or can a man walk on hot coals

And his feet not be scorched?

So is the one who goes in to his neighbor’s wife;

Whoever touches her will not go unpunished.

Mr. Wiener is now experiencing the hot coals of a life lived in the sweatbox of self. And no amount of power can keep him from getting burned.

[1] G. K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong With the World (Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 2007), 71.

[2] Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue: Traditional Moral Wisdom for Modern Moral Confusion (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 165.