Elliot Spitzer

Stupidity was not Spitzer’s Problem

This post was written by Randy Newman on March 17, 2008

Many people are shaking their heads as they read about now-resigned New York Governor Elliot Spitzer’s entanglement in a prostitution ring. People marvel at “how he could be so stupid.” They’re asking each other, “Didn’t he know this would ruin his career and his marriage?”

But stupidity was not his problem. And if our worldview can only explain his actions as a mental lapse or intellectual weakness, we fail to grasp what really happened. And, tragically, we would be susceptible to falling into similar traps (even if less expensive ones).

Academicians, especially, may misread this mess as merely intellectual, since they spend so much time analyzing thought and living in the world of ideas. (Some have even tried to explain Spitzer’s behavior in terms of evolutionary psychology and genetics.) But we need far more insight than just an answer to the question, “what was he thinking?”

For starters, we must acknowledge that Spitzer did not attain his high ranking in the legal and political worlds with a low I.Q. He is an intelligent man with cognitive capabilities beyond most people. Nor is he ignorant of the world of crime and sleaze. If examples alone could prevent such things, this man would have certainly been immune.

His problem flows from a sick heart not a weak brain. His soul needs tutoring more than his mind. He failed to take heed of the many warnings against the power of power. His success in prosecution seduced him to thinking he could do anything, with anyone, at any price.

As people marvel at the hourly cost of hiring one of those prostitutes, they may fail to see that it was indeed the very price, something most people could not afford, that was part of the lure. The very act of dropping thousands of dollars for one hour of sex was more intoxicating than the sex itself. To quote another intelligent man who succumbed to moral temptation, he did it “because he could.”

Our secularized culture tends to reduce these kinds of events. He wasn’t thinking. When we do that, we deceive ourselves into believing we could never do anything like he did because, “I would never be so stupid.” But ignoring our heart and the power of sin could pave the way for something just as “stupid.”

Our Christian worldview, which sees human life as a complex intersection of intellect, emotions, will, and a host of spiritual dynamics, does a better job for preparing us for temptations that can ruin our lives. As we read the articles about this man’s fall, let us not deceive ourselves but rather, let us guard our hearts and feed our souls on things more substantive than power, sex, and pride – especially a pride that would make us think we’re too smart to make “stupid” mistakes.

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