A series of stories in the news over the last few days could be summed up under the general theme of Integrity.
The first that springs to mind is that of Conservative MP Mark Reckless who, in a fit of nominative determinism, has decided to defect to UKIP. He claimed the reason for his leap rightwards was because ‘I decided my constituents’ interests and the future of this country are better served by Ukip than they are by the Conservative party under David Cameron. I made a lot of promises... The prime minister isn’t keeping those promises, I want to do so, and that’s why I’m moving to Ukip, the agents of change.’
The problem is that in the course of keeping his word he ‘lied and lied and lied’, deliberately misleading his constituents and party members by assuring them he had no intention of leaving the Conservative party. At the UKIP conference, he told delegates, ‘People feel ignored, taken for granted, over-taxed, over-regulated, ripped off and lied to.’ Enough said.
The second is the episode of Conservative minister Brooks Newmark, who stepped down as minister for civil society over a story published in the Sunday Mirror. An undercover reporter posing as a female party activist had tricked him into exchanging sexually explicit photos. Another MP is making a formal complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation against the Sunday Mirror; IPSO’s code of practice states ‘Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge, including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.’ No one ends up looking good, here.
On the international stage, there is Hong Kong. Last night riot police were deployed against thousands of protestors who are blocking the streets, causing the territory’s business hub to grind to a halt. Their complaint? Communist Party leaders in Beijing do not want to allow Hong Kong free elections. Instead, they have stated their intention to vet candidates for Hong Kong’s 2017 leadership elections; only two or three approved candidates will appear on the ballot. What once looked like a promise for open and fair democracy now looks like anything but.
We are often told that the end justifies the means: the ethic of consequentialism, in which the rightness or wrongness of an act is judged on its outcomes. For Christians, this is a dangerous belief – the idea that in doing good, it is acceptable to lose your integrity.
Christians must keep their word – whether that means honouring appointments, paying debts or keeping marriage vows. Once trust has been breached it is very difficult to restore it – as the popular saying goes, ‘It takes a lifetime to build a reputation and only a few seconds to destroy one.’ Matthew 5:37 states, ‘All you need to say is simply “Yes” or “No”; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.’