Those who believe Roy Moore’s Senate campaign in Alabama has been sunk by allegations of sexual misconduct when he was in his 30s are forgetting one thing.
Christians have an incredible capacity to compartmentalize when it’s politically or personally convenient.
It’s interesting to watch the disparate reaction between Republicans outside of Alabama and those inside it, following The Washington Post’s story this past week that Moore, while an assistant district attorney in the late 1970s and early 1980s, chased after teenage girls and sexually abused one who was just 14.
The farther you get away from the Deep South, the more worried Republicans get that this revelation could cost them what had been considered a safe GOP seat.
In Alabama, though, the allegations are largely being blown off by Republicans as fabricated (Moore’s line), ancient news, or no big deal. One Moore supporter, state Auditor Jim Ziegler went so far as to compare Moore’s alleged sexual tryst with a minor to the relationship of Mary and Joseph, Jesus’ mother and earthly father.
It’s almost not worth the space to rebuke that notion, but here goes. First, cultural norms 2,000 years ago were not the same as today or, for that matter, of 30 years ago. Second, we don’t actually know what the age gap between Mary and Joseph was, or even if there was one. Third, even if Joseph were much older than Mary, he protected her; he didn’t prey on her, as Moore is alleged to have done with the 14-year-old.
If Moore did as charged, he was himself committing a misdemeanor and possibly a felony while he was prosecuting others for their crimes.
What The Washington Post investigation does — and the story certainly seems credible — is not only undermine Moore’s claim to be a Christian culture warrior. It also calls into serious doubt his judgment, suggesting that his well-documented flaws — such as defying federal court orders and rulings while sitting on Alabama’s highest bench — have been part of a pattern of poor decision-making for most of his adult life.
There’s always a chance that other women will come forward with similar allegations against Moore that are more recent. As we’ve seen with the ongoing flood of sexual harassment allegations in other spheres, that’s often the pattern when the dam starts to break on people in power. The revelations of a few embolden others to speak out.
Would that, though, make a difference in Moore’s support among Christian conservatives? It’s doubtful.
Think back a little over a year ago. Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was initially thought to be torpedoed with the emergence of the “Access Hollywood” tape, on which he was caught crudely bragging about how he could get away with groping women because of his wealth and celebrity status. A number of women came forward with their stories refuting Trump’s claim that his bragging was just locker-room banter, that he never did that of which he boasted.
Didn’t matter. In the Deep South, a region considered the most religious in the country, voters went overwhelmingly for Trump. They weren’t bothered by his sexual misbehavior, his multiple marriages, his narcissism or, for that matter, his indifference to religion most of his life.
This American disconnect between religion and politics among the faithful has been going on for a long time. Some of the most rabidly racist politicians during the Jim Crow era and the civil rights movement were supported by those who professed to be Christian. If these voters’ consciences were troubled by racial discrimination, they did a good job of hiding it.
Nor is it just religious conservatives who rationalize away the conflicts between what their Bibles say and what they believe their politics demand.
Liberals have a soft spot for the defenseless — the children, the poor, minority groups, immigrants — but their hearts harden for the most defenseless of all, the unborn child in the womb. They claim there is no moral distinction between heterosexuality and homosexuality — a position that may be charitable but is certainly not biblical.
Whether conservative, liberal or somewhere in between, all of us should have learned long ago to distrust those who loudly trumpet their Christianity when they may have ulterior motives for doing so. That goes not just for politicians seeking votes, but also television preachers raising money or college coaches chasing top-notch recruits. They are often playing their audience for suckers.
There may be an upset in the Senate special election in Alabama next month. Moore has a credible Democratic challenger, “establishment” Republicans are unenthusiastic about their nominee, and Alabama is becoming more urbanized.
But if Moore loses, it won’t be because he had this thing for vulnerable young girls. Alabama is already signaling it will give him a pass on that.
Tim Kalich is the editor and publisher of the Greenwood Commonwealth.