Conservative Christianity took another body blow with feeble attempts by Alabama evangelicals to counter charges that Republican senatorial candidate Roy Moore was a pedophile. Moore doesn’t deny dating teenagers while in his 30s; he just says he asked parental permission. He declined to comment on the now-five women who have come courageously come forward to describe how he harassed them sexually without speaking to their parents first.
Despite bleats of outrage from the party and from Republican senators, who withdrew endorsements, Moore is still favored to win the Dec. 12 special election.
Part of the reason is that he is running in a very conservative state where residents spurned the Democratic Party in the 1960s once President John F. Kennedy reversed his party’s long-time pro-racism stance. The Heart of Dixie is still strongly Republican.
At the same time, Moore is well known, which always helps. Former Alabama chief justice, he was ousted twice, once when he refused to remove a statue of the 10 Commandments from the courthouse; another time, when he counseled probate judges to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriages.,
Notice that Moore won re-election after defying Federal law.
In addition, campaigns cost a lot of money, but someone with a reputation, however sordid as Moore, has an advantage over a newcomer or, at least, one less famous. Moore’s opponent, Doug Jones, is a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, not exactly a platform for statewide publicity.
He is best known for prosecuting and securing life terms for the two surviving Ku Klux Klan members, Thomas Blanton and Bobby Cherry, who blew up a Birmingham church in 1963 and killed four young girls, and securing an indictment against Eric Rudolph, who set off a bomb during 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and is now serving a life sentence.
Not of that will endear Jones to the racists rampant in the Heart of Dixie.
However, the main reason Moore has retained endorsements has nothing to do with Jones or even Moore’s undemocratic and stated beliefs that gay people should be killed and Muslims evicted from this country. They support him because Moore is supposedly one of them.
As the Rev. Mike Allison told the NY Daily News “I still support him. I'm a Bible-believing Christian, and he is as well,” he said.
Despite reading and writing about the Bible for years, I missed the part in the Holy Book where it’s considered acceptable for adult males to grope teenagers.
Rev. Allison does not stand alone at Moore’s side. Repeated surveys show that evangelicals plan to vote for Moore despite his horrific behavior and abhorrent beliefs. According to Newsweek, “nearly 40 percent of Evangelical Christians in Alabama say they're now more likely to vote for Roy Moore after multiple allegations that he molested children …” In a related poll conducted by the Washington Post, “Thirty-four percent of the supposedly devout Christians said that the allegations made no difference in their support for Moore.”
Again,fundamental views trump both common sense and morals.
In some ways, evangelicals have a hard choice as they face a serious problem: parishioners are deserting the pews. Recent studies provide “solid evidence of a new, second wave of white Christian decline that is occurring among white evangelical Protestants just over the last decade in the U.S.,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute and author of The End of White Christian America.
Among the survey’s chief findings:
- White Christians, 81 percent of the population in 1976, now account for less than half the public — 43 percent of Americans identify as white Christians, and 30 percent as white Protestants.
- White Christians are aging. About 1 in 10 white Catholics, evangelicals and mainline Protestants are under 30, compared with one-third of all Hindus and Buddhists. Youth is the lifeblood of any organization.
- The number of evangelicals fell from 23 percent to 17 percent of the public from 2006 to 2016.
Now, about 25 percent of Americans now identify with no particular religion.
Evangelicals must decide to support someone as contaminated as Moore or vote for someone like Jones, whose beliefs are not as rigid and who supports such “anathemas” as equal rights and abortion.
As a result, those evangelicals still trying to retain to their battered beliefs are willing to hold their noses and stifle their gag reflex to vote for Moore. They did the same thing on behalf of Donald Trump in the 2016 election, rightly seeing him as more akin to their beliefs than Hillary Clinton despite his admission of sexual improprieties.
Ironically, that approach alienates even more Americans who have not sunk evangelicals’ desperate level.
Fortunately, even some evangelicals can’t stomach using votes to support religious views.
For example, the Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie, Director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality and University Chaplain at Pacific University, wrote in the Huffington Post, “I thought that child abuse was an affront to Christian convictions and our Savior. Jesus said at a time when children were not valued that they should be. It astounds many that any Christian would defend Moore. To do so, you have to replace Bible with the GOP platform.”
Accepting Dr. Currie’s contention won’t save evangelicals, but it does serve as a lifeline for those who want to retain their beliefs without surrendering their moral standards.
Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture. He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University. He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion. A recent book, Passover in Prison, details abuse of Jewish inmates in American prisons. His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers. He can also be followed on Twitter.