Judge Roy Moore and American Christianity

In an interview conducted by Jeff Stein for Vox, one of Alabama’s Republican senatorial candidates, Judge Roy Moore, attempted to clarify his view of the relationship between the American Constitution and Christianity:

But to deny God — to deny Christianity or Christian principles — is to deny what the First Amendment was established for. You see, the First Amendment was established on Christian principles, because it was Jesus that said this: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and render unto God the things that are God’s.” He recognized the jurisdiction the government does not have — and that was the freedom of conscience.

If you were a complete atheist, or a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or whatever, you have freedom in this country to worship God and you can’t be forced otherwise. That’s a Christian concept. It’s not a Muslim concept.

Developing his theme of contrast between Christianity and Islam, Moore claimed this:

There are communities under Sharia law right now in our country. Up in Illinois. Christian communities; I don’t know if they may be Muslim communities.

But Sharia law is a little different from American law. It is founded on religious concepts.

To recap: the U. S. Constitution — the entire basis of the American legal system — is founded on Christian principles, but Sharia law is different because it is founded on religious concepts.

Also, when Stein challenges Moore to elaborate on those communities allegedly living under Sharia law, Moore replies, “I was informed that there were. But if they’re not, it doesn’t matter.” Because why would anybody care about things like verifiable evidence for  bold claims about a key issue?

Moore’s most basic claims about the legal relationship between religion and the U. S. Constitution are self-evidently contradictory and incoherent. By the way, Moore is a former chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court. And if you believe the polls, he’s about to be the Republican nominee for Jeff Sessions’s old Senate seat. In practice, this means that the people of Alabama are very likely to make him their next U. S. senator.

This is significant to me only as a barometer of the degree to which not-insignificant portions of the electorate are eager to embrace patent fruitcakery, so long as it is sufficiently white and sufficiently bigoted. As a Christian, I feel that it’s more significant to me because I hate that people like Moore too often symbolize my faith to people on all sides of the front lines in America’s culture wars.

Many on the right hasten to offer apologetics for his pernicious balderdash; many on the left hasten to cast all American Christians from the same mold as Moore, because they think that, deep down, he’s merely the most blatant, odious symptom of our unsupportable mass delusion. Judge Moore does not speak for me. To the extent that he represents any historical variant of the rich, multilayered tapestry of the Christian religion, he is representative of those threads tangled together underneath a moldy coffee stain.

And if you think Judge Moore speaks for you, then you are welcome to all the justifiable criticism and caricaturization that inevitably follows when a buffoon who has smeared himself in feces lights himself on fire and sings the national anthem in the public square. It’s an offensive spectacle to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear, and it is to be greatly regretted that the stench will cling to the clothes of all who happened to be present to witness it, regardless of where they happened to be standing at the time.

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2 responses to “Judge Roy Moore and American Christianity

  • PrayThroughHistory

    May I offer some thoughts re: Evangelical Christian support of Mr. Moore?
    1. We all bear the shame and the glory of the Cross. When anyone in our Christian family fails, separates, sins, etc. we are hurt because we belong to the same body.
    2. Major characters of the Bible including the Lord were scorned, falsely accused, and even conspired against.
    Isaiah 8:11-13
    A Call to Fear God
    11For thus the LORD spoke to me with mighty power and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, 12″You are not to say, It is a conspiracy!’ In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. 13″It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, And He shall be your dread.…
    All who are accused in public opinion of a crime are innocent until proven guilty. I will cheer when Judge Moore goes to court, and then we can see that he or his accusers are brought to justice. Thanks for post!
    PS Don’t all Americans deserve their day in court? I would hope we reserve judgment on all: Weinstein, the Clintons, Moore, Trump until then.

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    • tanukifune

      Thanks for taking the time to post on my blog. Allow me to respond to your thoughts on Mr. Moore.

      First, let me say that I’ve little cause to believe the defenses offered by a man who, when confronted by verifiable facts that directly contradicted his fallacious claims about communities living under Sharia law, replied, “I was informed that there were. But if they’re not, it doesn’t matter.” (See the above post.) Judge Roy Moore has no problem spewing misinformed nonsense and defending that nonsense with nothing but bluster and affected Christian rectitude. Beverly Young Nelson has a yearbook inscription that proves that Moore lied about not knowing her. Given the choice between believing a man who flagrantly disregards inconvenient (but verifiably true) evidence and a woman who actually provides evidence to support her testimony—and, by extrapolation, the testimony of other women involved—I’m inclined to believe the latter.

      Now on to your thoughts.

      1.) In orthodox Christian tradition, any one’s sin does indeed hurt the body of Christ, and forgiveness is due to the contrite sinner. But Moore has, to date, not acknowledged any wrongdoing. And in associating failing and sin with Moore, you seem to acknowledge, however implicitly, that you find merit in the claims made of him.

      2.) Roy Moore is not a major figure of the Bible, and I don’t see any profit in making such an analogy unless you’re prepared to tell me precisely what Biblical figures make apt comparisons to his character and circumstance.

      3.) Even then, there is no credible evidence of false accusation or conspiracy against Roy Moore. There is, however, credible testimony that Moore did the things he’s accused of, and there is concrete evidence that he has lied about knowing one of his accusers. Put another way, the admittedly circumstantial evidence is stacked in favor of Moore’s accusers, not Moore.

      4.) The chapter in Isaiah that you quoted has utterly no relevance to the point you seem to think you’re making. In chapter 8, the author delivers (what may somewhat anachronistically be called) a jeremiad on behalf of God to his wayward people. Those people, in this Biblical context, would rather believe that there is a vast conspiracy against them rather than face up to their own shortfalls. Wouldn’t this type of warning be best addressed to Moore and his enablers? Or is that what you trying to do?

      5.) As the Washington Post story explains, the statute of limitations for Moore’s alleged crime ran out long ago. It is very simply the case, I hazard to guess, that Moore cannot criminally be prosecuted in any way for his alleged crimes.

      6.) Sexual predators frequently are not reported for their crimes because their victims fear that if they come forward with their stories that those survivors will face either public ridicule or reprisal by their attackers or both. Looking at the backlash against Leigh Corfman — by all reports a staunch Republican, a Trump voter, and a Christian — I cannot help but empathize with the reluctance of sexual assault survivors to tell their stories either immediately after their violation or years afterward.

      7.) Because sex crimes often happen in private and leave little physical evidence, there is a huge epistemic hurdle for prosecutors to clear in convicting alleged perpetrators of those crimes. Especially when the alleged crimes happened decades ago, the chance of justice being served within the system is virtually nil.

      8.) So while I understand maintaining an agnostic stance with regard to both the accusations and the denials, I don’t think calls for a “day in court” are terribly helpful in any way, since I suspect there is no way that Moore can see the inside of a criminal courtroom for these particular allegations. In fact, looking forward to a “day in court” that will never come seems to me to be just a way of dodging the dicier aspects of this issue.

      9.) You are entitled to reserve judgment on Moore. If you do so, I ask that you also reserve judgment on the accusers. But by vaguely linking Moore’s story to Biblical stories of false accusations and conspiracies, you are clearly implying that the accusers are the ones being malicious here. If you want to claim epistemic agnosticism, then you have to acknowledge that it cuts both ways — not just against the people whom you wish to believe are lying.

      10.) Let me remind you to look at the timestamp of this post. It was originally posted on 26 September, more than a month before the Washington Post initially broke the sexual assault allegations against Moore. My point in the post on which you have chosen to comment has nothing to do with sexual assault and everything to do with the pernicious, Christian nationalist balderdash he’s been peddling as a public figure and a senatorial candidate. In my opinion, supporting Moore does much more harm to evangelical Christianity than good — and this was so well before we knew (or had reason to suspect) that he was a sex predator.

      11.) Currently, the only post on this blog that specifically relates to the allegations of sexual assault against Moore is a quote from Alabama state auditor Jim Zeigler, who seems to think that the “concerning part” about Corfman’s story is that “He went a little too far and he stopped.” I happen to disagree rather profoundly with Zeigler’s perspective on how to interpret Corfman’s story. Going “a little too far” does not remotely seem to cover what Corfman alleges he did.

      12.) Furthermore, Zeigler does not seem to care that Corfman was, in fact, 14 at the time and not 16. Saying that if she had been 16 at the time it wouldn’t be illegal is like saying that if you had sped through the intersection when the light was green instead of when it was red, you wouldn’t have committed a traffic violation. Well, the light was red.

      Zeigler’s seems to me to be only the most despicable variation of the defenses that have been mounted for Moore. As I acknowledged in my post above, Moore is ostensibly a fellow Christian. So be it. But there are innumerable Christians in this country who are full of crap and who should be nowhere near elected office. Claiming that someone is a fellow Christian impresses me no more than excusing their bad behavior on the grounds that we’re all sinful. So we are. I’d judged Moore’s political philosophy to be noxious well before the dam broke on his alleged sexual predation. And it’s based primarily on political philosophy that I judge candidates for office (though character does matter, too). His comportment in the face of those allegations—conjuring a liberal conspiracy and dissembling about his past—has done little to persuade me that my previous impression was unsound.

      Moreover, the fact that these allegations have (last I checked) made people, such as Pastor Earl Wise (as reported by David French) MORE likely to support him—that is, a good chunk of evangelical Christians specifically—tells me that evangelicals have their priorities all fouled up. I think Christians ought to offer forgiveness where it’s sought: by any sinner, Moore included. As you say, we all bear the shame and glory of the cross. This isn’t about forgiveness, though. A Senate seat is not a prerequisite for absolution, nor should the inevitability of vice shield powerful men from facing the consequences of the violence they may do.

      I’ll grant you that there is no way to know with ironclad epistemological certainty whom to believe in the matter of the sexual assault allegations against him. But I don’t think Christians (or anyone else, for that matter) ought to spread lies, misinformation, or malicious insinuations about women who have risked public ruination in order to make credible claims about the past behavior of a powerful public figure.

      I also don’t think Christians ought to quote Scripture out of context to defend the indefensible or to provide cover for their own baleful conspiracy-mongering. And if these are the things that evangelicals are willing to do in order to secure political power for themselves, then all they accomplish is securing their reputation as simply another political tribe among the many aspiring Jacobins.

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