Roy Moore (R-AL) is still gripping his GOP senatorial nomination tightly. An additional accuser has come forward and we’ve now learned Moore’s reputation for cruising for teenaged girls earned him a ban from a mall in Gadsden. Fifty Alabama pastors signed* a letter, posted on Kayla Moore’s (Roy’s wife) Facebook page, expressing their support for Moore’s candidacy. The letter states, in part:
We are ready to join the fight and send a bold message to Washington: dishonesty, fear of man, and immorality are an affront to our convictions and our Savior and we won’t put up with it any longer. We urge you to join us at the polls to cast your vote for Roy Moore.
The pastors’ rationale? Primarily, what Moore did as a Supreme Court justice in Alabama, and what he might do as a U.S. Senator. Jerry Falwell, Jr. has doubled-down in his support for Moore. Moore has been endorsed by James Dobson, Mike Huckabee, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin. So far, none of them have rescinded their endorsements, though that may change quickly.
Roy Moore’s history reveals him to be drawn to lawlessness, even before he was accused of predatory sexual behavior with teenagers. Moore was once removed from the bench in Alabama, and was later suspended from the same post. Both tangles stemmed from Moore’s refusal to abide by federal court rulings–the first time regarding the placement of a Ten Commandments monument in the judicial building, and the second for ordering state officials to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruled the opposite.
Moore’s behavior as Chief Justice in Alabama undermined the rule of law. Just to be clear, I agree with Moore’s frustration and largely agree with his understanding of the law in those two areas. I think the Supreme Court has mis-interpreted the First Amendment when deciding that most governmental displays of the Ten Commandments are unconstitutional. I also agree the Constitution says nothing about marriage, and the Court over-stepped its boundaries when forcing states to define marriage to include same-sex couples.
In his role as a state supreme court judge, Moore was NOT the person to oppose those rulings in those ways. His refusal to abide by federal decisions may have made him a hero in Alabama and to much of the Christian Right, but he sullied his robe in doing so. State courts are bound by federal decisions. To think a state judge should thumb his nose at a federal bench is to court legal chaos. I imagine those who found comfort in Moore’s histrionics would think differently if judges in California or Massachusetts determined the U.S. Supreme Court’s protection of religious free exercise just doesn’t apply within their borders.
There are times and places and people to challenge the Supreme Court. Accepting decisions and abiding by them does not imply agreement. As Justice Frankfurter noted in Cooper v. Aaron, there is a world of difference between criticism and obstruction. If Roy Moore felt unable to comply with the Court’s rulings, because they morally offended him or they were religiously intolerable, he should have resigned and set about working to change them–through constitutional amendment, the appointment of different justices, the impeachment of sitting justices, an alteration of the Court’s appellate jurisdiction, or the slow, gradual persuasion of his fellow citizens that change must happen. His unwillingness to do so, and his decision to flout the law as a sitting judge, made him unfit to hold public office.
Moore’s ascension, endorsements, and defenders remind me of the Spring and Summer of 2016, when Donald Trump’s GOP nomination became inevitable. Conservative contortions, designed to not only defend, but champion, Trump’s most outlandish comments and behavior, must have enriched a generation of chiropractors. Such intellectual torsion and dislocation appears to have had at least short-term consequences.
I have always understood the argument that 2016 provided voters with no good choice, and that voters were forced to hold their nose in support of one candidate or the other. I did not agree with that argument, but I understood it. However, I never understood how Christians could support Trump, and now Moore, by arguing the good that might get done in office would justify the decision to support an immoral candidate devoid of virtue. How many times have we heard:
“Well, we’re not electing a pastor…”
“God uses imperfect people to carry out his will…”
“The stakes are so high…”
“We can’t afford to lose the election…”
All of these rationalizations reveal a disturbing trend in my evangelical brothers and sisters. There is a latent willingness to sanctify any means so long as the end is “good.” After all, look at the stock market, Justice Gorsuch, and, by golly, illegal immigration has gone down.
It is true that God uses evil for his own purposes. The book of Habakkuk illustrates this fully. There is a difference, though, in God’s use of evil to achieve his good and our choice of evil with God’s good in mind. God may have used the Babylonians to punish the Children of Israel, but that is a far cry from holding campaign rallies in support of Nebuchadnezzar.
When given agency, we should always seek to choose what is good and right and just and true to achieve what is good and right and just and true, for goodness, and righteousness, and justice, and truthfulness are honoring to God. We should choose holy means to achieve holy ends.
I understand that politics “ain’t bean bag.” I know that political choices are always imperfect. Compromise is necessary to achieve better ends and perfect policy is the enemy of good policy. Religion speaks to our eternal ideals, while politics drags us into the murky here and now.
At the same time, there must be limits to compromise. There must be things we will not do and will not support, regardless of the “good” that might flow from them. We have to understand how our public choices, as Christians, connect us to people and policies and ideas. We must account for how others view our support of what appears to be wicked. We must always act with the knowledge that the glorification of God is the ultimate end and when our public choices could cause others to question or misunderstand God, we have to take a step back and ask, “what are we doing?” and “why are we doing it?”
In short, we must strive to make sure our means and ends are as holy and blameless as we can make them, even in an imperfect, fallen world. We must, when possible, do what is right for the right reason and then have faith that God will bless, however he chooses, our choices.
With Roy Moore, this isn’t even close. His biggest defense against the allegations seems to have been variations of “Fake News” or “I don’t remember dating her.” A righteous man with no hint of impropriety or no history of this behavior would claim, indignantly, “I am innocent of all charges. I will be bringing lawsuits against the Washington Post and other media outlets for spreading these libelous and slanderous falsehoods.” Roy Moore has said no such things.
Christians have an opportunity to make it clear some things are more important than winning an election. Roy Moore is not worth our support, much less our defense.
*It is possible this letter misrepresents the situation. Some of the pastors are claiming they were not asked to either sign the document or they supported Moore before the allegations and not after. Here is a link with more information.