White evangelicals aren’t garnering much sympathy these days, and it’s understandable. As a voting bloc, they were primarily responsible for the election of our highly unpopular, broadly controversial president. They accounted for more than a quarter of the total electorate, and 4 out of 5 of the white evangelicals who voted cast their ballot for Donald Trump. Now, the fate of Jeff Sessions’ former seat in the U.S. Senate rests largely with them as well, and, in a choice between a civil rights hero and a man accused of sexually abusing teenage girls, many white evangelicals are sticking by the latter. How did the voting bloc known for preaching family values become supporters of a candidate who seems better fit for Sodom and Gomorrah?
Conservatives with credibility among evangelicals have excoriated the rationalizations, cynicism and civic disregard of those who are supporting Roy Moore, the bombastic former judge who won the Republican nomination earlier this fall. New York Times columnist David Brooks has described evangelicals as taking on a “siege mentality.” Former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, prior to the criminal allegations made against Moore earlier this month, wrote that Moore’s “study of divine law has led him, in the end, to the shabby, third-rate gospel of Stephen K. Bannon.” For National Review, David French argued that Moore’s “world is built on fear,” and that does not comport with Christian confidence. Pete Wehner, a former staffer for George W. Bush and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle that some of Moore’s comments border on “heresy,” and criticized evangelical support for Moore as a subordination of their faith. And, of course, nonevangelicals have also roundly lambasted evangelical support for Moore ahead of the Dec. 12 special Senate election, sharing the jaw-dropping quotations from Alabama preachers that excuse Moore’s behavior with a tone of disbelief and disgust. Should Moore win, evangelicals are in for scorn that will make the aftermath of Trump’s election seem tepid.
Let’s be clear: Moore was already an embarrassment to Alabama prior to facing allegations of the sexual abuse of minors. This is a man who has made a career of using religion as a political weapon, insisting Christianity is under attack each and every step of his political career. He speaks of fellow Alabamians and Americans, those he’s running to represent, with utter contempt. For evangelicals, the fact that he identifies as a Christian should not obscure or absolve him of his actions. In fact, his constant attempt to claim God’s approval for his antics has meant that he has maligned not just our civic discourse, but the Christian faith itself. For the sake of Alabama, this nation and, for those who care about it, the American church, Moore should never have a seat in the United States Senate.