We Chris­tians must con­demn Roy Moore

The Washington Post - - POWER POST - david.von­drehle@wash­post.com DAVID VON DREHLE

Any nitwit can call him­self or her­self a pas­tor in Amer­ica and hang a sign out­side a so-called church. That’s a price we pay for re­li­gious free­dom. And if the Rev. Wingnut or Pas­tor Loos­escrew com­bines a flair for self-pro­mo­tion with im­mu­nity to shame, a cer­tain brand of fame can fol­low. I cringe to re­mem­ber the hours of tele­vi­sion and acres of newsprint given to the late and ap­palling Fred Phelps, of the self-styled West­boro Bap­tist Church, who loaded his congregation of brain­washed and in­tim­i­dated fam­ily mem­bers into vans and hauled them around the coun­try, tor­ment­ing grief-stricken fam­i­lies.

But re­li­gious free­dom does not re­quire thought­ful Chris­tians of good­will to sit silently while char­la­tans, hus­tlers and the­o­log­i­cal bump­kins try to press the im­pri­matur of our faith on the sac­ri­lege of ac­cused child molester Roy Moore.

This self-right­eous popin­jay, run­ning as a Repub­li­can for the U.S. Se­nate, has in­spired mostly si­lence from the re­spectable pul­pits of Alabama. It seems we Chris­tians are well prac­ticed at avert­ing our eyes from the lurid sideshows be­neath our big tent: the will­fully ig­no­rant Young Earth cre­ation­ists, the car­toon­ish faith heal­ers, the tear­ful tel­e­van­ge­lists caught with a hand in the till or a pros­ti­tute on the side.

We tell our­selves this has noth­ing to do with us, that it’s bad manners to speak too loudly about re­li­gion, that it is more than enough each im­per­fect day sim­ply to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.

But we have reached a point where si­lence is no longer enough. A grow­ing num­ber of Amer­i­cans have no re­li­gious af­fil­i­a­tion and only a pass­ing in­ter­est at best. Un­less they hear oth­er­wise, they may draw the con­clu­sion that flam­boy­ant rad­i­cals such as Moore are the essence of our faith.

De­spite our im­per­fec­tions — “our man­i­fold sins and wicked­ness,” to bor­row from the Book of Com­mon Prayer — we are bet­ter than that. We are a church for the likes of Wil­liam Wil­ber­force and Martin Luther King Jr. A church for Michelan­gelo and J.S. Bach. A church for Anne Brad­street, Flan­nery O’Con­nor and An­nie Dil­lard. We are a church that builds great colleges and uni­ver­si­ties and hos­pi­tals. A church that min­is­ters to gang mem­bers in East L.A., Ebola vic­tims in West Africa and dy­ing neigh­bors in places large and small around the world.

Main­stream Mus­lims have been hear­ing for years that they must re­pu­di­ate the hate­ful fringe per­vert­ing their re­li­gion; surely the same ap­plies to us Chris­tians. Stir­ring up ha­tred for gays, liberals, Mus­lims and other sup­posed in­fi­dels, Moore bears a fa­mil­ial re­sem­blance — the non­vi­o­lent side of the fam­ily — to the ji­hadists of the Is­lamic State. He bran­dishes a re­volver in­stead of a broadsword, but he shares their de­light in con­dem­na­tion, di­vi­sion and (ev­i­dently) fan­tasies of vir­gins.

It’s a trav­esty that Moore and his sanc­ti­mo­nious ilk have been al­lowed to hi­jack “con­ser­va­tive Chris­tian­ity.” I imag­ine Wil­liam F. Buck­ley Jr. — that grin­ning apos­tle of joy — spin­ning in his grave. Buck­ley was an evan­ge­list for an au­then­tic Chris­tian con­ser­vatism, a rich in­tel­lec­tual tra­di­tion traced by Rus­sell Kirk in his 1953 mas­ter­piece, “The Con­ser­va­tive Mind.”

This tra­di­tion — which today finds such able de­fend­ers as Peter Wehner and Michael Ger­son — prizes hu­mil­ity over utopi­anism, nat­u­ral law over so­cial en­gi­neer­ing, pru­dence over ur­gency, in­di­vid­ual free­dom over col­lec­tive de­signs. It’s not the only lens through which Chris­tians can read the Gospel, but it is a thor­oughly re­spectable one.

Com­pare that with the nitwit­tery of Jim Zei­gler, state au­di­tor of Alabama, who of­fered a scan­dalous ex­e­ge­sis in de­fense of Moore. Ac­cord­ing to Zei­gler, the mall-skulk­ing Moore, chat­ting up teens and sign­ing their high school yearbooks well into his 30s, re­sem­bles Joseph at the manger in Beth­le­hem. The his­tory of sin­ners fran­ti­cally thumb­ing their Bi­bles for a friendly pas­sage out of con­text is as old as sin­ners and Bi­bles — but that is about as low as it gets.

Moore’s cam­paign has bragged of 50 pas­tors sign­ing a let­ter of sup­port. In Bi­ble-Belt Alabama, that’s not a large num­ber. Still, un­til voices are heard from the thou­sands of pul­pits so far silent, that rump fac­tion can claim to speak au­thor­i­ta­tively. Surely Alabama Chris­tians care more for Scrip­ture than to let it be a fig leaf for Roy Moore’s naked power trip.

I think of the Apos­tle Paul, the very model of evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian­ity, who was saved from his own Moore-like phar­i­saical ha­treds by an en­counter with Christ on the road to Da­m­as­cus. He taught the young church in Corinth that the great­est Chris­tian virtue is love, which “does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dis­honor oth­ers, it is not self-seek­ing, it is not eas­ily an­gered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

What would Paul make of Moore’s van­ity and the rages of his ag­grieved sup­port­ers? Mil­lions of Chris­tians, the silent ma­jor­ity you might say, have the an­swer in hearts moved by ten­der­ness and mercy. Now we’re called to bear wit­ness.

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