Religious texts are powerful rhetorical devices because they are subject to interpretation. America has no state religion, but the right wing has strongly endorsed what it preaches are a set of Christian values, making the movement more approachable to the seventy percent of Americans who identify as Christians.
You might think that for people who hold this set of values, Alabama’s Republican candidate for Senate, Roy Moore, would be stoned after five women came forward and made claims that Moore came on to them or worse when they were teenagers. The Christian right, however, seems to have taken a position of denial.
Moore’s not the only one setting a bad example for Christians in politics, either. There’s also our president.
Where Organized Religion and Politics Meet
You don’t have to be a Bible expert to see where things don’t add up between our political leaders and the good book. The Bible admonishes people not to serve both money and god, because you cannot serve two masters.
Donald Trump is the first president in thirty years to hide his tax returns, but his love of money is obvious to see. Closely aligned with the thirst for money is the thirst for power, which Trump and other GOP members are advertising in their refusal to accept the seriousness of claims against Roy Moore.
The Bible says, “Blessed are the meek.” Trump, meanwhile, has done nothing if not throw his weight around in office, bullying different races and adopting a policy of tit-for-tat against unpredictable North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Roy Moore — Alabama’s Shining Example of Purity
Even though he was quick to criticize Congressman Al Franken over alleged sexual advances, Trump, who is currently fighting allegations of his own from more than a dozen women, refuses to demand any responsibility from Moore. In Trump’s own words, the Alabama judge says he’s innocent, and that’s what matters.
So keen is the conservative desire to absolve Moore of the prurient allegations, niche groups in the Christian community are coming forward to re-work the religion’s stance on relations with minors, and one such group is the evangelical Protestants.
Samantha Field grew up in the evangelical community. She says many in that world would not have a problem with an older man and a 15-year-old girl, as long as they knew them both. A few eyebrows might be raised, but ultimately the “couple” would be embraced.
Christianity’s Power Couple Weighs in
GOP sympathizers have even sought to make examples from the Bible itself. Alabama state auditor Jim Zeigler delivered perhaps the most offensive example, saying “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter,” as if to liken Moore’s apparent interest in under-aged women to the figure from Christian scripture. Besides the fact that the validity of Biblical stories (and subsequently using them as backing for political arguments) is questionable to begin with, the other holes in this argument are many:
- There are very few means of confirming Mary’s exact age in the Bible.
- The Biblical story takes place thousands of years ago — even if you assume that it’s factually accurate — whereas Moore’s story takes place in 1970s Alabama, where even then, the age of consent was 16.
- Joseph was faithful and exercised compassion toward Mary, who allegedly gave birth to Jesus through “immaculate conception.”
Moore pursued multiple teenage women, allegedly engaged in sexual acts with at least one and has accepted support from colleagues who assert “fourteen-year-olds don’t make good decisions,” as if to suppose any sexual contact was solely the girl’s responsibility when Moore was the aggressor.
History Repeating Itself
It’s hard to be surprised about the way American politicians mischaracterize religion, because organized religion has fallen victim to misuse for thousands of years. What should be a message of compassion and empowerment is commonly repackaged to justify acts of violence and hatred at the whim of political leaders.
But when is enough finally enough? At some point, upstanding people in positions of leadership in the Christian community must recognize the severity of the abuse perpetrated against their religion. It’s that or live with the reality that politicians have re-cast Christianity in their image.