Wednesday, November 15, 2017

More Moore (Roy, That Is): Why White Evangelicals Can't Quit Their Man, and the Horrors Posed by "the Alabamization of This Country"

Describing a nation in spiritual decline – Moore lamented the end of government-sponsored prayer in public schools – the GOP candidate complained, for example, that the government "started creating new rights in 1965." 
Moore didn't elaborate, but it's worth noting for context that Congress approved the Voting Rights Act in 1965, a year after passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Neither law was popular in Alabama. [Update: 1965 was also the year the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut, which said women had a right to access contraception through a right to privacy.] 
In case that was too subtle, this was less understated. 
"Also Tuesday, it was revealed that at least one person in Alabama received a robocall from someone claiming to be a reporter for the Washington Post seeking to pay money for claims against Moore – a fake call that was condemned by the newspaper. The call was first reported by CBS station WKRG of Mobile, who spoke to a pastor who got the call. 
The newspaper denied making the call. 
'The Post has just learned that at least one person in Alabama has received a call from someone falsely claiming to be from The Washington Post. The call's description of our reporting methods bears no relationship to reality,' Post Executive Editor Marty Baron said in a statement."
And what made-up name did the fake reporter use? Bernie Bernstein
Moore and his allies have reason to worry about the election’s outcome, but how they're responding to these circumstances says a great deal about the candidate and the kind of message he believes will resonate with Alabama voters.

The kind of message he believes will resonate with Alabama voters: 1) blatant race-baiting, attacking the rights of African Americans as "made-up" rights dating from the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, 2) attacks on women's right to contraceptive coverage in insurance plans, 3) ugly anti-Semitic slurs and outright lies. Hard to go lower than any of this — and the game plan is to take the whole nation lower in the process.

Longtime political journalist in Alabama, Josh Moon, "Dear America: An apology for Roy Moore, and all the rest":

Dear America, 
We're sorry. 
I'm speaking for all of us here in Alabama, even if some of these people will never apologize and never believe that they've done anything wrong. 
The rest of us know better, though. 
We know what we've done to all of America over the past year, when the Alabamization of this country began. You weren’t ready for it, and I told you last November that no amount of lowering expectations could possibly prepare you for the river of lunacy that was rushing towards you. 
And, well, let's just say I nailed that one. 
Over the last year, America has been treated to the Alabama "superfecta" of governance: Scandals, criminal indictments, bigotry and stupidity. 
These things are shocking to most of you, but in a state that rarely has a governor complete a term without a criminal conviction and that has seen its Governor and House Speaker convicted and tossed from office in the current election cycle, it is like a warm cloak of familiarity. 
It’s how we live; how we choose to live. 
We thrive on corruption and chaos and unbelievable ignorance. 
Like Roy Moore.

We are in the midst of an authority crisis in our culture. I think it's important to name the crisis as one of authority being called into question rather than morality being upended. The young people today are not any more morally depraved than young people a hundred years ago, though their outlets for moral depravity have certainly evolved and shifted. They just don’t submit unquestioningly to the taboos and conventions of older generations, and because of the rise of the information age, they don’t have to. Their morality is not anchored in the submission to authority that many evangelicals presume is the only legitimate anchor for morality. Moreover, the old white men who were the unquestioned, established authority figures for centuries of Western culture are considered morally suspect by younger generations as a default. 
To the degree that many young adults today respect authority, it is the authority of the victim that they respect. People who have been hurt are the ones who are believed. Many older white evangelicals mock and belittle this "victim mentality," but it's actually very much a part of our Christian heritage. Jesus' authority is not derived in the institutional power of the church. He doesn't have authority because the Anglican Church in Australia can take $1 million out of its offering plates for a homophobic propaganda campaign. He doesn't have authority because American evangelicals have been a reliable voting bloc for the Republican Party for the past forty years. He has authority over us because we shed his blood on the cross.

At Religion Dispatches, Eric C. Miller interviews Stephen Mansfield, author of Choosing Donald Trump: God, Anger, Hope, and Why Christian Conservatives Supported Him, to ask Mansfield the following question (inter alia): 

On top of everything we already knew about Trump's views on women, the Access Hollywood tape went public less than a month before the election. At that point, I thought that he was totally done because there was simply no way that evangelical Christians could possibly justify supporting a man who said the things that he said. But they did. So what are we to make of their attitudes concerning infidelity, divorce, harassment, sexual assault, and toward women in general?

Mansfield replies:
That is, in my opinion, a low-water mark for American evangelicalism. People who had stood before television cameras and in their pulpits and absolutely decried sexual excess and misconduct, and who pushed a very strong sexual purity message, were then able to turn around and say publically that, you know, "boys will be boys." These were revelations about Trump abusing women—grabbing them inappropriately, speaking of them as though they’re meat. That was an extremely disturbing moment when we watched, as you say, these evangelicals making excuses for him. And I am very critical on this point in my book. 
Donald Trump is Donald Trump. He’s not hiding who he is and he has never hidden from us who he is. He’s never even claimed to be born again or to be a great spiritual leader. But those around him, those religious right leaders who made excuses for him at that moment, who tried to rebrand him as Lincoln, as Churchill, as Cyrus the Great, Nebuchadnezzer, or whatever else, have not only caused a lot of damage, but I think compromised their entire message. 
More disturbing, perhaps, recently the Washington Post has run a couple of articles in which they’ve asked whether there is anything that Trump could do to cause these evangelical leaders to withdraw their support from him, and their answers make clear that their thinking is transactional. "We support him until the last breath because he gives us access that no other President has given us." They are admitting to the transactional nature of their relationship with him, and I think that is a dramatic step down from the loftier pulpits that they should be maintaining.

As I told you yesterday, after Roy Moore's wife Kayla Moore published (on Facebook) a letter of support for Roy Moore signed by 53 Alabama pastors, several pastors said that they do not support Moore after what they now know about him, and pointed out that the letter was a recycled statement from several months ago. In a posting today entitled "Roy Moore Misrepresented Pastors' Support (Creepy Bigot Also Turns Out to be Dishonest)," Fred Clark responds to that report:

I'm revising yesterday's post to account for the objections of these pastors, removing the names of their churches from the list of those that name themselves as unsafe for children. 
But just because they are less enthusiastically unsafe for children in this particular way doesn't make them safe. If you take your child to Thad Endicott's Heritage Baptist Church in Opelika, that child will be taught and trained that bigotry is a virtue, that hate and oppression are Christian duties, that life in a pluralist society is a Hobbesian war of all against all in which the Christian’s only obligation is to win at any cost. That child will be taught to nurture grievance and resentment of those who have less than them, to regard all others with hostility, to treat neighbors as enemies. They will be trained and discipled into a form of religion that will make them miserable for life, and that will cause all who come into contact with them to share some form of that misery. 
Heritage Baptist Church does not endorse child-molestation, but Heritage Baptist Church is not at all safe for children. "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body."

Finally, for Religion News Service, Father Thomas Reese reports today that a U.S. Catholic bishop has just said some pretty words about racism and the Catholic church (I'm the one summarizing what Bishop George Murry said as "pretty words; this is not Tom Reese's phrase). My response to the pretty words:

Too little.

Too late.

Meaningless, after 6 in 10 white Catholics placed the moral monstrosity in the White House, who used overt race-baiting to win votes.

Real repentance consists of more than words.

The bishops knew full well what they were getting into bed with when they got into bed with the likes of Roy Moore several decades ago. They have spectacularly forfeited moral and pastoral authority by that action. It will take more than pretty words to address this abdication of moral and pastoral leadership.

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