Some of the most caustic and harsh criticism ever made by the group of Evangelical Christians that has become identified as the “Religious Right” was directed at Bill Clinton. Not only were they right on top of extra-marital affairs he was reported to have had, but they were critical because he had been accused of sexual assault against at least three other women, including one of those with whom he had been rumored to have had an affair. They claimed that character in a politician mattered, and that extra-marital affairs were a sign of a character flaw that disqualified Clinton from the Presidency. You can check the record, the rhetoric was varied in its intensity, but that was exactly what was said. They were right, as far as I am concerned.
They also pushed the issue raised by several women who accused Clinton of unwanted sexual advances. Even more than the extra-marital affairs, the Religious Right insisted that the women should be heard, and that their words should be weighed against his for truthfulness, and that he should be held accountable, and be forced to resign if the evidence pointed to his guilt. Ironically, the woman at the center of the issue that involved his eventual impeachment never accused him of unwanted advances, and has stated that she was a willing participant.
The Religious Right has always stood with his accusers and against Clinton. They believed the accusers, even though it was basically just their word against his, and the only evidence that turned up in their support was some corroboration of his behavior patterns. There was never enough to charge him, and in at least one case, and alleged in another, the women also had a record of behavior with men that didn’t contribute to their credibility. But the leadership of the Religious Right, including many of those who are still recognized as such today, insisted on applying Biblical values and Christian standards to the behavior of national leaders, and indicted Clinton on those principles. Rightly so.
The Bible’s values and Christian standards have not changed. But apparently, the “Religious Right” has decided, for the sake of political expedience, not to insist on their application to the behavior of national leaders anymore. Women came forward in much larger numbers, with much more evidence of unwanted sexual advances on the part of Donald Trump, including corroborating testimony, photographs, and video, along with his own conversation admitting to such behavior, and the Religious Right went silent. There was a little bit of a weak attempt to excuse the silence by claiming that they were simply doing what the left did with Clinton, but admiring and emulating the behavior of the “left” is not consistent with their claimed values, or their previous words.
Now there’s Roy Moore.
Moore is a darling of the Religious Right, and he is one of them. He’s an active member of a Southern Baptist church and his political views come from the extreme right wing of the movement, where white supremacy is still accepted theology and doctrine. And while his racism, and his misconduct in office as a court justice aren’t consistent behaviors with Christian standards derived from the Bible, he’s provided mid-level leadership, and is a featured speaker and presenter at various Religious Right events. The credibility of the movement has been chipped away over the years by their continued support for individuals that turned out not to meet their previously proclaimed standards of moral conduct (like Newt Gingrich and Bob Packwood, among others) and by their looking past George W. Bush’s endorsement of Islam as a legitimate pathway to God, and his acceptance of same-gender marriage. It was seriously damaged by the almost wholesale support they gave to Donald Trump. But now, any credibility they have left lies in the hands of those who claim to be part of their influence among the voters within the state of Alabama.
All of it.
The credibility of Conservative Evangelical Christianity, as an identified movement of churches and Christians, is now in the hands of their like-minded brethren in the state of Alabama. They have to hope that there are enough of them in the state who hold Biblical values and Christian standards in higher regard than partisan political ambition, and will act on that belief. For some, that might just mean staying away from the polls on election day, if they sincerely believe that voting for a Democrat runs counter to their values. For others, it might mean doing their homework, discovering that the Democrat isn’t standing against their values, and casting a ballot for him. Because if Moore wins, the hypocrisy of their previous words and position is exposed, and they’ve abandoned the gospel they claim to preach for the sake of political gain and worldly power.
“Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings who cannot save.” Psalm 146:3, NIV
Mainline denominations began experiencing a decline in membership and attendance in the 1960’s due to what their critics said was a theological shift to the left, and the advance of liberal theology. Evangelical churches and denominations are now in a fully involved decline in membership and attendance of at least equal number and proportion, attributed by many observers and analysts to the marriage of the movement to conservative politics, and the dependence on worldly power to attain spiritual goals. The church researchers are loathe to discuss it, but in most cases are honest enough to produce the evidence which supports it. Maybe the Alabama Senate special election will provide the kick in the pants that Evangelical Christians need to turn their focus away from the use of political influence to advance their cause back to the Biblical values and Christian standards, and to the wind of movement of the Holy Spirit.