Jesus despised religious hypocrites. In fact, Jesus saved some of His harshest criticism (condemnation) for the Pharisees and religious scholars (some Bible translations use the term “lawyer,” but I try to avoid those translations) of His day (see Matthew 23). Perhaps Jesus was on to something. That something — the sin of hypocrisy — is always lurking in the hearts of people. No one is immune from the sin of hypocrisy. And, while some struggle with hypocrisy more than others, it seems today that many Evangelical Christians (of whom I am one) have, to paraphrase Dr. Strangelove, “stopped worrying and learned to embrace hypocrisy.”
How else to explain Evangelical Christians’ 180 degree turn-around on issues of sexual morality and ethics for our elected leaders? We sure have come a long way from calling for the impeachment of Bill Clinton on the grounds that his CHARACTER made him unfit to hold the highest office in the land to actively endorsing and campaigning for a thrice-married adulterer whose CHARACTER (both before and after the election) would make him likewise unfit for office . That is, if Evangelicals held Republicans to the same character standards that we held Democrats to in the age of (Bill) Clinton.
Now, before my more conservative readers start throwing stones (something else that Jesus generally frowned upon), let me say that I am fully aware that the other side (i.e., liberals or Democrats) are also guilty of hypocrisy. Just because I am not writing about the rank hypocrisy of some on the left like Al Franken does not mean that I somehow minimize or excuse what others do. But, as a conservative and an Evangelical Christian, I am much more concerned about cleaning up our own messes, especially when those messes negatively impact the Gospel witness of the Church in America. If you don’t believe that the sin of hypocrisy — especially when that sin is practiced on the national stage — damages our Christian testimony with our unbelieving neighbors, then you may not be interacting with as many lost people as you should.
Which leads me to the mess in Alabama. Long before the allegations of sexual harassment/assault against Roy Moore came to light, the former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court was a pro at creating messes. Known as the “Ten Commandments Judge,” (a curious Old Testament nickname for a New Testament Christian — more on that at the end), Mr. Moore (I will not refer to him as “Judge”) is:
. . . a man who has twice been removed as Alabama’s chief justice for defying federal judges and twice lost the governor’s race in the state—a man who has questioned former President Barack Obama’s citizenship, said “homosexual conduct” should be illegal and suggested the 9/11 attacks were an act of punishment by God—is on the precipice of becoming Alabama’s next U.S. senator. (“The Resurrection of Roy Moore”)
Following allegations by at least eight women (as of November 15, 2017) against Mr. Moore of improper conduct, including allegations of sexual assault, Evangelical Christians simply cannot afford to stay silent or hope that this will all go away. If I were an Alabama voter, I would most certainly want a conservative to be elected to the United States Senate, but one whose Christian character makes him or her fit for office. Unlike some Evangelicals who seem to now think that the right policies on moral issues trump bad character, I simply can’t make that leap.
Why? Because, apart from the political implications of this election (which do not directly concern me as a non-resident of the state), I am most concerned about the negative fall-out that Roy Moore’s continued candidacy will have on the Gospel witness not just in Alabama, but in Virginia and the rest of the country. Contrary to what some of my Alabama friends might think, Roy Moore is not just an Alabama political problem. Roy Moore is a Christian hypocrisy problem. And, that’s a real problem that must be addressed now. Appeals to “due process” and warnings about “rushing to judgment” in this case are simply unpersuasive.
I do not know whether or not the allegations against Roy Moore are true. No, he has not been found guilty in a court of law and is obviously “presumed innocent until proven guilty,” at least as it concerns criminal proceedings initiated by the government. But, in the court of public opinion (not to mention a civil court), the burden of proof is far different. After all, conservatives and fellow Southern Baptists didn’t need to see Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress to know that Bill Clinton was “as guilty as sin.” And, we sure didn’t need to have Hillary “Lock Her Up” Clinton indicted before the Presidential elections to use a lesser burden of proof at the ballot box when casting our vote.
It is possible that all eight (and counting) women who have come forward some thirty to forty years after these alleged incidents took place are all lying or mis-remembering the facts. After all, “why wait this long to come forward? Why now?” Perhaps it’s all just a “fake news hit piece” by the liberal Washington Post. Let the libel suits commence. I’m guessing that Roy Moore would never take that step because it would open himself up to discovery and “truth is a defense.”
Or, perhaps some or all of the allegations are true. The reason why this has now come to light could be attributed to Harvey Weinstein and the flood of allegations that have been published in the last month from women in similar situations. Women from all walks of life are now willing to tell their stories of harassment and sexual assault. That doesn’t mean that every allegation is true, but it does mean that we should treat these allegations with the seriousness they deserve and not engage in hypocrisy depending on who is on the receiving end of those allegations. Conservatives and Evangelical Christians were all too eager to believe the worst about liberal Hollywood elites based on “on-the-record” allegations first reported in THE NEW YORK TIMES, that bastion of conservative journalism. Most of these same conservatives didn’t hesitate to believe the worst about Al Franken, even before he issued an apology admitting to his behavior. Wouldn’t it be hypocritical to give a pass to Roy Moore because he’s “our guy?”
Could you imagine if someone in the Mainstream Media, the Democrat Party, or the Republican Establishment, in response to serious allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor, invoked Mary and Joseph, the earthly parents of Jesus, to defend the alleged perpetrator? No, me either. But, that’s exactly what one Alabama Republican did at the outset of the Moore controversy.
But the most widely reported comment came from Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler, who told the Washington Examiner, “Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became the parents of Jesus… There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.” (“No, Christians Don’t Use Joseph and Mary to Explain Child Molesting Accusations”)
I agree with the article’s author, Ed Stetzer, who wrote, “If this is evangelicalism, I’m on the wrong team. But it is not. Christians don’t use Joseph and Mary to explain child molesting accusations.” And, Christians do not — or should not — resort to hypocritical defenses of the indefensible, simply because a candidate has an “R” next to his or her name. Much more is at stake when we do this than which political party controls the Senate chamber.
Roy Moore, for the last two plus decades, has used his brand of Christianity to powerful effect in the legal and political arena. Known for a pugnacious style (I’m not sure “turn the other cheek” is in his vocabulary), including building a Ten Commandments monument and defying Federal Court Orders relating to said monument, Roy Moore had, at least until last week, seemed poised to become the next United States Senator from the great state of Alabama — Roll Tide!
But, the funny thing about the sin of hypocrisy. It will eventually find you out, especially the egregious kind practiced by modern-day Pharisees and religious scholars:
“In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, He (Jesus) began to say to His disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12:1-3, ESV)
And, when it does, you will be judged according to the standards by which you have judged others. I don’t know about you, but I much prefer to be judged — and to judge others — with a New Testament ethic rooted in grace, love, and truth. Or, in Jesus’ own words in response to the Pharisees of His day:
But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer (uh, oh), asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40, KJV)
If the entire “law and the prophets” hangs on the two commandments to love God and love people, perhaps Roy Moore and Evangelical Christians should be more concerned about living out The TWO Great Commandments in our culture rather than hanging The TEN Commandments in a court. The Pharisees and lawyers among us might not like it, but I’m pretty sure Jesus would approve.