Two political figures tied to our highest chamber of Congress face charges of sexual harassment. One involves a senator who has apologized for his past actions and asked for an investigation, acknowledging the wrong he committed. The other involves a candidate professing his own innocence and invoking God as his ultimate defense.
As believers in Christ, this contrast is deeply troubling.
We do not know if Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore did the things he is accused of. But, like former presidents John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton, he had a reputation that preceded the claims that made the news. The senatorial candidate apparently had been known for picking up young girls in his local mall when he was a district attorney in his 30s.
Was this simply made up? What do several independent Republican women have to gain by choosing to accuse this candidate? Does that sound like a case of political dirty tricks coming from Democrats or from news outlets? If it were one or two people, one might be skeptical, but in the growing numbers we now see, it merits more serious consideration.
The question emerges: Does character matter in our election process? At the least, Moore deserves an investigation, despite any statute of limitations that has lapsed. (If these charges are somehow all fabricated, that would also be an injustice worth uncovering.)
Since the accused is hiding behind a wall of persecution claims and references to God, his reputation is not the only one at stake. The details surrounding Moore’s scandal relate to the picture of God portrayed by him and the Christians who have come to his side.
There are some who invoke the name of God as they defend the aspiring senator and deny that the claims could be genuine. Their commitment in the face of such serious charges is disturbing. There are other supporters who say they will remain loyal to Moore and vote for him even if the accusations prove to be true. That kind of pass for his behavior is a bridge far too far and a bridge to nowhere.
By now, we’ve heard plenty of excuses: It was 40 years ago. The man has done so much good since then. God has forgiven him. Those lines downplay and outright ignore the severe human violation that accompanies sexual assault. They bypass victims who deserve far better than to be treated as irrelevant.
Scripture commands justice and respect for the dignity of people too much for Christians to sacrifice these principles at the altar of political or ideological expediency.
Those who invoke God’s name should be careful how they use it. Moore’s defense may represent a kind of serious hypocrisy that undercuts the type of honorable human interaction God asks of his followers. The authentic church is about the development of genuine character. Such character faces up to wrong. It seeks to defend those taken advantage of by those in positions of power. It asks people to take responsibility for what they have done.
In the current political arena, we have two leaders charged with reprehensible acts. One has faced his misconduct and confessed. (Americans are awaiting Al Franken’s response as further accusations emerge.) The other has made his stance clear. Moore continued to challenge the allegations against him, even in the face of genuine questions about his defense.
At the least, those in the church should be concerned about the outcome of the one who invokes God’s name to justify his position. If he is innocent, major apologies are in order. However, if he is guilty, he must face the consequences of violating young women and lying about it while running for office.
It is a question worth investigating because so much is at stake. No one, especially Christians, should fear the inquiry, for we claim to desire a higher standard of character. Given how many have come forward with little to gain personally, to refuse to take a hard look belies that claim. There is no Democrat or Republican in this query, just human decency. If innocent, shame on those who falsely accused.
No excuse can exonerate him from invoking the cause of God and seeking people’s trust in the midst of such wrongdoing.
Darrell Bock is executive director for cultural engagement at the Hendricks Center and Senior Research Professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary. Ramesh Richard is professor of global theological engagement and pastoral ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary as well as president of RREACH, a global ministry that discusses pastoral leadership in the church.