- Nicholas Kristof Nicholas Kristof
For decades, one of the most sanctimonious moralizers in U.S. politics has been Roy Moore, the longtime Bible-thumper in Alabama who crusaded against gays, transgender people, Islam and “sexual perversion.”
Moore suggested just this year that the 9/11 terror attacks were God’s punishment because “we legitimize sodomy.” He has said homosexuality is “the same thing” as sex with a cow and should be criminalized.
All the while, Moore seems to have been the king of hypocrisy. The Washington Post published a devastating account of how he initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old schoolgirl.
The victim said that Moore, then a 32-year-old assistant district attorney, drove the girl to his house, removed her clothes and touched her sexually. Under Alabama law, that apparently constitutes sexual abuse in the second degree.
The Post found three other women who said that Moore pursued them when he was in his 30s and they were teenagers. The women did not contact The Post and were initially reluctant to speak.
Moore denies the accusations as “completely false” — and promptly tried to use them for fundraising. My reaction was that Moore should have spent less time thundering about the Ten Commandments and more time reading them.
But sanctimonious hypocrites inhabit the left as well as the right: Harvey Weinstein participated in a “women’s march.” But we’re at a watershed moment in the aftermath of the Weinstein case, trying to end impunity for sexual assault, and allegations against our leaders are even more serious than those against our entertainers. Frankly, it’s just staggering to see “family values” conservatives making excuses for child molestation.
The Alabama state auditor, a Republican named Jim Ziegler, defended Moore as “clean as a hound’s tooth” and offered a bizarre defense of child abuse: He asserted that the Virgin Mary was a teenager when Joseph married her (in fact, the Bible does not indicate her age).
Meanwhile, an Alabama Republican legislator, Ed Henry said the women accusing Moore should be prosecuted for waiting to make their allegations.
In my columns, I’ve repeatedly defended evangelical Christians and protested that they are one of the few groups that it’s socially acceptable for liberals to mock, stereotype and discriminate against. But I find it infuriating to see some evangelicals now downplaying child molestation or our president’s boasts of sexual assault.
If evangelical Christians want to engage in activism, they needn’t support hypocrites and bigots; they can support lifesaving organizations like World Vision or African Mission Healthcare Foundation, or fight human trafficking by supporting International Justice Mission, or reduce abortions by backing the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Just before the revelations about Moore became public, I visited leaders of an inspiring tri-faith project in Omaha, Nebraska, where a church, a synagogue and a mosque are partnering on a shared site to build empathy and understanding. I asked the pastor involved, the Rev. Eric Elnes, for his reaction to Moore.
“Blazing with self-righteous indignation toward others is often what people use to hide their own sins in the shadows,” Elnes said.
Roy Moore today is a challenge for those who see themselves as good and decent people of faith: If you find yourself excusing child molestation, then you are driven not by morality or faith, but simply by the emptiest kind of tribalism.