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Christian Support for Roy Moore ‘Looks Like Hypocrisy to the Outside World’

The Moore scandal is part of a long history of complicated sexual politics in the Christian world.

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Photo: Brynn Anderson/AP


Roy Moore was best known nationally for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama state supreme-court building. Now, the aspiring senator is accused of hitting on teens at an Alabama mall and inappropriately touching a 14-year-old girl.

These allegations may be the end of Moore. Congressional Republicans have started disowning him, and he’s tentatively dropping in state polls. But it’s possible that the reputation of evangelical Christians will also suffer. Despite condemnations from a number of nationally prominent Christian leaders and a few in Alabama, many of the state’s faithful continue to back the controversial candidate.

To outsiders, the support might seem like a stark contradiction in values. Even to insiders, it can seem that way. “I’m … bothered,” wrote William S. Brewbaker III, a law professor at the University of Alabama, in The New York Times, “by what Mr. Moore’s popularity says about the sorry state of evangelical Christianity.”

The Moore scandal is part of a long history of complicated sexual politics in the Christian world. In her new book, Moral Combat, the Washington University in St. Louis professor Marie Griffith writes about American Christians’ battles over sexual harassment, birth control, and gender roles. This fall’s wave of sexual-assault accusations has often seemed to echo the past, bringing to mind Anita Hill’s accusations about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Paula Jones’s allegations against former President Bill Clinton. Incidents like these, Griffith writes, all get tied up in the distinctive sexual politics of the Christian world.

The book—which covers much more than sexual-harassment scandals, including everything from Margaret Sanger’s legacy at Planned Parenthood to Alfred Kinsey’s obsession with clergy—comes out in December. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity. ...

Green: The standard narrative on the left is that conservative Christian sexual politics are all about keeping women from having power. For example: Linda Greenhouse recently wrote a New York Times column arguing that the Trump administration has pushed back on the birth-control mandate in the Affordable Care Act because they don’t want to normalize women’s empowerment.

Your research seems to lead to a slightly more nuanced conclusion. How would you address this pervasive claim that conservative Christians just hate women?

Griffith: Oh, I don’t think it is about Christians hating women, at all. I do think it’s about power relations. But I also think it’s about a specific vision of America as a nation. There’s still this sense that God has an exceptional destiny for the United States—it’s different and higher than any other nation’s destiny on earth. And there is something about changing moral norms and sexual practices, and women’s empowerment, that seems to threaten that. ...


Click here for more of Emma Green's article in the Atlantic.


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