Before this month, 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.