The Roy Moore Case Offers a Glimpse into How Jerry Falwell Jr. Sees the World

In a piece at The Washington Post published back in July, I wrote:

Historians will write about this moment in terms of both continuity and change. On one hand, court evangelicals are part of a familiar story. For nearly half a century, evangelicals have sought to influence the direction of the country and its laws through politics. But Trump has forced them to embrace a pragmatism that could damage the gospel around the world, and force many Christians to rethink their religious identities and affiliations.

I think this Roy Moore mess is another example of the way that evangelical Christians are going to have to rethink their religious identities and affiliations.  I don’t recognize the evangelicalism of the so-called “Christian leaders” who are defending Moore right now.

For example, here is a taste of Emily McFarland’s Religion News Service piece on court evangelical Jerry Falwell Jr.’s response to the news that Judge Roy Moore allegedly molested teenage girls:

“It comes down to a question who is more credible in the eyes of the voters — the candidate or the accuser,” said Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of evangelical Liberty University who has endorsed Trump and Moore, both Republicans.

“The same thing happened to President Trump a few weeks before his election last year except it was several women making allegations,” Falwell told RNS in an email. “He denied that any of them were true and the American people believed him and elected him the 45th president of the United States.”

Wow! I don’t even know where to begin. Falwell Jr., the president of the largest evangelical university in the world, does not seem capable of addressing this issue from a moral perspective informed by his Christian faith.  No Jerry, what Roy Moore allegedly did to these young girls does not “come down to a question of who is more credible to the voters.”

I can’t believe a Christian college president would imply that the rightness or wrongness of Moore’s supposed actions comes down to what the majority of people in Alabama think.  Is Falwell implying that if Moore is elected to the Senate, and it turns out he did molest those girls, that his actions are somehow washed clean because the people of Alabama believed his denials and voted him into office?  This may be how right and wrong is defined in a democracy, but it is not how right and wrong is defined by people committed to Christian faith.

I seem to recall that in the first half of the 19th-century the people of Alabama believed that slavery was a “more credible” position “in the eyes of the voters” of the state.  By Falwell’s logic in the Moore case, this would make slavery a morally acceptable institution.

2 thoughts on “The Roy Moore Case Offers a Glimpse into How Jerry Falwell Jr. Sees the World

  1. The question really is, on what basis do supporters of Moore or supporters of the women believe them? Is it out of bias? Is it assumed that Moore cannot lie? Why is he more believable than the women. Would the women take a chance on false accusations?

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  2. John, I think you have treated Falwell unfairly in this particular instance and you have totally misread his statement. The statement was made, not in the context of judging whether Moore’s actions were right, but in the context of judging whether or not the allegations are credible. The previous paragraph of the piece at RNS was discussing whether or not conservative Alabama voters would abandon Moore, not the morality of his alleged behavior. The next two paragraphs (more snippets from Falwell) clearly indicate that the piece is treating the voters’ judgment of who is credible in this case.

    Just as conservative evangelicals such as myself should be careful to assert that Moore is undoubtedly innocent, you should be more careful as you evaluate the statements made by prominent conservative evangelicals. Falwell’s somewhat nuanced approach to this particular issue deserves a better and more nuanced treatment from someone who considers himself an intellectual. It sounds like you reacted against Falwell and fired off a negative post without carefully considering his statement.

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