Randy preachers are a stereotype in American lore, on a par with lying fishermen, and jealous Jezebels.
Equally common, it seems, and equally odious, are hypocritical politicians, those who cloak themselves in religious trappings while leading distinctly sinful lives.
Probably because it is a religion based in part on forgiveness, Christianity is not infrequently invoked when public figures in the U.S. get caught at or accused of rascalitty. Whether Bill Clinton or Richard Nixon or, more recently, Roy Moore, the obdurate candidate from Alabama, appealing to the Lord seems to indeed be the last refuge of scoundrels.
One sign carried by a Moore supporter read “God 4 Moore.” Higher powers are commonly invoked, and while there is little or no evidence that God micromanages our lives or endorses candidates, the Bible does indeed promise forgiveness in numerous places, such as Luke 6:51 – “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
It does not, however, endorse our imperfections. Al Franken, Democratic senator from Minnesota, confesses to sexual tomfoolery and asks for forgiveness, then resigns (suggesting a double standard between the political parties).
Meanwhile, Moore, the “Ten Commandments judge,” refuses to even acknowledge wrongdoing in the face of multiple accusations (but only accusations). Apparently, a cadre of women are lying about his behavior. Just ask his wife, whose loyalty, while admirable, may be naïve.
Many GOP figures, apparently seeking a red herring to distract voters from Moore’s asserted shenanigans, called for the expulsion of Franken, but have remained silent about Brother Moore. I have no idea what went on between him and the various ladies, but I do believe that GOP leaders should be even-handed and call for an investigation of both Franken and Moore’s behavior (and any others).
It remains troubling, however, that in 21st century America, scoundrels, especially it seems in the South, feel that religion or religious posturing offers safe cover. Meanwhile many other public figures (Jimmy Swaggert and Bill Clinton, for example) like Franken, have had the good grace to confess and seek forgiveness (sincerely, one hopes).
In the final analysis, sexual assault – if that’s what we’re dealing with -- should not be a partisan issue. Hypocrisy, on the other hand, should. “They profess to know God, but deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good works,” says Titus. 1:16. The Good Book does not mention Republicans or Democrats, but it clearly condemns hypocrites.
Gerald Haslam is an alumnus of Garces Memorial High School and Bakersfield College. He is also professor emeritus at Sonoma State University. His most recent book is "Leon Patterson: A California Story" (2014). The opinions expressed are his own.