11 November 2017 — 0953 mdt
Faith debased communities may have normalized Moore’s predilections
If a thirty-something Roy Moore was putting dirty moves on 14-year-old girls, why are reports of his encounters surfacing only now? That’s a fair question. And the fair answer? Certain evangelical community values may have normalized his behavior. If what he was doing wasn’t wrong, it wasn’t news.
Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Kathryn Brightbill reports that in many evangelical communities, the courtship of mid-teenaged girls by older men is a standard practice, and thus considered normal:
Prominent conservative Reformed theologian Doug Wilson has a documented history of mishandling sexual abuse cases within his congregation. Nevertheless, he continues to be promoted by evangelical leaders such as John Piper, whose Desiring God site still publishes Wilson’s work. When a 13-year-old girl in Wilson’s congregation was sexually abused, Wilson argued that she and her abuser were in a parent-sanctioned courtship, and that this was a mitigating factor.
There’s no shortage of such stories. A Presbyterian Church in America, or PCA, pastor attempted to discipline a woman who warned home-school parents of the convicted sex offender in his congregation. (The sex offender had gone online to solicit a 14-year-old girl for sex.) Another PCA church allowed that same convicted sex offender to give the invocation at a home-school graduation ceremony. He wasn’t perceived as an attempted child rapist, and he was “repentant.”
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The allegations against Roy Moore are merely a symptom of a larger problem. It’s not a Southern problem or an Alabama problem. It’s a Christian fundamentalist problem. Billy Graham’s grandson, Boz Tchividjian, who leads the organization GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment), believes that the sexual abuse problem in Protestant communities is on par with that in the Catholic Church.
In an interview with Vice, Tchividjian said:
I didn’t really begin digging deep into this issue until I was a prosecutor. It was during that time that I encountered these cases closely. It’s one thing to read about these cases in a newspaper, it’s another to sit in a room with a girl who’s been sexually victimized by her father’s best friend or her father. Or to sit in a room with parents who just learned that their child has been sexually abused by another family member…
The few cases that I had that involved a faith community, I saw the faith community respond to it in a terrible way. More often than not, if the pastor or member of the church came to court to speak on behalf of somebody, it was on behalf of the perpetrator, and not the victim. [Highlighting by FM.]
And I remember thinking: There’s something not right about this. If you read the gospels, Jesus is always on the side of the marginalized, the wounded, those who’ve been cast out. But that wasn’t what I was seeing in the courtroom or churches.
That’s why some of Moore’s defenders are arguing, with straight faces, that he did nothing wrong. They really believe he was just being normal.
- Jesus, Mary, and Joseph: The Disgusting Religious Defense of Roy Moore. Daniel Schultz, at religiondispatches.org.
- Why Evangelicals Can’t Quit Roy Moore. Sarah Jones, at newrepublic.com.
- Ed Kilgore, at nymag.com. Kilgore, a child of Georgia now living in Carmel, CA, grew up in the Southern Baptist Church, and is one of the most informed and thoughtful students of the southern evangelical culture. He’s also an entertaining writer.
- The Curious Defenses of Roy Moore Betray the Evangelical Culture of Child Sexual Abuse. David Atkins, at washingtonmonthly.com.
- Why evangelicals might keep supporting Roy Moore after his sex abuse scandal. Tara Isabella Burton, vox.com.