Judge Roy Moore’s run for the Alabama senate seat provided the state’s Christian community a golden opportunity to live the tenets of the faith. The Christian conman Moore gave them a chance to show their children that those who use the Lord Jesus Christ to further political goals or as a rationale for misdeeds must be held to account.
They failed themselves and their children while righteous Alabamans banished the mall-cruising teen predator into history’s political swamp, there to croak piously about the forces of evil who conspired to put him in the muck and slime where he belongs.
Alabama’s Evangelical Christians supported a deeply troubled man because they prefer his far right agenda to that of any Liberal Democrat, no matter how virtuous and God-fearing. They tarnished the faith they blindly defend and compromised its core values.
I say this with considerable insight into the devoutly religious mind. I was born into a faith-based family. My pro-life parents fervently believed in the teachings of their Church. We prayed on bended knee at home on important dates in the religious calendar and attended church together on Sunday. I went to religious schools from elementary through high school, receiving instruction from Church-vetted teachers throughout.
One ideology was drummed in from Grade One on–‘ours was the one and only true religion.’
I believed everything I was told. As fervently as my parents. Many guilt-ridden nights were passed in terror-filled trepidation at the prospect of burning in hell for eternity because of a childhood transgression against one of the Ten Commandments. I prayed for forgiveness and vowed to do better but couldn’t quite suppress a sliver of thought that God was harsh and vindictive. Even to a child, eternity in hellfire seemed overkill for taking His name in vain or thinking impure thoughts.
Bigger cracks in my faith emerged in my teens. I began to question the virtue of the Christian teachers, both laymen and those who wore the cloth, as they revealed themselves through the familiarity of daily contact to be no better and sometimes worse than non-believers I knew outside the Church. Despite early indoctrination into the “true” Christian faith, the kids I went to school with often came up short in character comparisons to neighbourhood friends who went to public schools.
It became inescapably clear that my religion had no monopoly on righteousness.
Still, my parents provided a powerful example of Christianity in their daily lives. My Dad tithed to the Church every week even when we had to dig in the couch for change to come up with money for a loaf of bread for the family. He worked three jobs but still found time for charitable work. My mom kept her nightly home vigil with muted complaint when he went to meetings and volunteered at Church events that raised money for families even poorer than our own.
Mom and Dad did not look down upon those who worshipped in other faiths, be they Muslim or Buddhist or Jew. Their God would never denigrate a person of another belief, unless that person distorted and twisted the teachings into hot-air blasts of hate.
Mom and Dad did not look down on First Nations people, as so many other faith-based friends, school mates and relatives did at the time. They were colour-blind when it came to people of good character, believing integrity shined as brightly on a black, yellow, red or brown face as on white.
Mom and Dad held strong faith-based views on hot-button Christian issues like abortion and homosexuality. The former they viewed as akin to murder and the latter as an abomination and a sin. But they did not proselytize and I never heard them speak derogatorily about anyone regarding either issue.
Mom and Dad did not lie. They placed high value on the truth.
During a discussion late in his life, Dad refuted my assertion that five per cent of the population was gay. “How could that be?” he replied with great conviction. “I’ve never met a gay person in all my years of living.”
This kind of delusional thinking is impossible to overcome with logic, as we have seen so often in the era of Donald Trump, but I loved him no less in his wilful ignorance.
When it came to light after his death that one of the grand-kids was gay, Mom put family and right from wrong over blind faith. “It doesn’t matter what the Church says,” she told me. “God knows who’s good or bad. It doesn’t change my opinion even a little bit. He’s a good person and that’s all that counts.”
Dad showed his measure as a Christian man daily throughout his long life but the instance that stands out for me is the time he stood on principal and resigned from his cherished Christian men’s organization.
Like most fellowships devoted to good works it had rituals and ceremonies and lifelong friendships developed among its like-minded members. It is an international organization with community branches and officers who oversee various charitable projects. Dad had served on the executive of his council and volunteered countless hours over the years. His involvement wasn’t selfless. He enjoyed the camaraderie of the group and valued the friendships he made. To say it was a large part of his life would be understatement.
After decades of service, he came to believe that improprieties occurred in the appointment of a member of the executive of his council. Nothing sordid or financial. Instead the conflict centred on the passing over of deserving men for a position on the executive in favour of a man he deemed to be a lesser candidate with more Church clout. Although not personally involved in the outcome, he believed in his heart it wasn’t right.
My Dad left school in Grade 11 to work on the family farm. He was not a man of letters and he turned to his sons for assistance in drafting a painful letter of resignation from the organization he so loved.
It didn’t matter to my brother and I whether he was right or wrong in the executive dust-up. He took the hard way and followed his conscience when it would have been easier to go along, setting an example for his sons that would resonate long after he left this life.
Those Christians who follow false prophets in pursuit of political goals, like fanatics in all religions, debase the faith they hold so dear and do a disservice to true Christians like my Mom and Dad who knew the difference between right and wrong.