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JOHN BRUMMETT: A staunch society

They could be lies, his defenders among Alabama evangelical Christian conservatives say.

That's true, although about 30 people would have had to conspire fraudulently to sell the Washington Post an elaborate hoax based on sources that gave their names and specified relevant dates and events that could be--and subsequently were--confirmed.


The story was about Judge Roy Moore, the extreme-conservative Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama. He holds that his hot line to God supersedes the U.S. Constitution that he has sworn to uphold. He has twice been removed from the chief justiceship of the Alabama Supreme Court for ignoring federal court orders and saying his own moral law prevails.

The story was that the judge showed a creepy hankering 30 to 40 years ago for three or four young girls, including one only 14 and the subject of a court custody battle against whom he, as a 32-year-old assistant prosecutor, made physical advances.

Or this could be a story of redemption, the defenders say. Maybe he did it, but it happened a long time ago and we can't hold it against him now, they say. Christianity, they'll explain, is not a permanent attainment for anyone, but a challenging life's pursuit for all who sin and fall short.

But Moore denies any of it. You can't argue redemption in his behalf if he asserts he doesn't need it.

Most likely, the real explanation for conservative evangelical galvanizing for Moore is something much like the thing conservative evangelicals tend to deplore in liberal-minded people. I refer to a kind of moral relativism, which is excusing immoral behavior because of the circumstances in which it was committed.

Moore's staunch defenders most likely are willing to consider that maybe he did it or something like it, and that he may have been creepy in his past behavior and is now dishonest in his denial. But they realize that he is the only Republican U.S. Senate candidate on the special election ballot and that it's too late to throw him off and get another.

They reason, thus, that it is a greater godly objective to put him in the Senate as a seat-holder who would try to save fetuses and stop the spread of gay rights.

They calculate that the Democratic candidate, even if a better-seeming man, would be a pliant part of a caucus that would be determined to kill unborn babies and force God-fearing florists to arrange flowers for such biblical abominations as same-sex weddings.

They'll live with a single creepy, lying senator in exchange for saving thousands of babies and keeping marriage the way they insist the Lord commands.

Call them hypocrites, and they'll call you one right back.

Bill Clinton, they'll say, is alleged to have backed up against a wall and mashed on that woman seeking a better job from financial need. They'll say he is alleged to have exposed himself at the Little Rock hotel to that other woman, and point out that he financially settled that case.

They'll say they believe even harsher allegations of rape in the same way you choose to believe the worst against Moore.

They'll score it two-to-one--one for their right to believe what they believe and excuse what they excuse; one for your right to believe what you believe and excuse what you excuse; and the Lord's tiebreaker for them because he's on their side.

More liberal-minded people also will score it two-to-one--one for their right to believe what they believe and excuse what they excuse; one for the conservative side; and the tiebreaker for them based on their superior secular and spiritual enlightenment.

Such is the Grand Canyon square in the middle of our contemporary American politics. Trump made conservatives stauncher that way. Clinton made liberals stauncher that way.

Both sides choose to embrace allegations of the worst in the other guy and reject allegations of the worst in their guy.

We get a sex-abusive movie mogul who, when found out, responds saying he'll increase his contribution to Planned Parenthood. We get a Republican state auditor in Alabama who, in defense of Moore, says Joseph was an older man and Mary a young woman when Jesus was born.

Nicholas Kristof wrote Sunday in the New York Times that some see morality in public office as personal and others see it as policy. He wrote that, in fact, a healthy society and political culture would define morality as both, and insist on both.

One of the proudest sentences in my long column-writing history is the one saying Bill Clinton, whose politics I liked, ought to resign over the Lewinsky disgrace.

It makes it easier for me to say now that Alabama evangelicals ought to vote against Moore or stay home.

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John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was inducted into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 11/14/2017

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