Doug Jones victory in the Alabama Senate election last Tuesday is certainly something to celebrate. Although many claimed God supported Roy Moore for Senate, his defeat says otherwise.
However, it must be noted that this narrow victory ended with 48% of the vote in Roy Moore’s favor. In addition, 80% of white evangelicals cast their votes for Moore. This begs the question, what should our votes be based on, particularly if we are claiming the Christian faith as the foundation of our values? While we should all value the separation of church and state, and it is true that government needs to be protected from religion, sometimes religion also needs protecting from government.
Not unlike the 2016 Presidential race, white evangelicals stood firm in their party affiliation choosing to vote for a sexual predator rather than elect a candidate that has a so-called “liberal agenda.” Many argued that Moore was the “godly” candidate standing against abortion, gay marriage, and to protect gun rights. It is curious to me that gun rights is often lumped in with the evangelical list of godly traits, but for some reason guns and bibles continue to be correlated by the Christian Right.
Claiming the pro-life stance as the strongest reason to support Moore, I have to ask, what does it mean to be pro-life? Is protecting the lives of women and girls not part of the mission? Does the death penalty support a pro-life view? What about immigrants, the LGBTQ community, Muslims, etc.? When Jesus discussed inclusion, did he mean that selectively?
In agreement with Joan Chittister, it seems that we need a much broader definition on life. While we all have particular issues we stand firm on, does abortion outweigh pedophilia? If it was men rather than women who came out to share stories of sexual abuse by Moore, would the response of voters have been different?
What we learned from the Alabama Senate race is that sexism, homophobia, racism, and bigotry continue to be alive and well in the state and in the nation overall. Not that this is a surprise. We all know it. But, what we must give more attention to is the fact that religion is being used in politics to condone such hatred. And if pedophilia doesn’t disqualify someone from running for government office, what will?
If we can demand Senator Al Franken resign for accusations of sexual misconduct, shouldn’t excluding an accused pedophile from a political race be an easy decision? Don’t get me wrong, I do not condone Franken’s behavior. However, when we compare the two, do not the allegations of pedophilia seem a bit more serious? Roy Moore should be sitting in a court room facing charges. And yet, 48% of voters and 80% of evangelicals in Alabama saw him fit to represent their interests in the Senate.
As we need a broader definition of life, we also need a much more informed understanding of Christianity. The tradition was founded based on Jesus’ mission to challenge the government’s manipulation of religion to support state sanctioned oppression. And that is exactly what is happening in the current political arena.
Perhaps it is time that Moore (and Trump) voters come to realize that they are participating in exactly what their tradition seeks to eliminate.
Gina Messina, Ph.D. is an American feminist scholar, Catholic theologian, and activist, and is Co-founder of FeminismandReligion.com. She writes for The Huffington Post, and is author or editor of 5 books including Women Religion Revolution and Jesus in the White House. Messina is a widely sought after speaker and has presented across the US at universities, organizations, conferences and on national platforms including appearances on MSNBC, Tavis Smiley, NPR and the TEDx stage. She has also spoken at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations to discuss matters impacting the lives women around the world. Messina is active in movements to end violence against women and explores opportunities for spiritual healing. Connect with her on Twitter @GMessinaPhD, Facebook, and her website ginamessina.com.