From the Archives: Politicians Make Dangerous Theologians by Katey Zeh

This was originally posted November 21, 2017

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Accounts and allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse perpetrated by mostly straight white men in power have flooded the U.S. news cycle for months. Each new revelation confirms that sexual violence is an epidemic fueled by systems of unchecked power and authority, including patriarchy, white supremacy, and Christian supremacy.

After The Washington Post published the story of Leigh Corfman who recounted the sexual abuse she suffered as a teenager at the hands of Roy Moore, Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler came to his defense and argued that this would have no political impact since Moore “never had sexual intercourse with any of these girls.”

We all ought know by now that such allegations of sexual abuse, even when the perpetrator admits to them, bear little weight on the electability of white male politicians (see: November 8, 2016). Even so, I was stunned by a poll that revealed that 29% of Alabama voters answered that they are now more likely to vote for Roy Moore since allegations were made against him.  

Roy Moore has centered his political career on advocating for far-right policies applauded by evangelical Christians: he’s anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-Muslim. In 2001 Moore took it upon himself to install a monument with the Ten Commandments inside the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court. Eventually Moore, who absurdly refused to remove the monument even after being ordered to do so by his fellow justices, was voted out of the Alabama Supreme Court.

However, in 2013, Moore was re-elected to the Supreme Court. After taking his oath of office he said, “We’ve got to remember that most of what we do in court comes from some scripture or is backed by scripture.” Moore was suspended from office a second time after refusing to comply with federal law regarding same-sex marriage.

Clearly Moore believes that his conservative “Christian” beliefs exempt him from following the law. He believes his actions, no matter how harmful they are to others, are justified since he believes he is following “God’s law.”  He’s not alone.

With regard to the allegations of Moore sexually abusing teenage girls, Zeigler went so far as to distort the Christian nativity story to excuse, and even to justify them:

Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.

Yes, you read that correctly. “There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here.” Rather than outright denying the allegations against Moore, Zeigler used his public platform to defend child molestation as something sanctioned by our biblical stories.

Is there anything more despicable than the perversion and distortion of sacred texts to justify the abusive behavior of a sexual predator?

Are we then to turn to the book of Genesis for guidance for our relationships? Do we revisit to the story of Sarai and Abram and permit a husband to sell his wife into prostitution for his own personal wealth and gain? Do we point to the story of Hagar to justify forced marriage, sexual slavery, and compulsory surrogacy?

We cannot allow this public discourse to continue. Religious scholars, advocates, and leaders must call out–strongly, consistently, and publicly–the dangers of such coercive, manipulative biblical rhetoric that silences victims and shelters perpetrators under the guise of Christian values. Not only do they pose a constant threat to the women and girls around them, but they are also a danger to our entire political process and to our collective future.

BIO: Rev. Katey Zeh is an ordained Baptist minister and the Chief Executive Officer of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. She is a member of the Clergy Advocacy Board of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Center for American Progress named her one of their top justice-seeking faith leaders to watch. Rev. Katey is the co-host of the Kindreds podcast and the author of two books, A Complicated Choice: Making Space for Grief and Healing in the Pro-Choice Movement and Women Rise Up: Sacred Stories of Resistance for Today’s Revolution. Find her on TwitterInstagram, and TikTok.



Categories: abuse, Abuse of Power, authority, Christianity, Evangelicalism, General, Politics

Tags: , , , , , , ,

7 replies

  1. Forgive me, but so called christian values revolt me and you have demonstrate d why so succinctly…. I grew up a christian, held old fashioned values (now I see the values as learning how to be human) like caring for others, being kind, forgiving….all turned on me… pushing me to the edge. Woman’s spirituality and my powerful relationship with Nature showed me that I can continue to be who I am but I am no longer a christian in any sense of the word. Misogyny and the Supreme court seem to have tied women up in knots – again my revulsion knows no bounds… the most depressing part of reading this essay is that it is worse today. These men HATE women.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So now we’re at three sexual predators on the present or recent Extreme Court? I’m trying to keep count, so help me out please if you have anything to add.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, guess what–theologians make lousy politicians, too. It’s a dangerous combination, especially when embodied by white men. And Clarence Thomas, who was confirmed in spite of Anita Hill’s testimony, by a panel of white senators. And now these awful, nasty men are all over the U.S. Maybe all over the world. The standard-brand god is not and has never been a friend of women, and now that he’s trying to run more state governments…..it’s just not good for us. Thanks for this post and for reminding us that we need to be brave and persistent. Bright blessings to you and your work!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Without in any way justifying sexual predictors, Sarai is not a good proof text. I believe she was an ancient earth Priestess whose role was to join with the Earth God to produce fertility in the land in the upcoming year (heiros gamos). (Have you read Savina Teubal?) I will write more about this if anyone asks. .

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    • Yes, please. Would you like to write a blogpost about Sarai? On your recommendation I have read both of Savina’s books and they are enlightening and mind expanding in so many ways. We would welcome a book review or a blogpost or both!

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      • I would be thrilled to write for FAR. It is the only blog that I read on a regular basis. My interest is in re-framing women in the Hebrew Bible (I have a memory of promising you my interpretation of one of them quite a while back, but I don’t remember who). My email is bt708 at ncf dot ca (in the usual form for an email). Let’s discuss.

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