That’s what John Ellis asks at PJ Media. He asks because Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, tweeted this week that Roy Moore’s critics are “guilty of doing much worse than what he has been accused of supposedly doing.” Ellis thinks that’s terrible.
The hypocrisy of Washington has no bounds. So many denouncing Roy Moore when they are guilty of doing much worse than what he has been accused of supposedly doing. Shame on those hypocrites.
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) November 17, 2017
I’m not sure I would have put things in Franklin Graham’s terms. I don’t know that it’s helpful to compare the seriousness of serious sins.
But here’s what’s worse than what Roy Moore is accused of.
Shifting the whole moral condition of society so that we walk around in a moral cesspool 24/7, and only get urgent about it for very specific political purposes.
Consider that we now mistake ritually denouncing Roy Moore for behaving morally. That in itself is an entire sermon’s worth of moral indictment.
But we also have no plans to end the practice of coexisting with all the myriad moral compromises and slippery slopes infecting our society today – many of them administered as government programs and mandates. Doing that would be an effort so huge no one can even see how to start.
Paralyzed in the morass, we imagine that pointing fingers at Roy Moore is a 12-foot-high, flashing-neon litmus test of moral righteousness – and some among us imagine that it makes a difference.
I certainly don’t think anyone should sexually abuse a 14-year-old girl. But vigilance about that includes a lot of things other than the allegations against Roy Moore. (A fundamental condition to start with would be more 14-year-olds having the protection of loving, involved fathers.)
If you really think, for example, that it’s bigoted to object when 14-year-old girls are targeted with graphic pictures in a teen magazine of how anal sex works, and are given tips for experimenting with it, then you forfeit any presumption of moral seriousness about the protection of 14-year-old girls.
If you think a pregnant 14-year-old should have an abortion without her parents’ knowledge or involvement, as a “solution” to whatever her situation may be, you are not morally credible on the matter of protecting 14-year-olds.
If you are just fine with adults in the public schools “teaching” children to question their “gender identity,” and to obsess over their sexual urges and what their orientation may be, and indeed to feel that it is especially enlightened and interesting to choose being “non-traditional” and make a political cause of it, you have zero standing to posture sanctimoniously about what any other adult may do to invade the sexual space of a 14-year-old.
But all those things are part of the background: the nature of the cesspool that we have no prospect of cleaning out.
The proximate issue with John Ellis’ question is the finger-wagging, litmus-test framing of it. We have to open our eyes and see that the finger wagging and the litmus testing coexist quite comfortably, and have for decades, with the cesspool. They aren’t doing us any good.
Nothing that is done or not done about Moore will change the course of America’s long descent into that cesspool.
Rather, the voters who still support Roy Moore are 100% right from this perspective: they see the very particular freezing and polarizing of his case for the single-minded political campaign it is.
If the shrieking about Moore changed anything in our culture, that might be one thing. But such shrieking never has changed the culture, it won’t in this case, and it isn’t going to start.
The reason for that isn’t even the nature of politics. It’s the nature of sin, repentance, and redemption.
Pointing fingers at individuals over accusations about sin, and howling about them, doesn’t make anyone or anything better.
If it did, we would today be the cleanest-hearted, best-living, most righteous specimens of humankind who ever walked the planet.
But here’s what’s going to happen if the chorus raised against Moore achieves the political goal it seeks; i.e., his ouster from the Senate race.
Nothing. Nothing will be made better. In any way. First, we will never have any public accounting for what Moore may or may not have done with the 14-year-old — the accusation that would be prosecutable under Alabama law.
And none of his current political-class critics will care. They will drop the matter entirely, because they don’t care about the woman who was 14 in 1979. The outrage about Moore’s “victims” will simply evaporate overnight, as long as he steps aside.
The various people on the left who have suddenly found religion about abusers among the Democrats – mainly Bill Clinton – will fall silent again. Their new-found compunction is awfully convenient. There’s no reason to think it will last. Even as they discover remorse about having ignored Clinton’s accusers for years, they are busy ignoring the abuse and harassment others have more recently been not just accused of, but arrested for. Everything will go back to normal, if Roy Moore can just be crowded out of the Senate race.
The old-guard right has its own problems with the morality of this situation. They relate directly to the false idea that we are accomplishing something morally urgent by demanding that the primary vote for Moore be set aside over unlitigated charges.
This is no way to live. Part of that equation is that it’s no way to protect 14-year-old girls. In fact, our society would be far better set up for their protection if we went back to some of the cesspool conditions I highlighted above, and adjusted those.
But we’re not going to. Ousting Moore isn’t a stepping stone to that, or to anything else that would actually do 14-year-old girls any good.
The effect, rather, is to set aside a primary vote and thwart the will of Alabama voters. That’s it. No will exists anywhere, including among the old-guard right, to pursue Moore’s case, or any related kind of case, in such a way as to better protect 14-year-olds girls from sexual abuse.
Since sexually abusing 14-year-old girls is already a crime in every state – as are sex crimes of other kinds, which also figure in the mix of this broader societal mess – the indicated remedy in law would be to make an example of a whole lot of people, with a slate of vigorous prosecutions. Show all politicians and senior officials that they can’t get away with having bad histories, or doing bad things while in office.
But that’s not going to happen. Roy Moore’s critics will be satisfied if he steps down. If he doesn’t, and he loses to the Democrat, Doug Jones, that will also make an end to the outrage over 14-year-old girls. There is no appetite in the political class – the class that makes the decisions about prosecutions and priorities – for a moral crusade against their fellows who are accused of sexual abuse.
If it’s needed, the form of accusation can be brushed off and used again for politics’ sake. That’s especially true if it is inconclusive this time as to concrete legal outcome, and leads only to a political force majeure effect.
But the appetite that exists at the moment is the very specific one to override the primary vote in Alabama.
That is simply not impressive as a moral motive. In the context of all the apparently tolerable social ills that depend on our current structure of government and politics, demanding political consequences for Moore – and only Moore – over still-unproven allegations looks an awful lot like straining at a gnat while swallowing camels right and left.
I think Franklin Graham was referring to the continuing tolerance for those social ills, and the fatal delusion that striking attitudes about Roy Moore is remedial evidence of virtue and character. It is so easy to wield that delusion as a hook in our jaws.
Jesus himself was actually without sin, and yet ended up accused, defending himself in the dock before earthly authorities, and being condemned largely because the authorities found it convenient. Being without sin was no defense – and the limitations of our human vision have not improved since then.
Not one of us can say with certainty that he or she would have been on the right side of that judicial drama, if we had been there. The charges against Jesus were serious. How one felt about the underlying issues was as pressing a matter for society’s support pillars, and for moral seriousness and virtue-signaling, as anything a man among us stands accused of in November 2017.
We are endlessly able to make a socially-binding virtue of accusation. Our history with remedying evil conditions – or caring about outcomes beyond their political convenience – is, by comparison, pathetic.
Like many commentators, I’m glad I don’t face voting in Alabama on 12 December. Unlike so many folks out there, I don’t know what Roy Moore did 40 years ago. I don’t expect to before the 12th. Nor do I have great certainty about what he would do, regarding issues of law and policy, if elected to the Senate.
I am certain of this, however: getting him ousted from the race through the pressure of unproven allegations and political criticism will do nothing to make even one 14-year-old girl safer. We can all stop pretending it’s about that.