Skip to main content


The Roy Moore moment

Some hard questions for conservative evangelicals

The Roy Moore moment

Roy Moore (Brynn Anderson/AP)

Our kids pay some attention to what we say. They pay much more attention to what we do. And many are absorbing lessons from what some evangelicals are both saying and doing regarding Senate candidate Roy Moore.

I can set the scene by going back to politics-and-sex conversations of the 1990s, bookended by a 1990 GQ article lionizing Sen. Ted Kennedy and by the 1999 failure of the Senate to remove President Bill Clinton from office.

Michael Kelly’s article in 1990 noted, “In Washington, it sometimes seems as if everyone knows someone who has slept with Kennedy, been invited to sleep with Kennedy.” Kelly vividly described the senior Massachusetts senator’s propositioning of a 16-year-old congressional page, his employment of an aide “whose real position was to procure women for Kennedy,” and his sexual activity in restaurants with a congressional lobbyist and a waitress. The Kennedy soap opera had hundreds of episodes.

Kelly, an accurate reporter who was officially the first journalist killed during the 2003 Iraq invasion, quoted Orrin Hatch, the GOP senator from Utah, saying of Kennedy, “He has the kind of personal wealth where he can do just about anything he wants to do, but I wouldn’t trade life with him for ten seconds. I’d rather be poor and in the condition that I’m in than trade with Ted.”

But Hatch also called Kennedy “one of the all-time-great senators.” No, no, no. When Massachusetts voters did not oust Kennedy following the fatal Chappaquiddick episode of 1969 or other abuses over the decades, the Senate Ethics Committee should have voted to expel him, as it did Bob Packwood in 1995. (The Oregon Republican, accused of sexual misconduct, resigned before the whole Senate voted.)

Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who is now the Senate Majority Leader, was chairman of the Ethics Committee then. Four years later, during the Senate debate on Bill Clinton, McConnell said, “We Republicans were aware during the Packwood debate that we would likely lose that Senate seat if Sen. Packwood was removed from office. So, we had a choice: Retain the Senate seat or retain our honor. We chose honor, and never looked back.”

McConnell concluded, “Do we want to retain President Clinton in office, or do we want to retain our honor, our principle, and our moral authority? For me, and for many members in my impeachment-fatigued party, I choose honor.” Sadly, the Senate did not choose honor regarding either Ted Kennedy or Bill Clinton. Neither was truly penalized for using the prestige and power of a government position for sexual advantage, even if the activity was consensual. When Clinton rode high in polls despite lying about his exploitation of Monica Lewinsky—she was a 22-year-old White House intern in 1995—he popularized oral sex among many young people.

The Roy Moore situation is difficult because, even as the number of accusers mounts, we have no photographic evidence of misconduct as with Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, or diary evidence as with Bob Packwood—and the Moore incidents happened many years ago. Some of the teenagers he dated or tried to date, while serving as an assistant district attorney, thought he was creepy. The claims of sexual assault are in a different category.

Some WORLD readers may carefully examine all the evidence and conclude that Moore is getting a raw deal. Some may want to vote for Moore and let the Senate Ethics Committee decide what to do with him. Others may believe Moore’s sexual probity in recent years outweighs what he may have done when young—and who among us has nothing to confess and repent of?

The reason our Moore quandary is hard: We do a disservice to God’s holiness when we minimize sin. We do a disservice to God’s mercy when we maximize it. We do a disservice to evangelism when we say or believe winning an election is more important than telling the truth about God’s glory and our sinfulness.

My concern is with those who have written to me and said, in essence, None of those considerations matter because what’s most important is to have 52 rather than 51 Republican votes in the Senate. If numerous Alabaman women are lying, they are defaming Moore; but if they are telling the truth and he refuses to acknowledge any impropriety, he is defaming them. If the latter is the case, Alabama Republicans face the choice McConnell spoke of: “Retain the Senate seat or retain our honor.”

If we act toward Roy Moore as feminists acted toward Bill Clinton, we need to think about the message we’re sending to our children: Some are concluding that conservative evangelicals care more about political power than anything else. (The irony is that seeking political power now is the quickest way to lose it in an upcoming backlash election.)

We are at a cultural turning point in America. Right now, as millions realize that an anything-goes posture on sexuality leads to misery, not joy, our culture could start inching back to a Biblical understanding of male-female relations, in which men protect women. Or, we might move toward a radical feminist understanding in which no man can be trusted. What if we win an election but lose a generation?

And here’s what I most want us to keep in mind: More important than any particular election, more important even than our cultural direction, is the gospel. The Good News is not a favorable political poll but the Bible’s announcement that God saves sinners. Our goal should be to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, not to abandon central Biblical principles regarding women’s worth, or to glorify a politician and win a Senate seat.

When we and our candidates are under pressure, we should convey to our children this message: Nothing in my hand I bring; / Simply to Thy cross I cling; / Naked, come to Thee for dress; / Helpless, look to Thee for grace; / Foul, I to the fountain fly; / Wash me, Savior, or I die.

20minutos Blog

Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky (20minutos Blog)

And hard questions for secular liberals

The left has its own problems now—not only Al Franken’s groping of a sleeping woman, but the teaching many liberal culture gurus have offered over the years.

Many movies have glamorized much older men hitting on much younger women. In 1979, the same year 32-year-old Roy Moore may have accosted teenagers, Woody Allen’s Manhattan centered on the romantic and sexual relationship of a 42-year-old character played by Allen and a 17-year-old character played by Mariel Hemingway (who was 17).

Manhattan received “universal acclaim” from movie reviewers, according to the Metacritic website. None of the reviews I saw criticized the basic premise. Roger Ebert wrote, “It wouldn’t do, you see, for the love scenes between Woody and Mariel to feel awkward or to hint at cradle-snatching or an unhealthy interest on Woody’s part in innocent young girls. But they don’t feel that way: Hemingway’s character has a certain grave intelligence.”

Grave intelligence: Hemingway makes comments such as, “I like it when you get an uncontrollable urge.” The Gershwin music in the background as the 42-year-old and the 17-year-old kiss in a Central Park carriage makes the scene seem romantic, not yucky. When Allen’s character temporarily decides to dump Hemingway’s and says, “This was supposed to be a temporary fling,” she responds, “We have great sex”—and he asks, “Why should I feel guilty about this?” (Not the sex, but the breakup.)

Woody Allen lost some supporters 25 years ago when he was in “a relationship” with actress Mia Farrow and entered into “a relationship” with (and later married) Farrow’s adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn. Manhattan’s reputation, though, survives: It is now No. 46 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest American comedies—comedies, not tragedies.

Nearly two decades after Manhattan, feminist Gloria Steinem offered a fulsome defense of Bill Clinton’s use of Monica Lewinsky. Steinem acknowledged in a New York Times column on March 22, 1998, that “President Clinton may be a candidate for sex addiction therapy. But feminists will still have been right to resist pressure by the right wing and the media to call for his resignation or impeachment.”

Steinem said the Monica Lewinsky affair really did not count, despite Lewinsky’s age and the power differential, because she welcomed the attention. Regarding Clinton’s attack on Kathleen Willey, Steinem said he “made a gross, dumb and reckless pass at a supporter during a low point in her life. She pushed him away, she said, and it never happened again. In other words, President Clinton took ‘no’ for an answer.”

Steinem concluded by saying it didn’t even matter that Clinton lied under oath, because “we have a responsibility to make it O.K. for politicians to tell the truth—providing they are respectful of ‘no means no; yes means yes’—and still be able to enter high office, including the Presidency. Until then, we will disqualify energy and talent the country needs.”

As the Moore debate escalated in mid-November, liberal social critic Caitlin Flanagan wrote in The Atlantic, “The Democratic Party needs to make its own reckoning of the way it protected Bill Clinton. The party needs to come to terms with the fact that it was so enraptured by their brilliant, Big Dog president and his stunning string of progressive accomplishments that it abandoned some of its central principles.” —M.O.

Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD and dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has also been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books, including Reforming Journalism. Marvin resides with his wife, Susan, in Austin, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


You must be a WORLD Member and logged in to the website to comment.
  • DC
    Posted: Thu, 11/23/2017 08:54 am

    Having been a long time reader of World (I started with Presbyterian Journal), I greatly appreciate your perspective on the news, domestic and international. I am occasionally concerned, however, that you take a naive view of the news. What initially seemed obvious in the Judge Moore matter was that this was a late hit job to ruin Republican chances for continuing a solid majoritiy in the Senate. As news comes to light, it seems more and more that the accusers are losing any semblance of credibility while the moral probity of Judge Moore is becoming increasingly unassailable. You seem to be quick to accept accusations against those of the right in order to appear "fair-minded" while overlooking obvious attempts by the left to take advantage of this inclination by we Christians.

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Thu, 11/23/2017 12:07 pm

    That this is a hit job is obvious only to those who are prejudiced to believe it.  Would you have posted the same thing if Judge Moore were a liberal and his accusers were conservative, all other things being equal?

    Christ-followers follow the facts, not their prejudices.  There is not enough factual evidence to know who is lying.  Everything that I have read regarding this matter has only raised more questions in my mind.  A lot of it is hearsay.  In the end, it will boil down to Alabamans voting according to their consciences in this matter.

    Yet another year of Christians tearing Christians apart because of their political biases.  I am disgusted.

  • DrJay's picture
    Posted: Fri, 11/24/2017 12:07 pm

    I am posting assuming this essay is a revision of the one Marvin Olasky posted on 11/13/17, "Evangelicals and Roy Moore." There are many thoughtful comments posted there, and I am piggybacking on that discussion.

    So what is an Evangelical Alabamian (not Alabaman, Marvin) like myself to do? A little background for those not living in Alabama: We had a special election for Senate because Senator Jeff Sessions was appointed US Attorney General by Trump. Luther Strange, Alabama Attorney General, was appointed to fill Sessions's seat by Gov. Robert Bentley. At that time, however, Bentley (who made appeals to evangelicals in his campaigning), was accused of having an affair with a staffer, and Strange declined to investigate as he should have, probably in order to secure the appointment. After Strange was seated in Washington, Bentley (whose wife had divorced him once the affair became public) resigned once the Legislature concluded he violated ethics laws in regards to his affair with the staffer.

    Alabama had a special election to fill the seat in August. I voted for US Rep Mo Brooks. I was not in favor of Strange because of his refusal to investigate Bentley when Bentley's hanky-panky became public. As an evangelical I have not supported Moore if there is a better choice because I find him an arrogant and pompous grandstander with a defiant attitude that will not win the lost over to the Kingdom of God (as in contrast to a Mike Pence type personality). But that attitude is appealing to "hard-scrabble" Alabamians (as Marvin stated in the earlier essay), evangelical or not. See a NY Times essay (of all places) that accurately describes why Christian conservative voters here have frustrations with the "swamp" --

    As I feared, Brooks did not have enough name recognition out of his particular district, and we had a runoff in September with the top two candidates, Moore and Strange (neither of which garnered more than 40%).

    Ironically, Moore's election was secured by MItch McConnell's re-elect-standing-Republican-Senators PAC who ran vicious attack ads against Moore in the runoff campaign. Alabama Republican leaders warned national Republicans to not get involved because McConnell is considered part of the "swamp" by Alabamians. Sure enough, the ads backfired. Before the ads I was considering voting for Strange, which would require me to forget about his lack of action on Bently. The ads pushed me me reluctantly into voting for Moore, as it did many others.

    Now what to do? As a comment posted on the previous essay stated, usually elections are a choice of the lesser of two evils. So true. I didn't support Trump in the primaries, but I voted for him over Hillary with no qualms.

    Likewise, my evangelical friends, family, and I have concluded Moore is the lesser of the two evils considering what facts we know up to this point. There is not time for Moore to have due process. There is not time to discern who is lying -- Moore or the accusers. Another Republican cannot be substituted in the election. A write-in will not be successful. If Dem Doug Jones is elected, he will be a pawn of Chuck Schumer even if he wanted to be conservative (he is campaigning as the reasonable, middle-of-the-road candidate). The election of Jones is more likely to accelerate the cultural and political decline of our country than the election of Moore.

    If Moore is elected, I pray that the truth will eventually come forth. If he has been found guilty of lying to us, the Senate needs to unseat him at that point, and then Alabama can have another special election, hopefully with better candidates. There are a few in Alabama I would support whole-heartedly, but who wants to submit to the character assassination that accompanies our elections these days. Meanwhile, we will try to discern the lesser of two evils in a broken country in a broken world that desparately needs the gospel.

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Fri, 11/24/2017 06:42 pm

    DrJay, thank you for your insightful post from an Alabamian perspective.  I do not envy your position.

    Let us hypothetically say that Judge Moore wins the election, he is found actually to have done that of which he is accused, and there is a drive to boot him from the Senate.  What would be your response to those who would inevitably protest that they elected him to office, and he should stay?

  • SG
    Posted: Fri, 11/24/2017 02:59 pm

    Thank you, Dr. Jay, for your clarification of what has transpired in Alabama.  It is a sad reality that our leaders, like us, are sinners.  It is also a sad reality that some abuse their power in relationships and others abuse the power of of un-disprovable accusations.  I pray the Lord's will be done in Alabama 's election.

  • TH
    Posted: Fri, 11/24/2017 06:12 pm

    Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? My goodness, even Christians are crying foul before the man has been found guilty of alleged crimes.  Anyone can allege anything about anyone, but that doesn’t mean the accused is guilty.  I think we had better stop throwing stones until we are authorized to do so.  And then we’d better heed the words of Jesus. Let’s get off the man’s case, okay? 

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Fri, 11/24/2017 07:03 pm

    Judging from the posts on this site, Christians are throwing stones in both directions in roughly equal proportions.  It is just as wrong to assume dishonesty on the accusers' part, too, until we have better evidence that they are lying.

  • DrJay's picture
    Posted: Fri, 11/24/2017 11:38 pm


    Should Moore be elected, and then unequivocally found guilty of the accusations, I would hope at that point that he would have the decency to resign. If he is defiant and the Senate moves to oust him, there will be a small core group that will support Moore regardless and justify their stance by regarding the proceedings as another attack on Christians by the Establishment. Most, though, would find Moore unfit for the office. For instance, Gov. Bentley was elected to a second term by the largest margin of any Republican in state history, but quickly became persona non grata once his infidelities were brought to light.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Tue, 11/28/2017 10:28 am

    "The reason our Moore quandary is hard: We do a disservice to God’s holiness when we minimize sin. We do a disservice to God’s mercy when we maximize it. We do a disservice to evangelism when we say or believe winning an election is more important than telling the truth about God’s glory and our sinfulness."

     We actually do a disservice to evangelism when we foolishly put forward a strict standard, which is not found in the Bible, and allow the godless to torpedo godly men and bring to power the ungodly! Would you put up David as the standard? Oops, he murdered a man after he committed adultery with his wife. Certainly, God was not happy with David and his family was cursed, he temporarily lost the throne to his rebellious son, and he was not allowed to build the Temple which David had his heart set on. But God looked deeper at the heart and did not remove him, even with his sin.  Saul, on the other hand was eventually removed because he took the role of a priest because he did not have faith in God.  So what is the standard we should use to determine who we should vote for? We should realize there are principles we can gather from the time when God had the Israelites rule by theocracy, but there are some noticeable differences compared to today. 

    Looking at the New Testament, God gave instructions about how to pray for the rulers. 

    I Tim. 2:1-3 says,

    "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, ..."

    In the same way as we pray for our leaders so we should vote for our leaders: we seek out the candidate who will most advance the faith allowing us to lead a quiet and peaceable life and protect us from the evildoer ( Rom. 13:1-4).  We vote for the most electable candidate who will best bring about godly rule in our country. In other words, we should vote with wisdom just like we should live with wisdom. 

    Eph. 5:15,16

    "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil."  

    Now putting up some social puritanical standard which is focused on sexual sin only gives the opposition ammunition to try to destroy the better candidate - two weeks before the election.  The left will manufacture accusations and World Magazine and other sanctimonious individuals will dutifully shoot the candidate with no thought about how evil the other candidate actually is.  In essence, they are promoting abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism and all the other ungodly issues that the Democrat candidate would likely support!  So you become a fool for Christ but not in the way God intended (1 Cor. 3:18; 4:10)!

    The Bible clearly warns us that the ungodly seek to destroy the godly by lies and slander (Ps.31:18; Ps. 35:21).  Remember Jezebel? She found false witnesses to accuse Naboth of blasphemy against God and the King and had him killed so Ahab could get his vineyard (1 Kings 21:1-16). 

    I Tim. 5:19 says, "Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses."  The principle here is that godly elders in the church will likely have someone level accusations against them so they were careful about bringing forward accusations without much proof - a minimum being 2 or 3 witnesses.  If this concern was for elders in the church, how much more concern should we have for godly men in elections!   Looking back at Calvin, even he had slander against him:

    "For although, by the blessing of God, my most ardent desire has been to advance his kingdom, and promote the public good - although I feel perfectly conscious, and take God and his angels to witness, that ever since I began to discharge the office of teacher in the church,my only object has been to do good to the church, by maintaining the pure doctrine of godliness, yet I believe there never was a man more assailed, stung, and torn by calumny- [as well by the declared enemies of the Truth of God, as by many worthless persons who have crept into his church- as well by monks who have brought forth their frocks from their cloisters to spread infection wherever they come, as by other miscreants not better than they.]. After this letter to the reader was in the press, I had undoubted information that, at Augsburg, where the Imperial Diet was held, a rumor of my defection to the papacy was circulated, and entertained in the courts of the princes more readily than might have been expected. This, forsooth, is the return made me by those who certainly are not aware of numerous proofs of my constancy- proofs which, while they rebut the foul charge, ought to have defended me against it, with all humane and impartial judges. But the devil, with all his crew, is mistaken if he imagines that, by assailing me with vile falsehoods, he can either cool my zeal or diminish my exertions." Epistle to the Reader (Calvin 1559).

    Even Edwards was ran out of his church over slanderous charges where he went and worked on a mission dedicated to reaching Indians for a number of years.

    The point is that you would expect a godly man to have accusations raised up against him given the Biblical warning and the past experience of godly men. So the obvious question is "Why would you assume the accusations against Judge Roy Moore are true, given the many scriptural warnings of slander and the examples of godly men enduring slander?" 

    The accusations go back 40 years with Roy Moore and out of 9 of them only 3 are serious with 6 being insignificant. Two of the serious charges look fabricated where the last is based on a druggy with financial troubles.

    An Army buddy even tells a story of a time when Roy Moore could have had his pick of prostitutes who they found but Roy Moore behaved as a Christian where he did not engage in any immoral behavior.


  •  Paul B. Taylor's picture
    Paul B. Taylor
    Posted: Wed, 11/29/2017 04:12 am

    I think that the movement against men where we are being accused of sexual crimes is an attempt to weaken the moral resolve of the American soul. Anyone who knows anything about socialism knows that this is the first step towards making a nation that abandons religion so that its citizens start to have faith in the care of the state.  We become weak without a strong moral compass and then look to the state to take care of us.  It is as if evil has so taken the country that we look to the state as our only protector.  The state is then viewed as the ultimate good.

  •  colorpet's picture
    Posted: Wed, 11/29/2017 11:29 pm

    Well, you wouldn't take a hint Olasky. I had warned you in another blog post at the end of one of your Moore articles to leave this one alone. Your constant diatribe of fear we are going to somehow devalue "women's worth" in support of Moore is tiresome.

    And I don't even like Moore. I was more of a Mo Brooks man. But your drum beat in a parade of articles amounts to an oversensitive reaction to allegation and conjecture and not confirmation. How many lead articles on Moore with you are saying the same thing is it now Marvin? I lose count.

    I am a contributor to WorldMovers. The end of the year check is written. I hesitate now ... to mail.

    Posted: Thu, 11/30/2017 04:17 pm

    It may be true that some evangelicals are giving Roy Moore a pass. Some may be doing so even if they think the allegations might be true, because "we have to keep 52 seats in the Senate," and some because "the other guy is worse." But not all are doing so for those less than noble reasons.

    Some are sticking with Moore because they assume, with good reason, that the allegations are a trumped up smear campaign. They assume the allegations are trumped up because that's what the Left does. The Left knows they don't have to prove allegations to destroy a candidate. Just an accusation is all it takes. A cloud is created over the candidate that he or she can't escape, and all but the most loyal supporters back away.

    Others are staying behind Moore because they know him to be a man of character who is not like the "creepy" person portrayed in the allegations. They weigh what they know personally against allegations from questionable sources and reject the allegations out of hand. We can disagree with their conclusion, but their conclusion is not unreasonable.

    So it's appropriate to lament evangelicals who don't seem to care whether the allegations are true or not, and seem more concerned about retaining the seat than retaining honor. But let's not lump all those who still support Roy Moore in the same boat with them.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Mon, 12/11/2017 10:19 am

    Marvin, you have not answered my questions. What should be the standard you use to determine if your candidate is good enough? Is it a social standard of the culture we live? Is it a biblical standard? If it is a biblical standard, will you allow a more evil candidate be elected because your candidate does not meet this high standard? Aren't you supporting evil if your vote allows the more evil candidate to win?  Again, where in the Bible do you get this standard? How does scripture support this notion of yours? Exactly what is the standard?  If you cannot provide a concrete standard then this discussion is pointless. It seems to me you are supporting a scorched earth policy where you say if I don't get my high moral candidate elected then the hell with the country for I will vote for the worst candidate or not at all. Either action has the same effect for the worst candidate will be elected if the Christian vote follows this instruction! I don't find this instruction wise and I don't see where you get it from scripture! Would you write an article to address these questions? Another interesting question is the following: "Should we vote for an ineffective Christian leader who meets the standard or a less moral candidate who will do more for the Christian cause?"