Political Character, Church Character, and Taking Real Responsibility

By Tom Gilson Published on November 16, 2017

Roy Moore had a bad reputation. Alex Chediak has written here on The Stream of credible reports saying that when he was in his 30s, he was known for hanging out in the mall and flirting with high school girls. It’s been “common knowledge” around those parts for 30 years, and “not a big secret,” according to an Alabama newspaper.

The allegations have substance. Now let’s add two known facts to them:

  1. Around that time, Moore made his first run for public office, a judicial bench that he lost in 1982 but was installed in ten years later.
  2. Moore was a churchgoer at the time.

I’ve been asking myself why it’s been so hard lately to find a politician Christians can really get behind: a man or woman whose policies and character are both solid. And I wonder whether these allegations and facts, put together, tell a lot of the story. Let’s suppose for argument’s sake the allegations are true. Did anyone in Roy Moore’s church know of his reputation? Did they do anything about it?

I don’t know, but I doubt it.

The Bible and Church Discipline

Galatians 6:1 teaches that if someone is caught in sin, those who “are spiritual” should restore that person, though always looking to themselves, lest they too be tempted.

In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus instructs us to confront sin progressively, starting in private, but potentially escalating, if there’s no repentance, to a church-wide statement that the person has chosen not to live as a member of the body of Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 we see Paul specifically instructing the church to do that very thing. (The passage is somewhat hard to interpret, but that’s probably the best way to understand it.)

This is church discipline. It’s simply a way of saying, “To be a member of this local body of Christ, one must not persist in living contrary to the way of Christ.”

Compromise in the Church

I doubt it partly because I’ve seen too much compromise in Christian churches. The Bible gives the Church authority to call Her people to a high standard. I’ve seen few churches exercise that authority.

I’ve seen a church look the other way when its two youth leaders, a single man and a divorced woman, openly shacking up together. I’ve seen an otherwise doctrinally solid leadership team stand in silence when a church member supported homosexuality from the pulpit.

So just by the odds, it’s unlikely Roy Moore’s church did anything at the time. But it’s not just that.

Let’s suppose they’d done the right thing and called him on it (based on the reports of his reputation). If Moore was innocent, He could have publicly repudiated the charges based on the facts. As a public figure, a public statement would have been appropriate. We know of no such statement.

Or suppose his church had initiated discipline and he wasn’t innocent. He could have repented and renounced his shameful actions. We know of no such repentance.

Or suppose the church had done its job with discipline, and he were guilty but refused to repent. In that case the church’s next prescribed step would have been to say something like this: “You can keep doing what you’re doing, but don’t consider yourself associated with us if you do. We’ll continue to love you. You’re welcome back in our membership any time you want to give it up and return. But until then, your behaviors cannot have a home here.”

A Lesson For All Churches

Of course all this is based on the supposition that the allegations are true. But there’s a lesson here regardless: If we Christians want men and women of well-formed character to elect to political office, we’d better start making character formation a real priority in our own midst.

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There are wrong ways to do this — to appear self-righteous and judgmental, or to condemn a person prematurely. But there are right ways to do it, too.

It won’t come just by preaching. Not even by good preaching. Leaders have to set the example in their own lives. If the Church won’t form good character, then who will?

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  • Ken Abbott

    There are some American churches that try diligently to exercise appropriate discipline of their members (mine is one of them), but this is a difficult thing to do right and even if done right is often resisted. It is far too easy to leave a particular congregation and go somewhere else, and usually the discipline process does not follow the errant member. So few receiving churches ask for letters of good standing; many times the receiving church is completely in the dark about past discipline problems. This is not to say we should just give up. I’ve seen very good outcomes in individual cases, those in which the erring member evinces true repentance and the restoration process becomes a source of joy for all.

  • tz1

    Bearing False Witness is also a commandment but it seems that Churches don’t condemn that, or it is unimportant.

    The other side is that note how no issues like LGBTQ – men using women’s bathrooms – and Abortion – a million murdered babies every year – aren’t being argued from the pulpits. either.

    Does Doug Jones (Moore’s Democratic opponent) even go to church? Does anyone preach to him that all sexual immorality is wrong? That Abortion is murder? Has he condemned and asked for Franken to resign? Do we know about his character or if there are sins in his past? Or doesn’t it matter because we are only putting Roy Moore on the scales, and not comparing if even were the accusations true he would still be the lesser evil. Another article brings up double standards, but I have not heard even ONE person worried about Moore holding Jones to ANY standard.

    As we wonder about Moore, we aren’t wondering why Jones is pro-Planned Parenthood, and don’t seem to care and would find that more acceptable.

    We cannot see into hearts, and although not perfect, things like courts or the Senate Ethics committee can investigate these charges – under oath and with proper forensics – and IF found guilty can expel Moore and Strange or someone else can be appointed.

    The Just thing to do is to vote Moore into the Senate but have them conduct a proper investigation. Not let the Devil’s Democrat Doug win by default so as to block everything righteous including originalist Judges.

    We can know right from wrong – good from evil – and on the issues at the moment and what Doug Jones v.s. Roy Moore will do in the Senate. I am all but certain how each will vote and fight for on things like the Abortion issue.

    • LDPtrsn

      As far as I know, Moore has no history of inappropriate behaviour, only what has been drummed up this past week so close to this election by nevertrumpers and the left. I just wonder how many on the right, who have publicly denounced Roy Moore, for these ALLEGATIONS, which have only come to light after FOUR DECADES, will apologize if he is eventually exonerated? So many charges already being proven false, but not reported. After all, it is satan who is the accuser of the brethren, and we expect these things, but signs of the times that even many in the church are joining in.

      • tz1

        Satan, means “The Accuser”. Good point.
        Same thing here. There is no quality, and the only coverup I see is from the accusers – where’s the raw audio of the WaPo interviews? Where’s the Yearbook? What do THEY have to hide?

      • Linda

        From a local Alabaman news site: “Patti Spradlin can talk about Roy Moore. She grew up in Gadsden with Leigh Corfman, a woman who told the Washington Post she was 14 when Moore, then an assistant district attorney in Etowah County, picked her up and made sexual advances.

        The group of friends rode bikes and skated together. They passed out of Eura Brown Elementary school and the gang from the Country Club and Clubview areas graduated from the skating rink to socializing at the Gadsden Mall. It was a safe place, said Spradlin – who asked that her married name not be used, so as not to cause harm to her husband. But there was one man the middle school girls knew to avoid, she said.

        “There was an element there that everyone was aware of,” Spradlin said. “There were places you could duck into to avoid this person. And it was Roy Moore.”

        She remembers darting into Sugar and Spice, the children’s clothing store her aunt owned in the mall, when her group saw Moore coming.

        “He was always by himself. We just didn’t dare make eye contact for fear that would signal something to him, so we’d scooch to the other side — you know, walk on the other side of the mall.

        “Everyone knew there was something to avoid that was creepy and icky and it was something that my friends didn’t want anything to do with,” she said.”

  • Paul

    Tom, thanks for this. Any disciple meted at my former church would be laced with hypocrisy. I’ve forgiven the debt at this point but two of the elders never repaid me for money borrowed and repayment promised, which makes them liars and cheats, and the head pastor flat out lied to me as well. How do you discipline those tasked with discipline?

    • Tom Gilson

      That’s a huge part of the problem, isn’t it?

      I’ve gone to church leaders with the Bible open, chapter and verse. Some recognized its authority (not my authority, but the authority of God’s word). Some didn’t. That latter group is impervious to change; they’re impossible to trust, unwise to follow. They will be who they will be, and I will distance myself from them. There’s nothing else I know to say in those cases.

      • Paul

        One of my litmus tests now is debt, if a church embraces it they are not working in God’s ways of doing things.

  • Chip Crawford

    This makes me appreciate my church, my city actually. I’ve been part of solidity as a rule, and the other kind tried out while living in other cities, can be discerned rather quickly. It is in the bible belt part of the country. My church uses church discipline, naming names a couple times at churchwide meetings. It’s been adultery, with people even in the home group closer fellowship while participating in that. They were long gone, however, by the time their names were called at the meeting, but I understand they are welcome to visit the service. The spouses stayed at the church, in at least one of those occasions. I was shocked at the time, but could see the biblical example along those lines, and the important safeguard to the flock. The church must not be diluted with compromise, losing its saltiness and savor. Hopefully, they will miss the love and acceptance and reconcile with the lord.

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