Political Character, Church Character, and Taking Real Responsibility
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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?