The decision by evangelical leaders both nationally and locally to stand by accused child molester Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race seems to go against the moral standards embraced by evangelical Christians. Championing Moore, however, reveals disturbing insights into the evangelical mindset regarding family values. The initial perspective of progressives is one of hypocrisy in which evangelicals are abandoning fundamental principles in favor of electoral success, but the toleration of infidelities by Moore and Donald Trump suggests a more sophisticated pragmatism that promotes the evangelical agenda and ideology in regard to abortion, sexuality, women, and the patriarchy.
The toleration of infidelities by Moore and Donald Trump suggests a more sophisticated pragmatism that promotes the evangelical agenda and ideology in regard to abortion, sexuality, women, and the patriarchy.
In fairness, it should be acknowledged that there is a Christian left which has followed the teachings of Jesus in calling for a more equitable distribution of resources, but this ideology carries little weight with evangelicals who have cast their lot with the likes of Moore and Trump. And I was raised in an evangelical household where the powers of the patriarchy went unchallenged. When I questioned the orthodoxy in which I was raised, my mother simply replied that the devil was putting ideas in my head. To raise questions about the patriarchy was a sin, and the contemporary evangelical movement expects a similar uncritical attitude toward politicians such as Moore and Trump who perpetuate a subservient position for women grounded in fears of female sexuality.
Central to the evangelical agenda is the belief that life begins at conception and abortion under any circumstance is the equivalent of murder, and, therefore, there can be no compromise on the subject. This moral absolute has fueled the anti-abortion movement and resistance to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade (1973), even justifying violence and murder in defense of the innocent unborn. Within this mindset, moral compromise with such predators as Moore and Trump is justified through support of the higher goal in fighting abortion and saving lives.
This line of thinking concludes that the election of men such as Moore and Trump will assure the appointment of conservative judges who will eventually end legal abortion and limit the rights and civil liberties extended to the LGBTQ community. And those who take some comfort in judicial restraint upon the Trump agenda need to recognize that the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and the elevation of candidates endorsed by the Federalist Society to the federal judiciary are major achievements for the evangelicals who have put their faith in Trump. We have yet to see the full impact of such appointments, and progressives would do well to focus their attention upon this battle for control over the judiciary.
Yet, the evangelical mindset seeks an even broader agenda of controlling women and perpetuating the power of the patriarchy threatened by female sexuality—an agenda that may be traced back to Biblical notions regarding Adam, Eve, and the Garden of Eden. Original sin is, thus, equated with woman and Eve, who conspired with evil and the serpent to trick man and Adam into partaking of the forbidden fruit, leading to the fall of man and banishment from the garden. As punishment for Eve’s sexual seduction of Adam, women would be subjected to the pain of childbirth. Abortion may accordingly be perceived as an attempt by sexually active women to avoid god’s punishment for their actions.
Historians have observed that these fears of female sexuality contributed to the creation of the patriarchy by our Puritan ancestors. Perceptions of women as handmaidens of the devil played a significant role in the New England witchcraft trials, but it was certainly not possible to execute all women who posed a threat to the male order. Female sexuality and the threat of Eve were to be tamed through making women handmaidens of the lord. Within marriage, the husband was to assume the role of lord, and it was woman’s duty to obey her husband just as she followed the dictates of god. The patriarchy was justified as part of god’s divine plan, and women who challenged this order remained handmaidens of the devil and deserved society’s censure.
The association of the patriarchy with traditional marriage also encourages evangelicals to denounce same sex marriage as a threat to god’s natural order. Donald Trump and Roy Moore curry favor with evangelicals by demonizing the LGBTQ community. Moore has even concluded that same sex marriage has made the United States a force for evil in the world, and he has expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin and Russian persecution of gays and lesbians. Evangelical beliefs that the LGBTQ community represents unnatural sexual desires—Moore often equates same sex attraction to bestiality—have in some ways even protected a man such as Moore. If he had been accused of sexual relations with young boys, his advocates may not have been so tolerant of his actions with under age teens. But with young women it is different. Their sexuality constitutes a threat to men, and Moore’s actions may be interpreted as an effort to tame their unbridled carnal nature and threat to the godly patriarchal order. After all, he supposedly sought permission from parents to pursue their daughters and maintain the supremacy of traditional gender roles as ordained by god.
While efforts to expose sexual harassment and misconduct in entertainment, politics, and the workplace have gained considerable steam in American culture, with female whistleblowers recognized as Time Magazine’s person of the year, many evangelicals continue to perceive women making such accusations as handmaidens of the devil. Some evangelicals have compromised their morality to combat what they see as the evil of abortion, but many others equate the accusers with Eve and embrace Moore and Trump as victims of aggressive female sexuality.
Behind the scorn exhibited toward the accusers and exoneration of Trump and Moore lies a fear of female sexuality. Thus, it is not the fault of powerful and virile men such as Trump and Moore that women are attracted to them and they are the victims of seductive and vengeful women. My deceased mother refused to blame Bill Clinton and Tiger Woods for sexual infidelities. It was the woman’s fault, although in more recent cases there seems to be a partisan political divide on these questions of sexual misconduct.
While defending Moore and Trump, many evangelicals denounce Bill Clinton for his sexual sins. But perhaps it is all Hillary’s fault for not following a more traditional role within her marriage—thus, Hillary, the ultimate evangelical source of evil, becomes equated with original sin.
Despite the many accusations and evidence presented against him, evangelical voters in Alabama seem poised to elevate child molester Roy Moore to the Senate. Such a course of events indicates that despite the willingness of many woman to expose the sins of the patriarchy by publicly sharing experiences of sexual harassment and intimidation, the evangelical mindset that views women through the lens of Eve and the patriarchy continues to exert considerable influence within American culture.
Progressives must embrace the struggle for empowering and believing women, and if Roy Moore is elected, he and Donald Trump must be exposed as the face of a Republican Party employing the traditional evangelical Christian patriarchy and fear of women in pursuit of their corporate agenda to serve the wealthy at the expense of the common people.