We held our collective breath this week as Alabama voters went to the polls in a special election to choose a replacement for Senator Jeff Sessions who is now Attorney General in the Trump Administration. Early on, the Republican candidate, Roy Moore, seemed a shoo-in in the deep red state on the gulf coast. But Moore’s candidacy carried considerable baggage: a theocrat intent on imposing his religious beliefs on his constituents, Moore claimed that Muslims should not serve in Congress, homosexuality is an abomination and family values were stronger and the country had clearer direction under slavery. He was twice removed from the Alabama Supreme Court for failing to obey the law.
Then, six weeks before the election, Roy Moore was credibly accused of sexually molesting minors while in his thirties. Law enforcement actually banned him from the local mall because of his creepy, predatory behavior. Yet he represented a reliably pro-Trump vote in a Senate with the narrowest of Republican majorities, party leaders failed to universally condemn him and the President actively campaigned for him. Polls were inconclusive leading up to election day and so there was widespread uncertainty as to who would prevail.
Shortly after 10:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Americans could heave a collective sigh of relief as it became apparent that Doug Jones, the Democrat in the race, would triumph. Jones, a lifetime Alabamian, has a long record of involvement in progressive causes, including successful prosecution of two KKK members in the horrific 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four young black girls in Birmingham in 1963. His victory meant that Americans were spared the shame and embarrassment of having an accused child molester in the US Senate.
We could all breathe again.
It is a good thing that such a bigoted, narrow-minded, homophobic, religious zealot (his views are so antithetical to the teachings of Jesus that I find it hard to refer to him as “Christian”) will not be crafting the laws of the land. And, I thank God for that. The last thing we need in this age of dysfunctional government is to have the toxicity of Roy Moore’s perspectives wreaking havoc in our halls of government and filling our airwaves. But, while we should feel relieved at the outcome in Alabama, it is important to remember that the toxicity in our current climate is not limited to Ray Moore alone. We also need to inhale—drinking in the fresh air of justice, compassion and extravagant welcome in order to fill our lungs with the oxygen necessary to work hard for a new vision for this country and the whole world.
This is especially true for those in the faith community. Long-time religion writer, Laurie Goodstein, notes in the New York Times how support for Roy Moore has caused many evangelicals to re-examine how their faith is applied in civil society and to rethink their own religious loyalties. She writes, “The sight of white evangelical voters in Alabama giving their overwhelming support to Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate, despite accusations of racial and religious bigotry, misogyny and assaults on teenage girls, has deeply troubled many conservative Christians, who fear that association with the likes of Mr. Moore is giving their faith a bad name.”
So, let us pause to celebrate the results of this election, but our response must be more than a feel-good moment that we have expunged this particular bad actor from the US Senate. We must see this as a moment of encouragement and use all our breath to reclaim justice and mercy for all as cornerstones upon which we rebuild both our personal relationships and our shared social contract.