Roy Moore and Misrepresentation of Biblical Christianity
As a career youth pastor, I have a mantra: if a kid is going to reject Christianity, make sure they are rejecting a true portrayal of the religion. Teach the Bible with precision such that kids have the opportunity to either accept or reject the God and the gospel message which the scriptures actually portray.
Given that I work in Birmingham, Alabama, controversial senatorial candidate Roy Moore has made my job increasingly challenging. I cannot speak for Moore’s personal spirituality; I can only comment based on the images that this politician has delivered in his career and campaigns. From this external impression, I would suggest that Moore demonstrates a version of Christianity that contrasts antithetically with the gospel of grace, which comprises the prevailing narrative of the scriptures.
When a person reads the Bible from cover to cover, they encounter a few cyclical, repetitive themes. The Bible portrays mankind as a deeply flawed race, with a propensity for moral and religious failure. God is presented as both an utterly holy God, who is inaccessible to sinners, and then a gloriously loving Person, who desires relationship with sinners. The climax of the Christian story comes when God remediates this quandary by sending his son, Jesus Christ, to expunge the sins that separate mankind from this merciful God through the cross.
Out of this narrative comes one requirement from mankind: humbly repent. Relationship with God hinges on a person’s willingness to acknowledge their own sins and depend exclusively on the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Moore, who has become a salient image of Christianity in the international media, espouses and demonstrates a theology that contradicts this gospel message in three fundamental ways.
(1) The law sanctifies mankind.
This former judge built his brand off of his near-fixation with posting the Ten Commandments in his courtrooms. Moore claimed that he first did this because he believed that seeing God’s laws could change the lives of the criminals who came through his courtroom. He has consistently exhibited a belief that the law reforms people.
The idea that knowledge of God’s law will sanctify a person conflicts sharply with New Testament Christianity. In the four Gospels, Jesus dispels this same notion, which the Pharisees embraced. Paul refers to law as “powerless” in making a person righteous before God.
The gospel asserts that a person only finds salvation or sanctification first through dependence on God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit. People don’t sin because they don’t know the rules. They sin because of their insistence on living life on their own terms apart from God. God’s law shows us our sin and our need for redemption. It gives us direction in godly living. However, the law apart from the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit in our life accomplishes nothing. Only God can change hearts when a person repents and relies on the Lord in relationship.
(2) Christianity is about moral superiority.
Moore’s political campaigns and followers have often portrayed him as a man of great moral character. One striking trend to observe in watching Moore’s career from afar is one rarely — or never — hears him admit wrong or contrition in any matter. The courts have twice removed this judge from office because of his refusal to comply with legal mandates. A number of women have come forward during his latest campaign making accusations that Moore engaged in inappropriate behavior with them. When faced with accusations, he generally creates a dialectic where Moore stands as the righteous martyr while others are either godless or dishonest. Good luck finding Roy Moore ever admitting wrong or conceding poor judgment.
The image that outsiders may interpret about Christianity based on Moore’s brand is that what makes a Christian a true follower of Jesus is their moral excellence. Certainly, Jesus calls believers to be the salt and light of the world. James, John, and Peter all point to righteous living as an authentication of true religion.
Simultaneously, the hallmark of a Christian — the thing that secures their entrance into God’s kingdom — is contrition and humility. Jesus said in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” A person who truly understands the gospel will sincerely boast in their weakness and faults and credit any “righteousness” in their life exclusively to God’s grace.
(3) Some people and some sins are beyond God’s grace.
Roy Moore advocates caught attention recently with an ad targeting his opponent, Doug Jones’, view on abortion. The commercial ends with word “unforgiveable” stamped over pictures of Democrats Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, and Jones. While the advertisement primarily focuses on Jones’ position on abortion, it’s hard to imagine that any responsible Christian would allow an image of four human beings — for whom Jesus Christ died on the cross — with the words “unforgivable” branded above them.
I whole-heartedly reject Jones’ position on abortion. But I also, with greater passion, would assert that the word “unforgivable” has no place in the vocabulary of a Christian. Jesus himself said, “The son of man came into the world to seek and save the lost.”
This notion that some people and some sins are beyond God’s redemption is an affront to the cross of Jesus Christ and an insult to his merciful character, which knows no bounds. If there were one thing I would want to communicate to non-Christian observers of Moore, it would be that the grace of Jesus extends to all people and all sins. When Jesus died on the cross, it wasn’t just for people who are “sort of bad.” He died for all sinners — no matter how dark their deeds may be. When Jesus absorbed the sins of the world, it wasn’t just for peccadilloes; it was for the vilest and heinous of iniquities.
Hence, a person who embraces biblical Christian should emit a fragrance of winsome humility and sincere gratitude for the grace of God. He or she should have a compassionate and kind tone towards others, particularly their enemies, because he or she believes that they are just as sinful as the next person.
A piece of advice for Judge Moore, if he wishes to wave the Christian flag in America: If you want to promote the gospel of Jesus Christ and see lives changed, put this Bible verse up in your next courtroom: “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate before the Father — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He Himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours alone, but also for the sins of the whole world.”¹
¹1 John 2:1