On using God’s name in vain

By SUSAN K. SMITH | 12/11/2017, 1:50 a.m.
It has been spectacular and disturbing to watch Roy Moore, Republican candidate for Senator in the state of Alabama, navigate ...

Crazy Faith Ministries

It has been spectacular and disturbing to watch Roy Moore, Republican candidate for Senator in the state of Alabama, navigate and manipulate religion for his own purposes.

Moore, accused of sexual misconduct against at least nine women, some of whom were teens when the alleged assaults took place, has taken to defending himself on “moral grounds,” saying that he represents “Christian values.” God is against the policies and beliefs of “the liberals” and “the socialists,” he says, and even challenged late night show host Jimmy Kimmel to a fight over “Christian values,” a challenge Kimmel accepted with enthusiasm.

Some supporters are making him the victim, saying that he is being attacked because he is a Christian. It is a charge that is as sickening as it is inaccurate.

Whose Christian values is he representing? To what “Christ” is he referring?

What has happened in this country and all over the world since the time of Jesus’ life here on earth is an appropriation of what Jesus stood for and taught. Wes Howard-Brook, in his book Empire Baptized: How the Church Embraced What Jesus Rejected, 2nd-5th Centuries, clearly argues that the “religion of empire,” which the world practices for the most part today, was from the beginning different from the “religion of creation,” which Jesus taught.

“Christianity” as we know it today, says Howard-Brook, a state religion, was “almost the exact opposite in nearly every respect from what Jesus had proclaimed and for which He was killed.” Early Christian writers, including Origen and Clement and Tertullian, among others, “generated a Christianity that almost completely inverted the gospel of Jesus.”

Evangelicals have had a history of using Christianity to sanction their cultural beliefs and desires. What Southern Christians, and Christians from the North as well, were most interested in was preserving their “way of doing things.” White supremacist beliefs made them adhere to a belief in the rightness of segregation and discrimination against people of color. In the name of the Christianity that they practiced, they worked hard to preserve the “Closed Society” of the South. Blacks were not welcome, and God, they said, made that clear in the Scriptures.

To go against those who believed in White supremacy, then, was to go against God. Christian values included buying into racism and indeed, sexism. The Constitution protected wealthy, White, male Protestants. In the belief system of early American Christians, only those people were fully human; Blacks, Native Americans, women and other non-White, non-Christians were not fully human and therefore not eligible for freedom or dignity or respect.

That Moore is acting like a victim is problematic, but the fact that he is couching his racism and sexism in a so-called adherence to “Christian values” crosses a boundary that has for too long been accepted.

God, the father/parent of us all, was not a bigot, and neither was God’s son, Jesus.

Jesus taught that all people were worthy of love and acceptance, forgiveness, grace and mercy. Moore has been using the language of the “religion of empire,” as he has said that the enemy is the “Liberals,” and the belief of too many in equal rights for LGBTQ individuals, Muslims and immigrants. He has vilified those whose beliefs are different than his and which seem, for the most part, more in line with the words found in the Gospel, as “the enemy.”