As a nation we are still reeling from the horrific attack on a Baptist Church in Texas. Another attack rooted in Domestic Violence (54% of all mass shootings are, by the way), by another deranged gunman that took lives senselessly. The pastor of the church, whose daughter was murdered in the attack, led worship last Sunday under a tent in a field. These courageous people, minding their own business, became front page news. Their faithfulness exemplifies the very best we can be as people of faith. Perfect people? No. Their courage gives me hope. This is the best in Christian behavior.
Then there is Judge Moore in Alabama. A long time supporter of the 10 commandments on public buildings, Moore has made a living being controversial. He has been removed from jobs and supported by like-minded Christians as he has become the poster child for right-wing, fundamentalist Christianity. He won the Republican nomination to run for the Senate in Alabama, and soon after it was revealed that 4 women (at this point) have accused him of inappropriate sexual contact when they were teenagers. One was 14 years old, and he was a 32 year old lawyer. Moore denies the allegations, but he has also defended pedophilia by talking about Mary (the mother of Jesus) as having been a teenager who married an older man.
Many in his own party have called for his resignation, but too many are still supporting him – and many of his supporters are Christians. This is the worst in Christian behavior – supporting a man who has clearly gone over the line morally is one of our greatest failures. The same voices calling for Hillary Clinton to be locked up are calling for support of men who commit sexual abuse. How and why they do this is not discernable to me, but they do.
This is our great failure as people of faith – we are inconsistent and biased in our standards, and Scripture gives us little guidance. While it is true that Mary was almost definitely under 18, it is also true that women and girls were considered property to be done with as men pleased, and these ideas have evolved. At least, in some places. According to usmarriagelaws.com, there is no minimum age to be married in most states. In Arizona you can be married as long as you have notarized permission from your parents or guardians and a court order – there’s no minimum age! In fact, most states have similar laws. Between 2000 and 2015 (according to The Nation), over 200,000 teenagers (mostly girls) have been married under such laws. This makes Moore’s behavior somewhat common – and it makes our country, in my opinion, a very sick place.
I am not a proponent of following Biblical marriage laws and ideals (one wife is plenty, thank you very much), and I don’t believe that anyone who reads the Bible should believe in them either (unless you support slavery and incest). I believe it may be time for our federal government to step in and look at child-marriage as a civil rights issue. No child should be given in marriage as a teenager, and no adult should have the right to, for all intents and purposes, sell their child to another adult. Christians – and other good people of faith – should be more concerned about protecting children than satisfying the desires of pedophiles. We should never support this kind of behavior, and if we do, we are guilty of choosing a very sick political ideology over God. We need to be the best, not the worst, examples of Christian behavior. Peace.
Pastor Steve Ohnsman has served Calvary United Church of Christ in Reading, PA, since 1999. He has a BA in Religion & Philosophy from Wilmington College (OH), an MDiv from Drew Theological Seminary (NJ), a DMin from United Theological Seminary (OH), and PhD from Alvernia University (PA).