Tuesday, February 20, 2018

McAlister: Are we up to the challenge?

Nov. 17, 2017 at 11:48 p.m.

A year after Hillary Clinton deservedly lost to a presidential candidate who didn't exactly deserve to win, we remain a nation fraught with turmoil.

It has been a year marked by several natural disasters and some manmade ones, including mass murders in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs. We have a Republican-led Congress which has thus far failed to repeal a disastrous health care law despite years of promises. We have heard endless rounds of chatter regarding Russian meddling in U.S. politics. Nightmarish accounts of sexual harassment and assault have emerged, one after the other.

And then there is the depressing case of Roy Moore, the "Ten Commandments judge."

Moore first achieved fame as an Alabama judge who defended a display of the Decalogue in his courtroom, to the dismay of groups like the ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. He emerged as a kind of folk hero for many conservative Christians who understandably felt themselves under siege by the slings and arrows of the cultural left.

More recently, as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, he made news after the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous 5-4 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which mandated the legal recognition of same-sex "marriage" in all 50 states. Moore was determined that his state would be an exception to the rule, but was unsuccessful in this regard.

This year, after Jeff Sessions was appointed by President Donald Trump to be his attorney general, a special election was to be held to fill Sessions' seat in the U.S. Senate. In the Republican primary, Moore beat Luther Strange, who boasted the support of both Trump and the GOP establishment, and Mo Brooks.

After winning the nomination, Moore seemed to many to be a safe bet to defeat his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, in December, despite misgivings by many Republicans and even professed conservatives.

Then everything changed, thanks to a story in The Washington Post, which focused on four women who claimed to have been pursued by Moore when he was in his early 30s and they were teenagers. After Moore's awkward and defiant denials of wrongdoing, another woman stepped forward, and things waxed worse.

This whole affair gives one pause.

From a purely analytical view, one could well ask why, if these stories are indeed true, they did not surface until just recently. Whatever the case, it is difficult not to discern political motivations in the Post's reporting of these matters. But there is enough plausibility to the charges by two women in particular to cause lasting damage to the reputations of not only Judge Moore but LAO numerous conservative evangelicals, many of whom are "dug in" and, because Moore has all the right enemies, will support Moore no matter what. This is unsettling to some of us for whom personal character and integrity still matters more than political muscle.

These are not easy issues to grapple with. Our political choices are limited and cultural conservatives sense, quite rightly, there are many today eager to run roughshod over the traditional liberties we have enjoyed. Some would support anyone who positions himself against the depredations of the cultural left, which in part explains the 2016 election.

It has been said that hypocrisy is the tribute which vice pays to virtue. But what is desperately needed in our times is the courage of people who avoid the vice of hypocrisy, and who not only praise virtue but live it. The question is, how many of us are up to the challenge?

— Jeff McAlister, a Longview resident, is a regular contributor to the Saturday Forum.



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