Trumpism has found another avatar, this one in Alabama, a mini-avatar in the person of Judge Roy Moore. And Moore, fulfilling his job-description, inspires his devotees to merely double-down in their support of him as his moral, ethical, and legal character become more exposed as fraudulent. Just as with Trump, Moore has evangelical Christians as an important element of his support base and they are demonstrating their historic skill at “doubling down” in the face of his non-sense.
But my favorite “doubling-downer” currently is Jerry Falwell, Jr. the increasingly infamous president of Liberty Baptist University. After consistently voicing support for Trump, even in the face of opposition from students, faculty, and alumni, he has boldly stated that the believes Moore over the women who are accusing him of sexual improprieties in their youth. But Falwell has no choice. He has put himself out on a limb and cannot back down; for backing down, admitting that his judgment about Trump was in error, would be to admit making a mistake which is the characterological flaw that he shares with Trump. Falwell is here demonstrating one subtle but fatal flaw of any faith tradition, the temptation to take one’s “belief” too seriously, not realizing that there should be a distinction between one’s belief and the “object” of one’s belief. But believers of the Falwell variety actually have only belief in their belief for they have been indoctrinated into a version of their faith which emphasizes cognition over experience. In this mode of spiritual experience, faith consists merely of a creed, a medley of “well-worn words and ready phrases that build comfortable walls against the wilderness” (Conrad Aiken) of a messy reality that they wish to escape from. These are the “letter-of-the-law” believers that the Apostle Paul warned us against.
I must issue a caveat here. I don’t think Falwell is a bad man nor is in insincere. And the Jesus that he voices belief in was, and is, a cosmic demonstration… i.e. “Word”… of forgiveness to any and all of us regardless of what we think, say, or do. But this Divine Grace does not leave us without the consequences of our behavior–consequences to ourselves, to those around us, and even to the whole world.