Alabama’s Governor Kay Ivey has demonstrated the mind set of many conservative Republicans in announcing her support of controversial Senate candidate Roy Moore. Though she “has no reason to doubt” the numerous women who report his inappropriate sexual advances on them, some in their youth, she declares that she will put her Republican Party loyalty first.
I do not think she lacks in intelligence nor moral rectitude. She is like most of us she is a rational human being and she puts her faith in her rational ability more than any other dimension of her experience. One could even say that she has no experience that is not over-ridden by rationality and therein lies the problem…in my estimation! For, we are not rational beings in the depths of our heart, which is to say, in our unconscious depths, which is why we are so susceptible to the prevailing winds in our culture and ripe for manipulation by political and religious leaders. This is because most political and religious leaders have their positions because of their ability to be in tune with the “prevailing winds” of their milieu and to have climbed to a position of influence.
This Alabama morass illustrates the profound political and socio-cultural impasse in my country and each side tends to demonize the other. Speaking as a Progressive, yes, I think there are “deplorables” amongst the Conservatives as Hillary Clinton alleged last year but they are a real minority and I happen to know there are extremist “nut-jobs” among my ranks. But there are many Conservatives whose rational thinking is of the Kay Ivey variety and though I passionately disagree, and feel there are moral and spiritual issues that need to be addressed, that does not mean she is stupid or is a bad human being. And there are “moral and spiritual issues that need to be addressed” by the whole of this country, starting with yours truly!
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.