Saturday, November 11, 2017
When historians write of Roy Moore, they will talk of a man devoted to arch-conservative principles who happened to have a dark personal life involving alleged statutory rape and sexual abuse of power. But that would be a mistake. Moore's politics and his personal life are not separate, but rather deeply interconnected. Both are rooted in defense of a specific subculture of evangelical conservatism that privileges an extreme form of patriarchy, gerontocracy and arranged child marriage. This becomes obvious both from a study of the culture that Moore celebrates, as well as the particular words and phrases that Moore and his defenders choose to use. They're subtle code, one that only those who grew up in and around a particular form of radically anti-government, largely homeschooled religious conservatism are attuned to hear. It is the politics of the Duggars, the Quiverfull movement, militia groups and the Duck Dynasty family.
It is a politics that Kathryn Brightbill lays bare in a trenchant L.A. Times op-ed:
The evangelical world is overdue for a reckoning. Women raised in evangelicalism and fundamentalism have for years discussed the normalization of child sexual abuse. We've told our stories on social media and on our blogs and various online platforms, but until the Roy Moore story broke, mainstream American society barely paid attention. Everyone assumed this was an isolated, fringe issue. It isn't.It is disturbingly commonplace in this culture to see "understandings" in which older men from their late twenties on well into middle age are "given permission" to date much younger women and girls. Nor is this phenomenon limited just to hardcore evangelical Christianity: this is the form of abusive patriarchy in conservative cultures with arranged marriage all around the globe. It is no surprise that some of Moore's defenders have taken to using Biblical precedent to defend it.
This is not to say that liberal cultures don't produce child abusers and even networks of abuse. But these are generally secreted away in cosmopolitan society, and when the perpetrators are discovered they tend to be shunned and jailed. In many evangelical cultures, however, it's an unspoken norm and even celebrated. The two sides are not the same.
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