Right now, it's hard to pause the raging waterfall of news (almost all of it, methinks, justified) about Roy Moore and his U.S. Senate candidacy long enough for rational thought. Good grief, just image the amount of ink he'd be getting if he was a married senator accused of hiring under-aged prostitutes or obtaining visas for his various girlfriends?
However, as always, there are interesting issues to discuss linked to a much abused and increasingly worthless religious label now used many times every day in American politics -- "evangelical."
The inspiration for this post on this familiar subject? That would be the recent Washington Post "Acts of Faith" headline that said: "Some Alabama evangelicals see Roy Moore as a man of Christian values. Others are torn."
Suffice it to say, "Alabama evangelicals" probably means white churchgoers on the doctrinally conservative side of the evangelical spectrum.
But never mind. That Post headline -- by noting a wide division among evangelicals, when it comes to Moore's fitness as a candidate -- is already miles ahead most of the chatter that I have seen on this issue in print and television coverage.
Sure, the piece opens with the usual more and more Moore shenanigans, when it comes to religion and courting his base. But there is also this:
Other evangelicals, though, feel the allegations force them to make an uncomfortable decision.
“There are people who want to be charitable to people who are brothers and sisters in Christ. You don’t want to assume allegations are true -- we have a court of law to determine things like that,” said Alan Noble, editor in chief of Christ & Pop Culture. “Some Christians respond, ‘Well, who are we to judge? We don’t know all the facts.’
“Sure, in a legal sense, that’s true,” Noble said.
But, he said, the “evidence is pretty damning.”
At the very end, a crucial name -- in social media -- makes an appearance:
... [M]any Christians have said they will no longer support Moore’s campaign in light of the allegations. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said in a series of tweets that the support for Moore might have girls and women in churches wondering where they can turn to if they are molested.
“A church that worships Jesus stands up for vulnerable women and girls,” Russell Moore tweeted. “A church that worships power sees them as expendable.”
It helps that someone like Moore is easy to quote, because of his presence in social media.
This leads me to my main journalistic point in this post. Yes, this is linked to the whole "evangelicals just love Donald Trump (the truth is more complex than that)" song that I have been singing for months.
Here we go: If there is growing evidence of (a) deep theological and cultural divisions inside evangelicalism, and (b) there are articulate "evangelical" voices online on the right, in the middle and on the left, then (c) journalists should strive for coverage of evangelicals and honest-to-God fundamentalists with sourcing that is at least as complex as what readers can easily see on Twitter.
For example, take the other key Moore religion story right now -- as in that list of pastors who supposedly re-upped their support for his candidacy after the Post revelations about his (How to say this?) shady courting practices as a young man. Click here for an AL.com (The Birmingham News, etc.) report on that topic.
If you watched the unwinding of this story on Twitter, you know that one of the easiest ways to follow arguments about the validity of this list was to keep up with tweets from Ed Stetzer, the leader of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.
Now, lots of religion-beat reporters know all about Stetzer. That's kind of my point. This strategic thinker has armies of social-media followers right in the dead center of the real world of evangelicalism and, frankly, he's a perfect example of an evangelical to whom reporters on other beats -- like politics, maybe -- should turn when trying to cover evangelicalism.
Follow his Twitter feed and you'll find lots of evangelical voices all over the spectrum. Trust me on this.
So, who are the other essential voices in the evangelical spectrum, other than the ones I have already pointed to with URLs embedded in this post? Leave comments please.