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The Roy Moore Time Bomb

This is not encouraging: [1]

Nearly 40 percent of Alabama evangelicals said in a new poll that they are more likely to vote for GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore following allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

JMC analytics poll [2] found that 37 percent of evangelicals surveyed said the allegations make them more likely to vote for the GOP Senate candidate in the upcoming election.

Just 28 percent said the allegations made them less likely to vote for Moore and 34 percent said the allegations made no difference in their decision.

So, while national Republicans are cutting themselves off from Moore, Alabama Evangelicals are either doubling down on him or don’t care — 71 percent in all. Sen. Pat Toomey today repudiated Moore, saying that we will likely never know for sure what happened between Moore and 14-year-old Leigh Corfman, but her accusations of sexual assault are more plausible than Moore’s denials of same — especially given that Moore conceded the other day that earlier in his life, he had a thing for much younger women. I think Toomey is right, and as a conservative Christian, I think it is important to stand up for this woman.

According to the Washington Post today, Moore is doubling down on conservative Evangelicals: [3]

Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama sought to refocus his campaign on the conservative religious ideals most likely to motivate his base voters, dismissing the national firestorm over allegations that he pursued teenage girls when he was in his 30s.

Addressing a gathering at the Huntsville Christian Academy in Huntsville, Ala., on Sunday night, the former judge suggested that he was investigating his accusers, threatened to sue The Washington Post and called on the United States to restore its culture by going “back to God.”

“We can be proud of where we came from and where we’re going if we go back to God,” Moore said at his second public event since The Post reported the allegations of misconduct last week.

“If we go back to God, we can be unified again,” he said.

All of this is going to cement in the public’s mind that Evangelical Christians are morally bankrupt. They have learned nothing from the Catholic Church’s gutting of its own moral credibility because of its own sex abuse scandal. It is possible — unlikely, in my view, but possible — that Roy Moore is not guilty of what Corfman alleges. But the fact that so many of his Alabama Evangelical supporters are willing to stand by him anyway is a fact that will be devastating in ways that they cannot grasp.

Erick Erickson is being contrary on this issue this morning: [4]

Maybe Roy Moore did it. But I have to tell you that the pile on and rush to condemn and destroy the man increasingly strikes me as more politically motivated than based on the allegations, which just provide a nice cover.

If Roy Moore did do to a 14 year old as he is accused of, he should quit the race. (and the alleged victim’s prior unwillingness to tell her story [5] does, in my mind, tend to boost her credibility) But how does Roy Moore go about proving his innocence? We’re to demand he drop out of the race and just disappear whether he is innocent or guilty? I know most of you would like that, but then you all hated him to begin with. When a man is piled on top of by the press and his political enemies at the most opportune moment in the most convenient way to capture national attention and shut down the Bannonite rebellion you’re all opposed to, I think we need to slow down and ask if it is fair. And I’m not sure it is.

I agree with Erickson’s point that one’s reaction to the Moore accusations likely depends on one’s pre-existing opinions of the man, and that it’s worth examining oneself to discern one’s motives on that front. Mostly, though, this is confused thinking. Erickson (who’s a friend of mine) seems to accept the credibility of Corfman, but wants to give Moore the benefit of the doubt because the claim is politically convenient for Democrats and establishment Republicans. It is certainly true that the timing of the Corfman allegation is convenient for Moore haters. But that has nothing to do with whether or not it is true. 

Corfman is a Trump supporter, so she has no ideological axe to grind. What does she get out of making these accusations against Moore? Seems to me that she had nothing to gain except hatred and grief, which lots of conservative Alabamians and others are piling onto her. Why didn’t she come out earlier? Look around you at how she’s being treated. Besides, if you have spent any time talking to sex abuse victims, especially if they were kids when the abuse happened, you have no trouble at all understanding why they stay quiet for years. It could be that Corfman felt emboldened by what’s been happening since the Harvey Weinstein allegations broke — in the same way that scores of victims of Catholic priest sexual abuse came forward after the dam broke in Boston.

This does not make Corfman’s allegations true, but it does offer a plausible non-political explanation for why she didn’t come out until now. Also, she didn’t seek out the media to peddle her story. The Post found her. Had any reporter approached her during one of Moore’s earlier races, perhaps she would have come forward, or perhaps not. Roy Moore was a powerful man in Alabama — and still is, judging by the backlash against her for speaking out.

I’m not a fan of Mitch McConnell, and arguably he made this Roy Moore mess for himself by backing Luther Strange over the much more electable Mo Brooks in the GOP primary. That said, McConnell this morning called on Moore to drop out of the race [6], saying that he believes the accusers. McConnell surely knows that a Roy Moore victory would be a bigger headache for the GOP going into the 2018 elections than a Roy Moore loss. From a Democratic perspective, Moore is the Platonic ideal of a Republican poster boy in 2018. Moore is an anchor that every Democratic candidate for House and Senate will attempt to tie around the necks of Republicans, who are going to face a daunting battle anyway to keep the House.

They face a much easier task in the Senate, given that the GOP only has to defend eight seats, while Democrats have to defend 25.  [7]Still, with the political landscape so unsettled, you don’t want to take any chances. The thing that religious and social conservative voters care most about, Supreme Court appointments, depend on having a Republican Senate and a Republican president to go through. Losing the Senate in 2018 might well mean that Trump would get no SCOTUS picks through until after the 2020 election (the Dems will remember Merrick Garland). And even if the Republicans keep the Senate, if Roy Moore is sitting in it, Trump is going to have a hell of  challenge getting any social conservative approved by the Senate, because Republican senators coming up for re-election in 2020 will not be eager to open themselves up to attack on that front.

And think for a moment about how Roy Moore will become in the eyes of many Americans — not only liberal ones! — the symbol of politically engaged religious conservatives. Of course it won’t be fair, but you know that it’ll be coming if he wins.

The point is that Roy Moore in the Senate will likely hurt the political causes favored by religious conservatives for reasons many of them are not grasping now, because they’re yielding to tribal emotions. Backing Roy Moore to stick it to the liberals is like smashing your Keurig to show solidarity with Sean Hannity, and then wondering why its harder to find a cup of coffee around your house the next morning.

But that’s politics. What I care about much more than politics is the church.

It is shocking that you don’t see most Evangelical Christians in Alabama saying that they are troubled by these allegations, and calling on Roy Moore to provide a more convincing defense of himself, or drop out. The idea that such an allegation against a Senatorial candidate, especially one whose entire public persona is based on defending traditional Christian values, is of no consequence to 34 percent of Alabama Evangelical voters, and that 37 percent are more likely to vote for him because of these allegations — well, it’s shocking. The “more likely” voters aren’t saying that because they would think better of Moore if he did go after a 14-year-old. They are saying that because if liberals hate Moore, they love him even more.

That is moral corruption. That is loving worldly power over righteousness. For confessed Christians to take this stand is many things, but it is at the very least deeply damaging to their public witness. And not just their public witness, but the public witness of all conservative Christians.

Take a look at excerpts from this op-ed that appeared in the Los Angeles Times.  [8] The author is Kathryn Brightbill:

We need to talk about the segment of American culture that probably doesn’t think the allegations against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore are particularly damning, the segment that will blanch at only two accusations in the Washington Post expose [9]: He pursued a 14-year-old-girl without first getting her parents’ permission, and he initiated sexual contact outside of marriage. That segment is evangelicalism. In that world, which Moore travels in and I grew up in, 14-year-old girls courting adult men isn’t uncommon.

I use the phrase “14-year-old girls courting adult men,” rather than “adult men courting 14-year-old girls,” for a reason: Evangelicals routinely frame these relationships in those terms. That’s how I was introduced to these relationships as a home-schooled teenager in the 1990s, and it’s the language that my friends and I would use to discuss girls we knew who were in parent-sanctioned relationships with older men.

More:

The allegations against Roy Moore are merely a symptom of a larger problem. It’s not a Southern problem or an Alabama problem. It’s a Christian fundamentalist problem. Billy Graham’s grandson, Boz Tchividjian, who leads the organization GRACE [10] (Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment), believes that the sexual abuse problem in Protestant communities is on par with that in the Catholic Church. [11]

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 [12] on social media and on our blogs [13] and various online platforms [14], but until the Roy Moore story broke, mainstream American society barely paid attention. Everyone assumed this was an isolated, fringe issue. It isn’t.

OK, wait. I completely agree with her that this is a problem, and it ought to be confronted and dealt with. I have written myself critically of Doug Wilson, mentioned by Brightbill in her piece, and the way he has handled these matters within his community. [15] I feel very strongly about this stuff. But it is massively unfair to blame all Evangelicals for the actions of some.

More than one-third of all Christians in America are Evangelicals. [16] It is vitally important to understand that “Evangelical” is NOT a synonym for “fundamentalist.” [17] All fundamentalists are Evangelicals, but not all Evangelicals are fundamentalists. Click on that link for a more detailed explanation. Fundamentalists are very strict Evangelicals who tend to be separatist and hard-edged. No matter where you live and work, you probably know at least one Evangelical. But it’s less likely that you know any fundamentalists. Brightbill, at the end of her op-ed, recognizes a difference between Evangelicals and fundamentalists, but she conflates the two in her lede. I’m pretty sure that most readers do not understand the difference, and think they’re all the same.

My knowledge of Evangelical culture is admittedly superficial, but I would be absolutely shocked if any of the Evangelicals I know personally practice or approved of the kind of creepy pedo-patriarchalism Brightbill discusses in her piece. Brightbill is a progressive Evangelical who was a homeschooled fundamentalist in the 1980s and 1990s, and who says that she had a great experience with homeschooling. [18] She makes it clear in her statement that not all homeschoolers are bad actors, but some are, and that they need to be confronted and exposed. I believe her, and agree with her on that point. Believe me, as a member of a family who has been doing homeschooling in some form for over a decade, few people hate those who abuse homeschooling in the ways Brightbill says more than responsible homeschoolers do. That’s because we know that people who have a deep suspicion or loathing of homeschooling think we’re all like that. We’re not — not even close. But yes, some are, and it is our responsibility to police our own ranks to the extent that that is possible.

Still, the Washington Post just published a good piece putting the “child bride” culture in historical and religious context.  [19] In an agrarian context — and America used to be an agrarian nation — it makes sense for women to marry much earlier, and men to marry later. But we have not lived in that kind of culture for a very long time. Key excerpts:

The culture of courting that Easter and Brightbill described is one limited mostly to fundamentalist religious communities, including certain Christian groups and those of other religions, such as some Orthodox Jewish or Mormon communities. For most evangelical Christians, relationships between older men and teenage girls are viewed as wholly inappropriate.

See that? Most Evangelicals strongly reject this, and only “certain” groups within fundamentalist circles practice this. As for Moore:

Brad Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia who studies marriage and families in the United States, said that while people tended to date and marry younger in the 1970s, when Moore allegedly was dating teenagers, an age gap such as that between Moore and the girls would still have been highly unusual. “In the South, in general, younger marriages would have been more common. But we’re talking here about … teenagers going steady in high school — maybe a year or two or three between him and her,” Wilcox said. “You don’t have 30-year-old guys dating a 14-year-old. It may have happened in some occasional context, but it would not have been a cultural norm.”

He said the reaction of most Southern evangelical communities would be “extraordinarily negative. … I would imagine a shotgun involved.”

Right, and it is hard for me to imagine that in 1970s Alabama, a 32-year-old man courting a 14-year-old girl would be taken as business-as-usual. I’m willing to cut Moore slack on the older teenagers, but the 14-year-old was sick stuff, if true. And I believe it is.

Here’s why this Roy Moore thing is going to be a time bomb for conservative Christians.

It is massively important to keep in mind — and I say this as someone who has spent most of his career in the mainstream media — that the prejudices against conservative Christians, especially homeschoolers, are enormous. This is not news to most conservative Christians, I know, but what many may not appreciate is how liberals and moderates are prepared to weaponize those prejudices in an attempt to take away our liberties. If we give them reason to believe that all, or most, of us don’t care about sexual abuse and corruption as long as it helps us to get power, you can be very sure that they will come after us all when they come back to power.

One of the smartest things that the LGBT movement did was to make advancing gay rights in schools a matter of “safety.” Everybody wants safe schools. Nobody wants any kid to be in danger in school. They conflate safety with approving of homosexuality and transgenderism. If you do not approve of homosexuality or transgenderism, then you must be a supporter of social environments in which LGBT kids are bullied — or so goes the logic.

You watch: people who want to regulate or shut down homeschoolers, restrict religious liberty of conservative believers, or in some other way disempower and marginalize conservative churches in the public square, will seize on things like the Roy Moore case to tar us all. As a practical matter of self-defense in our increasingly anti-Christian culture, we have no choice.

Beyond that — and most important of all — if we want to maintain our credibility of the church as a place of moral order, of justice, of healing, of love, and of compassion, we have to be hard on ourselves. We have to hold ourselves to a high standard, and to repent when we fail to meet it. Yes, we will undoubtedly be made to suffer for our beliefs — and that is a blessing, according to Jesus Christ. [20]

But when we suffer for failing to live up to our convictions, then that is a curse — a curse that we will have brought onto ourselves. And we bring it not only onto ourselves, but onto Jesus Christ, insofar as we are supposed to be a reflection of Him.

Too often individual Christians fail to understand this, with public consequences. Back when I was a Catholic, and then shortly after I lost my Catholic faith, well-meaning Catholics were often quick to say that it made no sense for people to leave the Catholic Church, or to turn away from pursuing entry into it, because of the abuse scandal. To them, it was cut-and-dried. All human institutions are bound to fail at some point, they would say, and the failure of priests and bishops say nothing about the truth or falsity of the Church’s claims.

Strictly speaking, they are right. But we are not lawyers or automatons. The all-too-human failures of bishops, priests, and ordinary Catholics affects the ability of people to listen to and to consider objectively the case for Catholicism. How can Catholicism be true, people ask themselves, if this is how Catholics behave?

This is true for every church, my own included. It is not unfair for people outside the church to judge us on how we act. Yes, we are bound to fail, but if we handle failure in the right way, there can be forgiveness. Just think:

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This, from the Evangelical writer Michael Wear, is worth considering in light of the theological narrowmindedness I identified above. It’s an Evangelical version of same:

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As I was finishing this long post up, I watched the press conference by the new Roy Moore accuser, Beverly Young Nelson. She gave an excruciatingly graphic depiction of what she says was his attempt to sexually assault her when she was 15 and a waitress at a restaurant frequented by Moore. Accompanied by her lawyer, Gloria Allred, Nelson went on to say that she told people what happened at the time, but she never spoke out publicly because she was afraid of him. But the courage of the other women who spoke about him gave her the strength to speak out.

She identified herself as a Trump voter. She said she is willing to testify under oath against Roy Moore if the Senate holds a hearing (under what authority they would do that, I have no idea). It was an astonishing presser. Excerpts from the timeline of live coverage: [27]

I’m not going to erase everything I wrote before the presser, because it’s still valid. I have no idea how any decent person, especially a Christian, votes for Roy Moore after that press conference. It is possible that he is being falsely accused, but you’d have to have fallen off the turnip truck yesterday and bonked your head to believe that.

Roy Moore is a swine. Christians who support him after these credible accusations are a herd of swine into which the demon of lust for power has entered — and it’s going to run the church off the cliff.

UPDATE:

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UPDATE.2:

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284 Comments (Open | Close)

284 Comments To "The Roy Moore Time Bomb"

#1 Comment By Good Reason On November 15, 2017 @ 3:51 pm

Nailed it:

“. . . that 37 percent are more likely to vote for him because of these allegations — well, it’s shocking. The “more likely” voters aren’t saying that because they would think better of Moore if he did go after a 14-year-old. They are saying that because if liberals hate Moore, they love him even more.

That is moral corruption. That is loving worldly power over righteousness. For confessed Christians to take this stand is many things, but it is at the very least deeply damaging to their public witness. And not just their public witness, but the public witness of all conservative Christians.”

#2 Comment By William Dalton On November 15, 2017 @ 3:54 pm

Franklin Evans:

This has nothing to do with compassion. Sure, a woman may be violated by a man and wait 40 years to complain about it. We may listen to her for the sake of compassion, but it is still wrong to hold it against the man that late in the game. That is why we have statutes of limitations against bringing criminal charges and civil complaints. Furthermore, for political purposes, the only thing relevant is not what a candidate has done in the past, but what he is likely to do in the future. We predict future behavior by past conduct, but if particular conduct hasn’t occurred in less than forty years, that is a good predictor it won’t happen again in the next six. Based even on what is said about him by his accusers people should have no worry, on that account, about Roy Moore today.

#3 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 15, 2017 @ 4:00 pm

I also think that it is not normal or natural for a man who is 33 to want to date 18-22 year old women. They are technically adults, yes, but it’s disgusting all the same. It should not be illegal, but it should be quite shamed, because men of that age should be looking at and dating women of their own general age range (plus or minus 3 years or so, even 5 years is a stretch really until people are much older and certainly past 35 when things begin to even out a bit more).

I’m sorry, but why? I don’t see why they’re either disgusting or unnatural. Where does the normative claim that “people should be dating others around their age” come from?

Girls 4 years under the age of adulthood are, of course, a very different story.

Rombald,

Agreed. There’s a conflation of consenting adults and young teenagers here which I think is problematic. Roy Moore probably molested two minors, which is enough to be seriously concerned about and enough to deny him one’s vote, without bringing his preference for young adults (for that matter, my age preference is “young adult” too, and I’ve certainly never pursued any minors) into suspicion.

#4 Comment By c matt On November 15, 2017 @ 4:16 pm

In a court of law it’s innocent until proven guilty (well, in theory at least). In the court of public manufactured opinion, it’s guilty until proven innocent (unless you are a Clinton). Great – so all we have to do is accuse a Democrat of sexual misconduct and they will obediently resign? Who’d a thought it was so easy?!?

#5 Comment By pepi On November 15, 2017 @ 4:18 pm

[Isidore the Farmer says: November 15, 2017 at 12:17 am
As to just how normal it was for, say, a 25yr old to pursue a 16yr old in the middle of the 20th century, I don’t know. I suspect it is always uncommon. But, it was clearly more frequent than now (and legal). I suspect this is a case of being unable to see just how thoroughly the Sexual Revolution changed virtually everything. In the 1950s it was still believable, because it occurred, that a man in his 20s might pursue a post-puberty girl 16-19 with honorable intentions of marriage/family formation. And he might show sexual restraint amidst his pursuit. Our culture is now so sexualized that everyone believes that pursuit of this nature would only occur due to intent to use her and lose her, with each side just moving on to the next fling.]

The sexual revolution has brought a lot of problems but you romanticize the past. Where do you get that marriage of older men to young girls is more common now? It certainly is not in the West. It was a lot more common when the death rate from pregnancy was quite high.

And the current crop of kids actually has far less sex, dates less, etc than any generation in 50 or 60 years. Google it and you will find all kinds of article on it. Abortion is at the lowest rate since Roe v Wade.

#6 Comment By Isidore the Farmer On November 15, 2017 @ 4:33 pm

“We’re talking about those who are MORE likely to vote for him BECAUSE he’s been accused of sexually assaulting 14 year old girls.”

Yes. And this is due to how little trust they have in mainstream journalism. They hate the mainstream media. The mainstream media hates them. And they absolutely believe these are people that would make up the most vile things about a person just to influence a political outcome*.

Even this category of person is not filled with people saying to themselves, “You know, my ideal representative is someone that assaults 14yr-old girls.” Show me a poll having nothing to do with this Roy Moore fiasco, demonstrating people of Alabama desire candidates that have sexually assaulted young teens, and I will change my mind. But I don’t think there is any such independent data.

PS
There were also lots of people on the left whose support of Bill Clinton became MORE fierce after his many instances of adultery and many instances of alleged sexual assault came to light. I don’t think those were people that LOVED sexual assault. I think those were people that were primarily simply defending ‘their guy’, in part because they believed right-wingers were making all of it up.

Delusional? Maybe. But it would be unfair to say those people love their representatives to have a little bit of sexual assault in their background.

#7 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 15, 2017 @ 4:45 pm

Those are general trends that don’t tell us anything about any particular case, and although I cannot say for sure if confirmation bias is coloring your judgment, since you don’t seem unintelligent, that’s what it looks like from here. You and a lot of other people are just arranging facts to get to what you already are inclined to believe.

Quite the contrary. I don’t care for Roy Moore or the Republican Party, but I also don’t care for liberals who say “believe all women”, and I definitely don’t care for folks like Brendan or, in the other thread, Jay, who think that older adults dating legal older teenagers is ‘predatory’, ‘skeevish’, ‘creepy’ or any number of other things. My instincts here are not to confirm the biases of either of those groups, since I have a dim view of both of them.

I was curious about what the actual estimates of the false report rate is, for rape, knowing that “2 to 10%” is an example of bad statistics in action. I spent some time looking at the sources, and my best estimate right now is that it’s probably in the range of 10% and in some situations may be up to 20%, which is, again, still not high. My only interest here is to stick by the facts.

#8 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 15, 2017 @ 4:48 pm

Gloria Allred has low to no credibility and her witness should be written off

You could say the same thing about any rape accusation, couldn’t you? You can never know that a lawyer isn’t paying off their client to make an ideological point. Nevertheless, they’re at least five times more likely to end up with a guilty verdict than to be proven false. (About the large chunk that is neither proven true or false, we can’t really know the truth value).

#9 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 15, 2017 @ 4:53 pm

“Soon to be 26.”

LOL!

Our habit of trying to send an increasingly large chunk of people to college, as well as our ideal of college as a sort of glorified summer camp (coupled with the high drinking age) has indeed infantilized young adults in exactly the way you suggest.

#10 Comment By mrscracker On November 15, 2017 @ 5:21 pm

“I also think that it is not normal or natural for a man who is 33 to want to date 18-22 year old women. They are technically adults, yes, but it’s disgusting all the same.”
********
Goodness, one of my daughters married after college at 21. Her husband was 31-32. I don’t see the problem there. They are a great Catholic family with 4 children now. And coincidentally, they’re involved in local GOP politics.
It’s more challenging for a 21-22 year old young man to support a family so I guess that goes towards explaining husbands traditionally being some older than wives.

[NFR: I don’t see the problem either. I was 30 when I married my wife, who was a few days shy of 24. There is an enormous difference between an 18 year old and a 24 year old. — RD]

#11 Comment By Liam On November 15, 2017 @ 6:06 pm

“I definitely don’t care for folks like Brendan or, in the other thread, Jay, who think that older adults dating legal older teenagers is ‘predatory’, ‘skeevish’, ‘creepy’ or any number of other things.”

But, in American culture, such folks are way more common than you might prefer. I would venture a majority (perhaps well more) of Americans share such sentiments in some way. Put it this way, when conversation turns to such situations, it would be a surprise for nothing not-positive to be conveyed. I see comparatively few American parents who would welcome without the slightest hesitation their 18 year old daughter (or son) dating a man in his 30s or of course even older. You may think less of Americans because of that; and they’d think the feeling’s mutual. Heck, even my decidedly peasant grandmother born in 1890 in County Leitrim was skeeved by the idea of overtures of such “established” men and decamped from Ireland at the age of 19 with 3 other young women to avoid that undesired (by her) fate. So that older cultural model was already passing even in that culture at that time (Leitrim being the most depopulated county in Ireland, btw – green but bleak in so many ways – when I visited in 1988 the hamlet where she grew up, they were still without electricity and the elderly friend of my grand-aunt was dressed in stitched rags).

#12 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 15, 2017 @ 9:06 pm

At some point, Rod, you have to understand that Noah is the type of person Trump was talking about when he made his shoot a guy in 5th Avenue statement.

No, he’s not. I’m not going to convince Noah to vote for a socialist candidate in 2020, and we don’t always agree on facts, much less premises. Noah really expects Trump to deliver some good results in time — and I think Noah is wrong about that. But if Trump shot someone in cold blood on 5th Avenue in broad daylight, that would be more than enough that Noah would reject Trump. Look below, he’s even beginning to recognize, as the evidence piles up, that yeah, maybe Roy Moore is guilty. He sets the bar a little higher than some of us see necessary, but he hasn’t built an impenetrable wall in his mind.

BTW, I don’t Al Franken’s past would stand much scrutiny.

He used to appear on live television shows boasting proudly of membership in a (fictional) International Communist Party, while Don Pardo did voice-overs like “We’re working for you in Africa.” I used to admire him back in the day. But then he wrote a book about how Bill Clinton was the greatest president we’ve ever had, and slapped a title on it about Rush Limbaugh. I haven’t had much use for him since. Actors going into politics… George Murphy, Ronald Reagan, Al Franken… there must be a circle of hell reserved for such.

#13 Comment By Isidore the Farmer On November 15, 2017 @ 10:29 pm

“I’m sorry, but why? I don’t see why they’re either disgusting or unnatural. Where does the normative claim that “people should be dating others around their age” come from?

I suspect it comes simply from general practice / experience.

As to your other point, yes. For example, one wholesome reason an unmarried 33 year old might pursue an unmarried 20 year old is a desire for a large family.

The 20 year old provides many more prime/healthy child-bearing years than a fellow 33yr old. Furthermore, there are many more single 20yr old women with no baggage than single 33yr old women with no baggage (likelihood of things like step kids, ex-husbands and the like are much higher by that point).

This line of thinking helps reveal how ugly the Sexual Revolution has been: almost no one can even imagine, anymore, the quite wholesome reasons why an older man might date a younger woman. In part, because almost no one any longer thinks about sex being ordered towards large family formation.

#14 Comment By Isidore the Farmer On November 15, 2017 @ 10:54 pm

Another way of saying this is that the mind that can’t imagine a wholesome reason why a 30yr old man would be attracted to an 18yr old woman is more corrupt than a mind that can imagine such a thing.

The latter still has some memory or understanding that sex is directed towards procreation and life, where the former has bought into the Sexual Revolution’s viewpoint that sex is simply a matter of pleasure, and thus can now only view it as a transaction where the older has taken advantage of the younger.

Our ancestors were certainly fully sinful and deeply flawed, but they were not nearly so perverse as the Sexual Revolution has made us. Perverse to the point that even our religious leaders cannot see what has happened.

#15 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 15, 2017 @ 11:53 pm

Liam,

But, in American culture, such folks are way more common than you might prefer. I would venture a majority (perhaps well more) of Americans share such sentiments in some way. Put it this way, when conversation turns to such situations, it would be a surprise for nothing not-positive to be conveyed.

Oh, I don’t doubt you’re correct. I’m not sure about a majority (and it sounds like you’re not sure either), but it’s certainly true that such opinions are quite common in America. In that other thread I cited a paper by Lehmiller and Agnew, and here’s another one by the same authors that’s quite interesting. They find that couples with large age differences tend to get much less support from friends, family, and broader society than age-concordant couples, and therefore face similar issues of ‘marginalization’ (with subsequent increases in stress, poorer health outcomes, more self medication to deal with stress, etc.) that same-sex and interracial couples (especially Black man & white woman couples) tend to experience.

Interestingly, though, the same authors also find that age-discordant couples also have higher levels of relationship satisfaction, poorer views of ‘alternatives’ to their relationship, and higher levels of commitment to each other than ‘traditional’ couples do, which might suggest that a much younger and much older partner compensate for less of a social support network by depending more on each other.

In any case, you’re certainly correct that there are a lot of people in America (maybe a majority, maybe not) who disapprove of 18 year olds in relationships with 30 year olds or even 50 year olds. What I deny is that their concerns are well-founded. I’ve been interested in this topic for some years now (I’m a guy whose age preferences are generally not around my own age bracket, mostly because I like the experience of being with someone for whom everything in adult life is new and different). I’ve looked for whatever literature I can that such relationships are actually bad, or harmful, and thus far have mostly searched in vain. Most studies that conclude “teenagers dating adults is bad!” come to this conclusion by grouping together 14- and 19-year olds into a single group called “teenagers”, and concluding that they’re at risk from age-discordant relationships. Well, yes, no one disputes that. The interesting question is, where is the typical threshold at which age discordant relationships no longer have a high risk of being harmful to the younger partner? That threshold is not in fact at 35 like Brendan says, or 25 like Jay says: it’s certainly well below 20, and possibly a bit below 18, although certainly not lower than 16. I furnished seven studies in the other thread that come to more or less the same conclusion: if they disagree they’re welcome to come up with a study that contradicts me, but it had better be a good one.

This whole debate reminds me a little about the ones over sex work, in the sense that one side is heavy on theoretical arguments about ‘degradation’, ‘objectification’, etc., and the other is much heavier on the empirical facts (that, for example, in developed societies where it’s legal, women who work as legalized sex workers tend to have surprisingly high self esteem and enjoyment of what they do, and surprisingly little dysfunction. Surprisingly little HIV infection, too. I was surprised to learn that, but it seems to be true). “I’d be disgusted at the thought of my daughter having sex for money” is fine as far as it goes, but in the absence of actual solid evidence of harm, it’s unconvincing, at least to me.

It’s also interesting that among all the adjectives Brendan and Jay threw around- “creepy”, “skeevish”, “immoral”, “predatory”- one they missed was ‘harmful’. This was a telling omission, because I don’t have to argue that an adult dating a 14 year old is “creepy”, I can simply argue that it’s harmful, and furnish a bunch of cites that demonstrate it. When it comes to a 36-year old dating an 18-year old though, I await either of them showing any concrete evidence of harm. (19 year olds in relationships with much older partners actually claim a slightly lower level of sexual coercion than ones with same age partners, although the cell sizes were too small to conclude much.

I think you’re also right that this is in part an American thing. From what I can see, Europe seems to take a more relaxed approach to sex in general, and to age differences in sexual relationships in particular. One of the big winners of the Czech election last month was, a couple years ago, dating a 20-year old when he was in his mid-40s. Just one other way in which I’m alienated from American culture, I guess (not that I needed another one).

#16 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 16, 2017 @ 12:09 am

You may think less of Americans because of that; and they’d think the feeling’s mutual

Pretty much.

Which is, actually perfectly OK. To paraphrase G. K. Chesterton in his discussion of polygamy, in a free society no one’s entitled to the moral approbation of anyone else:

Any man in modern London may have a hundred wives if he does not call them wives; or rather, if he does not go through certain more or less mystical ceremonies in order to assert that they are wives. He might create a certain social coolness round his household, a certain fading of his general popularity. But that is not created by law, and could not be prevented by law. As the late Lord Salisbury very sensibly observed about boycotting in Ireland, “How can you make a law to prevent people going out of the room when somebody they don’t like comes into it?”

That being said, the only way that we can content for our differing views about sexual ethics is through deciding how to live our lives, and through conversation in forums like these. (And maybe, through literature. I’m sporadically outlining, in my free time, a spiritual thriller novel I hope to write some day, entitled Shepherd in a Sheep’s World, with the main character involved in exactly such an age-gap open marriage with a part-time English sex worker. It also features genetic engineering of humans, geoengineering of the climate, communism, ethnic nationalism, black and white magic, Gnosticism, and the defeat of America by Russia in a giant world war, so there’s plenty for people to disapprove of even without the thoughts on sex).

#17 Comment By Jefferson Smith On November 16, 2017 @ 3:37 am

This line of thinking helps reveal how ugly the Sexual Revolution has been: almost no one can even imagine, anymore, the quite wholesome reasons why an older man might date a younger woman. In part, because almost no one any longer thinks about sex being ordered towards large family formation. ….

Another way of saying this is that the mind that can’t imagine a wholesome reason why a 30yr old man would be attracted to an 18yr old woman is more corrupt than a mind that can imagine such a thing.

The latter still has some memory or understanding that sex is directed towards procreation and life, where the former has bought into the Sexual Revolution’s viewpoint that sex is simply a matter of pleasure, and thus can now only view it as a transaction where the older has taken advantage of the younger.

I don’t think I would agree with Isidore the Farmer about much, including the Sexual Revolution, but these were very interesting points. I doubt that they apply to Roy Moore, who in that sense is (in Isidore’s terms) a post- rather than pre-Sexual Revolution figure, one who was not wholesomely minded but was seeking his own pleasure or advantage. He does not seem to be offering any defense of himself along Isidore’s lines, which is all the more noteworthy given how his conservative Christian base would no doubt lap it up. Regardless, I appreciate Isidore’s thought-provoking analysis.

#18 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 16, 2017 @ 7:13 am

LInk is here:

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#19 Comment By BlairBurton On November 16, 2017 @ 7:56 am

NFR: There is an enormous difference between an 18 year old and a 24 year old

My mother was 18 and just out of high school when she married my father, who was 23 1/2.
When I said something about her own situation when we heard about another bride of that age, she said “I had no common sense then, and it’s good that your father did.” They married in 1941, and were happily married till death did them part.

You can argue that an 18 year old then was in general more mature than an 18 year old of today.

And yes, marriages of girls in their late teens and older men in their 30s and older were common in ye olden days; look at two marriages in Jane Austen’s novels where there is that great an age difference: Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley, and Marianne Dashwood and Colonel Brandon. Knightley in “Emma” has known her since she was a baby(the families are neighbors) and even says that he fell in love with her when she was 13, an “ick” factor today. But the high incidence of mortality in childbirth made such marriages, particularly second (and third, and …I do genealogy) marriages, more common then, with a widower wanting more children or wanting a mother for the children he already had.

#20 Comment By Liam On November 16, 2017 @ 8:48 am

Hector

To further our sidebar on this topic. It might help to see why this cultural skepticism-to-aversion of older man/younger partner relationships perhaps took such vigorous root in the USA and similarly situated countries (as opposed to southern Italy, the Levant, indigenous American peoples, or, of course, southern India…, where the clan offers more of a social safety net AND the means to discipline older men who marry into the family and reveal inappropriate character flaws thereafter).

First, to consider the northern European immigrants who first dominated European immigration to the USA: they did not come from cultures that widely used strong wide extended/family-clan bonds, but more nucleated families. In that setting, the situation faced my by Irish grandmother was fraught: while an “established” man offered more financial stability (and the prospect of a more secure land tenure, though rarely ownership in her class – the landlord for almost all property in her hamlet was the absentee Lane-Fox family of Yorkshire, who bought up the land from the bankrupt Villiers/Buckingham dynasty in the 18th century), his more advanced age also could leave her a widow with a number of young children and no means to care for them, because the extended clan was not developed to provide such care. That’s not irrational. It’s just forgotten historical context. (I won’t even get into the oddities of dowries and social approval of sending back young wives to their families if they didn’t bear a son (a thing I discovered, much to my skeptical surprise).)

It’s true that there was often an 8-12 year difference in age between women and men in marriage, precisely because of the fraught economic prospects of young adult men, who often had to travel to England to make some money in industry before coming back home. But, in my study of the marriage registers, less typical was broader differential than that, at least for young adult women. Certainly, very well established widowers with children might seek a more energetic younger wife to bear additional children IF sons were needed, but otherwise more to mind the existing brood (basically an unpaid governess) and manage the house. But that was not a typical situation, however much it featured in contemporary novels.

This imprinting took root in cultural mores in much of the USA. And the advent of feminism has only strengthened it, I believe.

What you appear to seek in studies is not going to measure these larger historical-social realities. You’d need to get out of books, as it were, and immerse yourself in the worldview of those who created our culture.

#21 Comment By Brendan On November 16, 2017 @ 8:54 am

I’m sorry, but why? I don’t see why they’re either disgusting or unnatural. Where does the normative claim that “people should be dating others around their age” come from?

It is an inherently imbalanced relationship from the beginning. That is why. The 33 year old is way, way, way more powerful and established than the 19 year old — it’s starting off from a very imbalanced position, which puts the woman in a very compromised place. And I am a social conservative, but, sorry, I see that as very problematic.

Yes, Rod, there is a difference between 18 and 24, and I will never second guess your marriage decision, which seems to have worked out very well for you. But in general, 30 year old men should be with women closer to their age for balance reasons and in the interest of the woman.

#22 Comment By Franklin Evans On November 16, 2017 @ 9:30 am

William, it has everything to do with compassion, by which I don’t imply that we must credit such stories at every turn, regardless of the corroboration involved.

I agree with you on one thing: if a crime is unforgiveable, it should be so for every case, not just for those cases about which we have some further emotional investment.

In the meantime, I have a simple standard: Moore has admitted nothing of wrongdoing. He has variously described his accusers as lying, or making something out of nothing, and his supporters are singing the same tune.

I don’t doubt your compassion, good sir. I see none in Moore, and if that’s not enough to oppose his candidacy for public office, then we are long since passed being doomed.

#23 Comment By Isidore the Farmer On November 16, 2017 @ 11:11 am

Jefferson Smith – Yes, please don’t read my comments as a defense of Roy Moore. They are general comments, cautioning against the foolishness I see in prominent Christian leaders such as Russell Moore (no relation to Roy Moore), always so quick to agree with the secular mob as a means of maintaining access to the heights of culture. There are reasons why media organizations extremely hostile to Christianity love publishing quotes from people like him, and it isn’t because they are trying to help promote Christianity.

Each time they do so they make it harder for their fellow Christians to advocate for why a Christian society, warts and all, truly does look different than our current one. They also use their bully pulpit to shame their fellow Christians that might actually have more wholesome instincts, and they lend unnecessary credence to the secular argument that our current society is much more just than it used to be (even as it grows harsher every day).

Wise Christians instead use these moments to teach the flaws in the current order. They do not use them to show the cool kids that they, too, are part of the cool crowd.

There are a Christians right now being shamed because they have a more wholesome view of sex than someone like Russell Moore. He should be wise enough at this time to make his (valid) point that ‘sexual assault is always wrong’ without conceding ground to the Sexual Revolution. I suspect he can’t because, deep down, he doesn’t realize how many of its tenets he has himself accepted. He is the very definition of the blind leading the blind, when it comes to topics such as this. All he knows is that he doesn’t want to look bad in front of the cool kids.

So, my comments are a general caution to avoid that path, and consider the possibility that the current model / framework is deeply flawed.

#24 Comment By VikingLS On November 16, 2017 @ 12:01 pm

“BTW, I don’t Al Franken’s past would stand much scrutiny.”

We’re about to find out.

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#25 Comment By JonF On November 16, 2017 @ 1:52 pm

Re: This line of thinking helps reveal how ugly the Sexual Revolution has been: almost no one can even imagine, anymore, the quite wholesome reasons why an older man might date a younger woman.

It’s more than just the Sexual Revolution. Women these days very often have their own careers and income– they are much less in need of a man to provide for them. And among the professional middle class types at least men actively look for for women that have promising careers and paychecks to supplement their own, hence the “DINK” category. That’s not entirely novel by the way, as heiresses were always in demand (especially by younger sons with only paltry inheritances themselves) among the upper class types in Ye Olden Days. The Emperor Augustus even made (fairly ineffective) laws against blatant fortune hunting.

Re: Another way of saying this is that the mind that can’t imagine a wholesome reason why a 30yr old man would be attracted to an 18yr old woman is more corrupt than a mind that can imagine such a thing.

The only reason I can see would be sex, period. OK, or maybe someone wants bragging rights as he shows off a hot young thing among his friends whose wives are all starting to get crows feet and sag a bit. Ugh. From a personal perspective I don’t much enjoy even the casual company of people grossly younger than myself (say, under 30, definitely under 25)– we live in two different worlds, they are apt, with rare exceptions, to be a too wild for my current tastes and at the extreme they are just too darn immature– I am well past the stage of life where sophomoric drama is at all fun. So yes, when I see someone my age frisking about young’uns I tend to think “What an old fool! Let the kids be kids.” If you want to say that’s corrupt, go ahead, but my term for it is “Common sense”.

Re: The latter still has some memory or understanding that sex is directed towards procreation and life,

Was that ever a majority opinion among people outside eccleasial ivory towers? Not that you can tell from the literature of past periods. The vast majority of people, assuming nothing horrible had happened to them in their youth, always seem to have found sex fun.

#26 Comment By Rombald On November 16, 2017 @ 9:05 pm

JonF:
“The only reason I can see would be sex, period. OK, or maybe someone wants bragging rights as he shows off a hot young thing among his friends whose wives are all starting to get crows feet and sag a bit. Ugh. From a personal perspective I don’t much enjoy even the casual company of people grossly younger than myself (say, under 30, definitely under 25)– we live in two different worlds, they are apt, with rare exceptions, to be a too wild for my current tastes and at the extreme they are just too darn immature– I am well past the stage of life where sophomoric drama is at all fun.”

Well, there’s no accounting for taste, I suppose!
Personally, I’m the opposite. I went travelling for a few days with an 18-yo girl a couple of years ago (a relative – nothing sexual!), and it was like being in the company of a ray of sunshine.

I’m currently trying to reconcile with my wife, but, if I did find myself single again, my choices would be either lifelong celibacy, or a long tour through south-east Asia looking for a young wife.

#27 Comment By Richard Parker On November 17, 2017 @ 2:35 am

Al Franken: Remember you heard it first here. More to come!

#28 Comment By Richard Parker On November 17, 2017 @ 2:37 am

A new federal age of consent bill has been introduced in Congress. 16 for a Democratic man; 26 for a Republican man.

#29 Comment By Richard Parker On November 17, 2017 @ 2:40 am

“They find that couples with large age differences tend to get much less support from friends, family, and broader society than age-concordant couples…”

Behold! The Birth of a New Victim Class!

#30 Comment By Disciple of Jesus On November 18, 2017 @ 2:19 am

This is not about having an evangelical to stick it to liberals; this is about loyalty and caring for an individual. This is a political hit, not a legitimate allegation. All it takes is a few women to carefully craft an allegation a few weeks before an election to stop a candidate from being elected? Christians are supposed to care for their neighbor, especially a fellow believer. We have no reason to doubt Mr. Moore, just as many feel no reason to doubt the women complainants. I believe this note is a forgery because (1) why would Mr. Moore sign as a DA when he was Deputy District Attorney, (2) the font colors look different and it looks like the DA portion with blue font was posted into the black ink portion, if he had nefarious motives why give evidence that could hurt him, given that attorneys are cautious, and (4) why would Ms. Young keep the note for so long if it is disagreeable? Also, a Mall Manager says Mr. Moore has never been banned from the named Alabama Moll.

#31 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 18, 2017 @ 12:26 pm

Rombald,

Well, there’s no accounting for taste, I suppose! Personally, I’m the opposite. I went travelling for a few days with an 18-yo girl a couple of years ago (a relative – nothing sexual!), and it was like being in the company of a ray of sunshine.

Yeah, my experience is similar. My first serious emotional “relationship” with one “Katherine” (we hung out several times a week for the summer, though we weren’t actually dating: there was a lot of heavy flirtation on both sides, but I was too diffident at the time to actually ask to do anything physical, so it never happened) was with a 19-20 year old back when I was 30-31. Again, nothing physical happened, and she’s happily engaged now with a two year old, but in spite of the lack of any sexual stuff that summer was one of the happiest times of my life. I loved giving her advice, trying to get her to eat healthy and drink a bit less, exercise more, figure out career and school plans (she was from a working class back ground and was a first generation student), console her about problems in her life, etc. She’d dated and hooked up with older guys than me before; she’d also been abused at 16 by a same-aged partner who she’d dated for three years. More or less the same kinds of things I’d hope to do in any relationship, but because everything in her adult life was new there was just so much more scope for helping her to get started on a new path.

I’ve had ‘real’ dating relationships with both physical and emotional components since then, but that summer really gave me a sense of, you know, what I’m looking for out of a relationship, and of my ideal dating situation.

For what it’s worth, you’re in England right? I was socially pretty active during a week long trip to England last year (had a a date with a 22-year old that I met on a dating site, talked with a bunch of people at bars, and so forth), and it seemed to me that young adults in England are a lot more, well, adult than ones in America. We really do have a weird mix of puritanism and liberalism in America, mostly not in a good way.

#32 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 18, 2017 @ 12:32 pm

Liam, Brendan, JonF and Rombald, sorry to keep trying bring the conversation to data rather than anecdotes, but here’s the set of studies I linked to in the other thread. They’re among the only ones I could find concerning the impact of age-discordant relationships on young adults (some of them concern 16-18 year olds, some 18-28 or 18-24 year olds, and others adults in general). As for the general takeaway you can read them for yourself.

Leitenberg and Saltzman, 2000. “A Statewide Survey of Age at First Intercourse for Adolescent Females and Age of Their Male Partners: Relation to Other Risk Behaviors and Statutory Rape Implications”. Archives of Sexual Behaviour, 29: 203-215.

Loftus J, Kelly BC, Mustillo SA. 2011. “Depressive Symptoms Among Adolescent Girls in Relationships with Older Partners: Causes and Lasting Effects?” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 40: 800-813.

Javanbakht M, Brown JM, Weiss RE, Hsu P, Gorbach P. 2012. “Intimate Partner Violence and Sexually Transmitted Infections among Young Adult Women.” Sexually Transmitted Diseases 39(5).

Mercer CH, Wellings K, McDowall W, Copas AJ, McManus S, Erens B, Fenton KA, Johnson AM. 2006. “First Sexual Partnerships—Age Differences and Their Significance: Empirical Evidence from the 2000 British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (‘Natsal 2000’)”. Journal of Adolescent Health 39: 87-106.

Abma J, Driscoll A, Moore K. 1998. “Young women’s degree of control over first intercourse: An exploratory analysis.” Family Planning Perspectives, 30: 12-18.

Carolyn Agurcia et al. 2001. study is here: [36]

Lehmiller and Agnew, themselves, in a 2008 paper found that women in relationships with much younger men were the happiest, but partnerships between young women and older men were not different (in terms of overall satisfaction or commitment to the relationship) than relationships of same-age partners. They also quote this, unfortunately the paper itself was inaccessible: : “For instance, age-gap partners appear to
be more trusting, less jealous, and less selfish in their relationships compared to
persons who are more similar in age to their romantic partners (Zak, Armer, Edmunds, Fleury, Sarris, & Shatynski, 2001).” (That was a study of college students in relationship with older people).

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#33 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 18, 2017 @ 12:47 pm

This line of thinking helps reveal how ugly the Sexual Revolution has been: almost no one can even imagine, anymore, the quite wholesome reasons why an older man might date a younger woman.

Well, plenty of people can imagine it. Not a majority, necessarily, but there are a lot of people who don’t really care one way or the other, and in my experience they tend to me more on the liberal ‘sex positive’ side than conservatives. After all, if you’re generally on team “anything goes among consenting adults”, and base your sexual ethics on harm rather than “propriety”, ”

There’s a stereotype among some unhappily single men (and I used to share it some extent) that criticism of age-disparate relationships is the fault of feminists and older women who resent men for dating younger, but this seems to be mostly sour-grapes coming from the creepier wings of the ‘manosphere’. In reality, here’s a poll from “Nerve”, which is a feminist/liberal skewed dating site if there ever was one: 47% of readers said “anything goes” as far as age gaps between consenting adults.

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For what it’s worth, “having a large family” is not at the basis of my interest in younger partners, and it obviously wouldn’t serve as a defence of, say, 50-year old women and 18-year old men. I think those sorts of relationships are unproblematic and can be good/healthy too, even though “procreation” can’t serve as the basis. My interest here is entirely in how age-discordant relationship can contribute to the personal growth, fulfillment, and flourishing of both people, not ‘procreation’ per se.

#34 Comment By JohnT On November 18, 2017 @ 11:48 pm

Utterly wrong tense to the title of this post. Without those “evangelicals” Roy Moore would not have been possible.