STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Allegations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore pose a special challenge for some evangelical Christians. That's because Moore positions himself as one of their own. So what to do when multiple women accuse him of misconduct? Ed Stetzer is an evangelical who holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair at Wheaton College. He's on the line from New York. Good morning, sir.
ED STETZER: Good morning. Thanks for having me.
INSKEEP: OK. There's quite a list of accusers. It's gotten longer even in the last day. So what's an evangelical case for sticking with Roy Moore?
STETZER: Well, first, I don't hold that evangelical case for sticking with Roy Moore. I think the accusers are credible and The Washington Post is a credible source. But I do think for some, they have kind of tuned out from what they call the mainstream media and they therefore don't believe the accusations in many, many cases. And therefore they have maybe hardened their support in some ways, some saying they've known Moore for decades, and therefore I think they're saying, no, we just don't believe the accusations, we're going to stick with him anyway.
INSKEEP: Hold on a second here. Because to say, I don't believe the mainstream media, this is actually people from Alabama talking, and you can go online and watch the video of many of them talking yourselves. So to say the media is doing this...
STETZER: Well, no question, which is, again, why I said, as I start with, I believe these allegations are credible. I believe Roy Moore should step down for the good of his party. But more important for me, for the damage he's causing to the reputation of Evangelicals. But I think for many people, their views hardened. We saw the same thing when there were credible accusations against President Clinton. Their views hardened, and people - those core supporters hardened in their views. I think that's unhelpful. I think ultimately we need to believe people. I think, as a pastor of many years, when someone comes to me telling me they have been abused or harassed, I immediately say, well, tell me. I believe you. What do we need to do? To whom do we need to go? We need to go to the authorities and more. I think Christians need to act like Jesus in the midst of this, show mercy, be focused on the hurting and help them through the pain. And I think that the opposite reaction has happened for many people in Alabama and elsewhere.
INSKEEP: This must be tricky because if you're evangelical, of course, you believe we're all sinners, that everybody makes mistakes to say the least, and that you try to forgive them when you can. But it is interesting to note surveys that evangelicals in particular have been much more forgiving, according to surveys, of politicians who commit indiscretions, including those who don't even apologize. I mean, President Trump comes to mind.
STETZER: Yeah, actually, and what's fascinating is they didn't used to be. So before President Trump came along, they were actually much more strict and stern on politicians' indiscretions. But then they've sort of changed their views. I wrote an article about it in Christianity Today entitled "This Is What It Looks Like To Sell Your Soul For A Bowl Of Trump." I'm not saying that every person who voted for Trump has done that, but if you change your view of ethics in order to support a candidate, that's the definition of selling out and selling your soul. And I think I understand people who voted one way or the other, but I think you do so with a consistent ethic because that's what Christianity is. It's not a political whim. It's, well, we believe it's the good news that Jesus died on the cross for our sin and in our place. And in this new life we're supposed to have consistency, and I think that's why a lot of people are questioning evangelicals right now, and I think a lot of evangelicals are questioning what do we need to do differently to have a consistency of Gospel ethic and Gospel truth.
INSKEEP: Why would so many evangelicals change their views for apparent partisan political gain?
STETZER: Well, and I think that's the question I'd like to ask. I mean, the poll you're quoting is a PRRI poll that really was quite stunning between the two. And, like, it's actually a year old, and when it first came out. But I think ultimately the intervening variable between there was President Trump. And when 81 percent of white evangelicals supported President Trump, I think they needed to recalibrate their ethical stands to do so. I think that was an unhelpful, even sinful recalibration. I'm not saying that every person who voted for President Trump is sinful or has made the decision, but I am saying that to change your views on morality in order to support a candidate is deeply troubling. And as evangelicals, we use insider language. We need to disciple people better so that they actually think biblically, not politically, about every issue.
INSKEEP: Mr. Stetzer, thanks very much. Pleasure talking with you.
STETZER: Thank you.
INSKEEP: Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair at Wheaton College.
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