The Federalist: Is What Moore Did Really So Bad?

Tully Borland of the Federalist recently penned an article urging Alabamians to vote for Roy Moore despite the allegations against him:

I am going to argue for the very unpopular, even shocking, view that, even if Roy Moore did what he is accused of doing, Alabamans are within their rights to vote for him, and they shouldn’t let Democrats and Never Trumpers shame them into not voting.

The argument here is standard—that it wouldn’t matter of Moore was a confirmed serial child rapist, because his opponent supports the brutal mass murder of children (i.e. abortion), and that’s worse. At some point I need to write about the role abortion has played in shoring up the Republican base for decades now. It’s to the point where many Republicans will literally vote for anyone, provided they say they’re anti-abortion.

But Borland says more than that—a lot more:

Here is one thing we know and should admit from the start: in his early thirties, Moore had a penchant for dating teenagers. Apparently, this was not an uncommon occurrence during this time.

Bull. According to the Post and others who have been interviewed who were familiar with the situation at the time, Moore’s coworkers and others found it strange that Moore was pursuing teenagers, as a thirty-something district attorney.

To make matters even worse, Borland goes on as follows:

In fact, this practice has a long history and is not without some merit if one wants to raise a large family.

To have a large family, the wife must start having kids when she is young. The husband needs to be well-established and able to support the family, in which case he will typically need to marry when older.

The funny thing, as blogger Kathryn Brightbill has pointed out, is that many evangelicals responded with complete denial to articles drawing links between Roy Moore and support for child marriage within evangelicalism. And look! Here it is in the Federalist!

Indeed, Borland’s logic here is exactly what I pointed to after the allegations against Moore first came out: that the evangelical homeschool community I grew up in held that men were ready to marriage when they could financially support a family while women were ready for marriage when they were biologically capable of childrearing.

But Borland is still not done:

Consider Keith Burgess-Jackson’s (philosophy professor at UT Arlington) account of his own grandparents:

What’s the big deal about a 32-year-old man courting a 14-year-old girl? My maternal grandmother was 15 years old when she married and 16 years old when she conceived her first child. Her husband was 41 and 42. They had 10 children during the next 20 years. This was normal back then. I’m sure it was normal in Alabama 40 years ago as well…

No, that was not normal back then.

In 1890 the median age at first marriage was 22 for women and 26 for men. Certainly there would have been some girls who married men of 41 when they were just 15, but that would not have been the norm. (For what it’s worth, one of my grandmothers married when she was 18; her husband was 19.) Yes, the average age difference between spouses has narrowed compared to a century and more ago. Both Borland and Keith Burgess-Jackson, however, are vastly misrepresenting the degree of this shift.

But let’s ask a different question. What if matches between girls of 15 and men of 41 really were the norm a century ago? Would that matter? Certainly if this was the norm in Alabama when Moore was in his early 30s, we could say his behavior then was not outside of the social norms of the time; however, we know this wasn’t the case. But what if it was the norm a century ago? Would that excuse Moore?

No. No it would not. And I can explain why.

In the evangelical homeschool community in which I grew up, it was common for movement leaders and conference speakers (among others) to say that the teenage years were a modern invention. “We don’t do teenagers,” parents would say. They would point out that children of 14 or 15 didn’t hang out at the mall or go to the movies 200 years ago. They spent their time with their families, not in age-segmented peer groups. Now, this wasn’t entirely true. Still—what about the parts that were?

Do you remember that passage in the gospels where Jesus says not to pour new wine into old wineskins? That actually applies here. When children were growing up 200 years ago, their entire world was different. They way children were raised 200 years ago prepared them for that world. We no longer live in that world. Raising children today the way children were raised 200 years would leave them ill-equipped to navigate our world. In other words, there are things that worked out fine in the past that wouldn’t work out fine today, because we no longer live in that past.

One more thing. There are many non-profit and governmental groups working today to eliminate child marriage—marriages in which one or both partners are below age eighteen—in developing countries. And there is a reason for this!

When girls marry before they finish their education (say, high school), there are economic consequences that don’t go away. When girls marry as children (say, at age 14 or 15), their bodies are less likely to be ready for childbearing, leading to health risks. When girls marry much-older men (as is often the case in child marriage), they have less decision-making ability in their marriages.

Child marriages within the U.S. are not exempt from these problems.

I can’t believe I’m sitting here explaining why child marriage is a bad thing. This is bizarre. Republicans criticize Islam because of child marriage all the time. But when it’s one of their own, suddenly they’re all about how child marriage actually makes sense, because grown men are financially able to support a family and young teenage girls are capable of bearing children. What.

Borland goes on to express doubt about allegations of sexual abuse and assault made by Leigh Corfman and Beverly Young Nelson. Having explained his skepticism, he adds this:

But let’s suppose the accusations are mostly true. Then from a conservative moral perspective, Moore is guilty of lying, trying to have pre-marital sexual relations with girls half his age, and pressuring them to do so without first determining that they reciprocate. There is no sugar-coating what he did. Moore was a dirt bag and is currently lying about his actions rather than confessing the truth and asking for forgiveness.

If elected, Moore would join the ranks of other undignified politicians who have been liars and fornicators.

On first read-through, this literally left me speechless.

If the allegations are true, Moore is not guilty of “lying, trying to have pre-marital sexual relations with girls half his age, and pressuring them to do so without first determining that they reciprocate.” He is guilty of predatory behavior, sexual assault, and sexual abuse of a child. Words matter. If elected, Moore will “join the ranks of undignifiedpoliticians who have been liars and fornicators.” Liars and fornicators. What the ever-loving flip.

I’m really not sure what else I can say about the awfulness that is Borland’s article except that his bio section at the bottom of his article left me horrified:

Tully Borland is associate professor of philosophy at Ouachita Baptist University. He is a former member of the 82nd Airborne Division, father of five, and superhero against the dark forces of political correctness. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter @BorlandTully.

Borland has five children. Five. One of them, he mentions, is a 14-year-old girl. And on top of that, he’s a professor at a Christian college.

This, apparently, is the state of evangelical morality today.

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