The witch-hunt continues.
Roy Moore, the GOP nominee running for senator in Alabama, is contending with allegations of sexual abuse made decades ago. His accusers are now middle-aged women of questionable motives for their testimony. Smelling an opportunity to thwart yet another populist kook conservative, many GOP politicians have distanced themselves from Moore and have called for his removal from the race.
All this reeks of hypocrisy and opportunism. To remark this does not necessarily equate to endorsement of Moore or his politics, but, considering the origins and timing of these accusations, he at least deserves the benefit of the doubt from fellow conservatives on this matter, if not everyone. Politicians and pundits mostly look petty and temperamental by jumping on the anti-Moore bandwagon.
However, after the New York Times’ Harvey Weinstein exposé and the growing wave of accusations against other Hollywood stars (Matt Walsh has of an updated list of names to help readers keep track), presuming the guilt of prominent men and accepting unverifiable testimony is now expected. Public life in America currently resembles Arthur Miller’s The Crucible where anyone with an axe to grind can tell a story and find immediate satisfaction.
This does not mean that all the women making claims against sexual predators are lying, nor does it mean that all men in Hollywood and Washington are chaste gentlemen. Still, people need to check their impulse to join the fray, or they will ultimately help to create a situation that punishes good people, empowers bad people, and deserts those in need.
Arthur Miller’s play illustrates this point well. The young women led by Abigail who start the witch-hunt to avoid judgment themselves along with the power-hungry adults who encourage them, mainly Putnam and Danforth, begin to rule the town, intimidating everyone around them. The white knights like Reverend Hale who support the girls in good faith see only too late that they have colluded with evil and achieved the opposite of what they intended. The good people, like the Proctors, the Coreys and the Nurses, consequently lose their property and are hanged. Meanwhile, the town of Salem is abandoned as fields go fallow and livestock and neglected children roam the empty streets.
All this works out the same way now with the hunt for male predators. Women (and men) gain their five minutes of fame by accusing a public figure of sexual misconduct, which now ranges from inappropriate jokes to violent rape, and the rival producer or politician behind the spectacle eliminates their competition. The great majority of people in Hollywood knew about Weinstein’s perversions for decades, and The New York Times had their report on file for years. Did the paper or these people really feel a pang of conscience all of a sudden, or was the time and conditions ideal for such a campaign?
Those accused may not have the same luster of innocence or enjoy the same sympathies as John Proctor or Giles Corey, but they are not exactly the conventional male predators one normally thinks about. In most cases, they have not committed proven crimes that would earn them time in jail; rather, they have odd fetishes that disgust most people. One may criticize Louis CK’s nastiness, but it does not seem fair to put his penchant for pleasuring himself in front of women in the same category as Roman Polanski’s crime of drugging and raping a minor. The more these claims of predation are validated, the less defined predation becomes. As CK’s official response indicates, all that is now required to qualify as sexual assault is one person (usually a man) having some kind of power over another (usually a woman) and making any kind of suggestion relating to sex.
Most people watching seem to enjoy these stories for now. Many women can include the hash tag “metoo” for easy sympathy and men can virtue signal their white knight chivalry and join in condemning their fellow man (#Iwill). Little do they realize—though maybe some do—that they make things worse for themselves and others. Women who suffer serious injuries that require justice will now be grouped with the promiscuous pretenders who wanted attention. Like the boy who cried wolf, a woman crying rape will have little to no credibility, and thus become more vulnerable to predators. As women deal with this, all men will have to cope with the predator label that makes them guilty until proven otherwise, somewhat like the Catholic clergy during and long after the priest abuse scandals.
Moreover, both men and women interested in romantic relationships will now have the misfortune of navigating through a minefield of possible crimes. Far from having the understanding disposition of orthodox Christianity, secularism, as GK Chesterton noted, is much less forgiving and tolerant of moral transgressions. Denunciation from this angle all but guarantees more gender hostility, more sexual deviancy (due to an increased removal of healthy outlets of affection), and even more loneliness.
Instead of ceding ground to the opportunists, Christians of all stripes need to work on restoring sanity in this renewed interest in sexual propriety. They should recognize and resist gossip and the court of public opinion while allowing the police and legal courts administer justice. Contrary to popular opinion, this was the very reason the Church initiated the inquisition during the Middle Ages and Renaissance; left unchecked, the mob would target unpopular minorities and have witch hunts just like the media is doing today.
More importantly, they should model forgiveness by hating the sin and loving the sinner. These sex scandals happen because people completely misunderstand love and thus never give or receive it. For them, love is pleasure, power, or a token of value; it is never selfless or life-giving. They need to learn that there is a better way. Christians have an opportunity to show this better way and allow grace to work in this fallen world, or take the cowardly route and cast stones with everyone else.