People down in Alabama are getting all introspective about how their supposedly flawless Christian governor could have turned out to be such a low class fraud. This Wayne Flynt character is interesting because he’s a little put out that it took so long to force Robert Bentley’s resignation:

“Secular culture is eroding evangelicalism to the point where it takes us one full year to get rid of the governor because of all of these conflicting pressures,” [Flynt] said. “He would have been out the door in an hour in the 1940s.”

But he has an explanation for why Bentley survived as long as he did.

“The idea that moral hypocrisy hurts you among evangelical voters is not true, if you’re sound on all of the fundamentals,” said Wayne Flynt, an ordained Baptist minister and one of Alabama’s pre-eminent historians. “Being sound on the fundamentals depends on what the evangelical community has decided the fundamentals have become. At this time, what is fundamental is hating liberals, hating Obama, hating abortion and hating same-sex marriage.”

I went to church as a kid and I learned a lot about trying to love your enemies. I struggle with how to respond to folks who present themselves as morally exemplary and yet project a solid front of hatred.

I also struggle with this tolerance for moral hypocrisy. I think most people instinctively recoil from hypocrisy, but folks who follow the word of Jesus should, I think, be respectful of the fact that the one thing that really seemed to set Jesus off and make him lose his temper was watching hypocrites in action.

I know he was sending another very important message about forgiveness. And I know he told people not to be judgmental. It’s a hard teaching, because he didn’t exactly practice what he preached. He promised to go very rough with the hypocrites:

“Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?”-Romans 2:3

But I’m not talking in favor of sanctimony. I’m just saying that if Jesus tells you to love your brother maybe you shouldn’t form a culture around hating everyone and everything that makes you a teensy bit uncomfortable.

Robert Bentley turned out to be a giant hypocrite. It’s okay to acknowledge that. It turns out that he wasn’t “sound on all of the fundamentals.” The fact that he hated Obama and liberals and gays doesn’t mean that he was a godly person or a leader worth following.

It’s also okay to hold him responsible for his actions:

“I think he’s just like all of us: He’s made of flesh and bone, and he’s temptable,” said the Rev. John Killian, a former president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention. “I believe it was the devil, and I believe the devil knew he was bagging big game.”

There’s something messed up when, as long you as you hate all the right things and people, you can even be possessed by the devil and get a pass with these folks.

I don’t see how to break through to them. Although I suspect doing a better job of emulating their Savior and meeting their hatred with love is as good a place to start as any.

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