National Republicans are standing up to defend Herschel Walker after a bombshell report that the Senate candidate in the hotly contested battleground state of Georgia paid for a woman’s abortion in 2009. Something has radically changed in the value system of conservatives.
Walker, who is running as a staunchly anti-abortion candidate, has denied the account the woman made in a story published by The Daily Beast. The report claims the woman has a $700 check signed by Walker to pay for the abortion along with other factual evidence.
The shifting values of conservatives would not stop shifting even if this story later was to be proved false.
In the Republican version of “Stand by Your Man,” Sen. Rick Scott of Florida claimed the story was a “smear” without giving any evidence. The claim of smear seems to be sufficient for some voters.
“Reed’s presumption that more Republicans would now vote for Walker after hearing the story suggests how values have been turned upside down.”
“We’ve seen this movie before,” said Ralph Reed, the prominent social conservative leader based in Georgia, adding that he “100 percent” expected evangelical Christians would stick with Walker. He even argued that the latest report could lift Republican turnout by rallying social conservatives to defend Walker. Reed’s presumption that more Republicans would now vote for Walker after hearing the story suggests how values have been turned upside down.
Other conservative leaders claimed the story was a mere distraction, that the lying, scheming, desperate liberals would say anything to win an election. The “rotten barrel” of political arguments always throws out at least a few apples claiming “DEMS do it too,” or “This is a bunch of lies,” or “Fake news,” or “The Democrats will make up any story to win.”
In the aftermath of any politician accused of moral indiscretion, there is this one defense that always shows its ugly face: “Show me a perfect candidate. Bring him to my church and introduce him to me.” The implication is that we are all, of course, sinners.
Why this passes as a defense surpasses knowledge. In fact, it is not an argument; it is a slogan — a slogan made famous by liberals delighting in claiming that we are all sinners. Liberals first gave us the bag full of slogans:
- “Who am I to judge?”
- “We are all sinners.”
- “What I eat and with whom I sleep is my business as long as I do not hurt anyone.”
- “To be a Christian is not to be hung up on moralistic judgments.”
The day got worse for Walker when his son went on Twitter: “You’re not a ‘family man’ when you left us to bang a bunch of women, threatened to kill us, and had us move over 6 times in 6 months running from your violence,” Christian Walker wrote.
In a separate video he added: “Family values people, he has four kids, four different women, wasn’t in the house raising one of them. He was out having sex with other women.”
What makes the story more complex is that Walker is a no-exception anti-abortionist. On the campaign trail, he often repeats this mantra: “There’s no exception in my mind.” Something’s wrong when the one moral issue that conservatives have identified as the litmus test for Christianity — abortion — is not an issue when a candidate for the U. S. Senate allegedly pays for an abortion.
Conservative values seem to be a sliding scale. Abortion is wrong under every circumstance, except for Walker. Lying, stealing and defrauding people is wrong, except for Donald Trump. The Ten Commandments are the basis of the U.S. Constitution, but the commandments don’t apply to important conservative politicians.
The conservative value here: Paying for an abortion is OK for our candidates for the U.S. Senate. Otherwise, there are no exceptions.
It is hard not to become impatient at disquisitions on the absurdity of religious values confidently delivered by people who have previously insisted on the inviolability of those values when it comes to liberals and Democrats. It seems a curious delusion for so many conservative leaders to immediately assume the story of Walker paying for an abortion is false and to have such passion for standing up for Walker no matter what the story reveals.
Conservatives faced with a choice between moral values and winning elections have decided that winning elections takes priority. This allows the “no exceptions” crowd to make an exception: A senate candidate who pays for an abortion.
For his part, Walker, at an event at First Baptist Church of Atlanta, recently declared he is “a sinner saved by grace.” That seals the deal. At the close of the service, Walker gathered a group around him for laying on of hands and prayer.
Whether the story was true or false didn’t phase Walker’s supporters. One attendee at the Atlanta event said, “They are not voting for fathers and husbands of the year.” This echoes the oft-repeated claim in the 2016 and 2020 elections that we were not voting to call a new pastor or Sunday school teacher — only the leader of the most powerful nation in the world.
There is a suggestion here that politicians waste a lot of energy denying the veracity of stories that show them as hypocrites and sinners. When the evangelicals’ new wide-open Get Out of Trouble Free card is available for any candidate in a tight race, why bother with denial? Confess that you are a sinner. Go light on the details but confess your sin. Ask for forgiveness and promise you will vote right on the legislation that matters.
The evangelicals, it appears, will forgive any sin with or without exceptions, repentance or truth. The prophecy of Donald Trump that he could shoot a person on Fifth Avenue and not lose a vote now has been extended to all candidates in tight Senate races that could determine control of the Senate.
Trump could have saved himself a lot of trouble by saying all the news that he claimed was “fake,” was true. He could still repent of all his wrongs, and his people would marvel at his conversion and his honesty, and they would have increased their devotion to him fourfold. There’s no forgiveness like evangelical forgiveness.
The family values message has changed. When Bill Clinton was president, conservatives ranted about values being the most important trait of a politician. Character mattered most of all. Voters were encouraged to elect politicians with the highest levels of Christian character. A politician who committed any moral lapse was considered unfit for office. In one of his many attacks on President Clinton, James Dobson insisted you can’t run a country without moral conviction.
Now, it appears you can vote for a candidate who paid for an abortion.
Now, an unending stream of forgiveness and understanding is available to the “right” candidates regardless of character flaws and bad behaviors.
Simply put, character doesn’t matter as much as winning a Senate seat in Georgia or a Supreme Court seat or the presidency of the United States.
Expediency and pragmatism have double-teamed Christian character and values. In 2014, Robert Jeffress urged his church members to vote for Christian candidates, men of character. Why? Jeffress explained: “A person’s core beliefs serve as a restraint against immorality, corruption and dereliction of duty.”
Yet when Jeffress came out whole hog for Trump in 2016, he claimed he wanted the meanest S.O.B. he could find to be our president. He repeatedly insisted that what mattered was not whether a president did something immoral, but that the president had “wonderful policies.”
Rodney W. Kennedy is a pastor in New York state and serves as a preaching instructor at Palmer Theological Seminary. He is the author of nine books, including the newly released The Immaculate Mistake, about how evangelical Christians gave birth to Donald Trump.
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