Now playing
01:47
Protesters chant 'no Moore' at Roy Moore
roy moore presser
CNN
roy moore presser
Now playing
01:02
Roy Moore files political conspiracy complaint (2018)
 Senator-elect Doug Jones (D-AL) speaks during a December 13, 2017 in Birmingham, Alabama. Jones stated that US President Donald Trump called him today to congratulate him on his victory. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)
Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Senator-elect Doug Jones (D-AL) speaks during a December 13, 2017 in Birmingham, Alabama. Jones stated that US President Donald Trump called him today to congratulate him on his victory. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:20
Doug Jones will be certified as winner
title: Judge Roy Moore Campaign Statement duration: 00:04:47 site: Youtube author: null published: Wed Dec 13 2017 22:04:05 GMT-0500 (Eastern Standard Time) intervention: yes description: December 13, 2017 | Montgomery, Alabama
title: Judge Roy Moore Campaign Statement duration: 00:04:47 site: Youtube author: null published: Wed Dec 13 2017 22:04:05 GMT-0500 (Eastern Standard Time) intervention: yes description: December 13, 2017 | Montgomery, Alabama
Now playing
01:31
Moore releases new video, refuses to concede
Rep. Leonard Lance new day
CNN
Rep. Leonard Lance new day
Now playing
00:34
GOP lawmaker: Moore's denial is ridiculous
Steve Bannon takes the stage at a Roy Moore rally on December 5, 2017.
CNN
Steve Bannon takes the stage at a Roy Moore rally on December 5, 2017.
Now playing
00:51
Steve Bannon comments on Roy Moore accusations
beverly nelson
CNN
beverly nelson
Now playing
01:32
Roy Moore accuser reacts to his defeat
CNN
Now playing
01:08
Tapper fact-checks Roy Moore spokesman
Now playing
02:10
Roy Moore: I never molested anyone
roy moore swamp neck alligators senate election sot _00002325.jpg
roy moore swamp neck alligators senate election sot _00002325.jpg
Now playing
01:32
Moore: We are up to our neck in alligators
CNN
Now playing
02:55
Roy Moore supporter: Democrats are going low
CNN
Now playing
02:05
Moore's wife: 'One of our attorneys is a Jew'
CNN
Now playing
01:36
WH: It's up to Alabamians to decide on Moore
Additional Embargo:    Additional Source(s):    Date Shot: 12/5/2017   Shipping/Billing Info:       Description:   Projects:   None  Cost Center:   Atlanta National Desk / 20100101    Created By: kconerly  On: 1512494357  --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
WBRC;
Additional Embargo: Additional Source(s): Date Shot: 12/5/2017 Shipping/Billing Info: Description: Projects: None Cost Center: Atlanta National Desk / 20100101 Created By: kconerly On: 1512494357 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Now playing
01:07
Doug Jones: Men who hurt girls belong in jail
NS Slug: ERIC CANTOR:ROY MOORE DESERVES TO LOSE  Synopsis: Eric Cantor on Roy Moore: 'I think he deserves to lose'  Keywords: POLITICS ALABAMA SENATE
CNN
NS Slug: ERIC CANTOR:ROY MOORE DESERVES TO LOSE Synopsis: Eric Cantor on Roy Moore: 'I think he deserves to lose' Keywords: POLITICS ALABAMA SENATE
Now playing
00:56
Cantor: Roy Moore deserves to lose
CNN
Now playing
00:46
Moore spokeswoman brings up anchor's baby
(CNN) —  

Almost every religion asks a version of the question, “What would Jesus do?” Buddhists look to the Buddha, Muslims to the Prophet Mohammed, Sikhs to Guru Nanak, observant Jews to Moses, and the list goes on.

Emulating holy men and women from the distant past is hard – what would the Buddha do with Facebook? – but the effort has helped faiths keep their founders’ missions alive, even as they amble across centuries and continents. Still, there is a shadow side to this devotion: the use, or misuse, of sacred stories to condone bad behavior.

The latest and perhaps oddest example came this week, when an Alabama official invoked Christianity’s Holy Family to defend Senate GOP candidate Roy Moore from accusations that he sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl decades ago.

“Take Joseph and Mary,” Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler told the Washington Examiner. “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”

In some ways, it makes sense for Moore’s allies to draw on religious examples when defending him. The longtime Alabama Supreme Court judge has made Christianity and the Bible central to his political identity. He has insisted on displaying a monument to the Ten Commandments in the courthouse, even after he was told to remove it, and earned a suspension for refusing to follow the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage.

Moore, for his part, has vigorously denied the accusations. In keeping with his hardcore Christian image, the Senate candidate said he is engaged in a “spiritual battle” with “those who want to silence our message.”

But few Christians have risen to voice support for Zeiglers’ interpretation of Scripture. In fact, quite the opposite.

The invocation of the Holy Family was “ridiculous and blasphemous,” said Ed Stetzer in a Christianity Today column.

“As Christians, this should provoke anger,” said Stetzer, who heads the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in Illinois.

“We should be angered, first, that politicians think they can lie to us so easily by appealing to biblical language and characters. Second, that we so easily fall for such tactics. For the past decade, evangelicals have been easy marks, and I hope that people won’t fall for these things.”

For what it’s worth, the Bible doesn’t tell us how old Mary and Joseph were. The gospels refer to Mary as a “parthenos,” which can be translated as “young woman” or “virgin,” said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of a recent book on the life of Jesus.

In biblical art, Joseph is often depicted as elderly and Mary as maidenly, but the purpose is to desexualize their relationship, Martin said, not to normalize liaisons between older men and younger women.

“Using the relationship of Mary and Joseph to, in any way, excuse or legitimize the sexual abuse or sexual harassment of a minor, or anyone, is monstrous,” Martin tweeted.

Zeigler’s comparison is bizarre for another reason, Christians said. Joseph didn’t prey on Mary, according to the Bible. He protected her.

As the Nativity story recounts every Advent, Jesus was not conceived through relations between Joseph and Mary. In fact, when Joseph heard that Mary was pregnant, he considered divorce, Scripture says, until an angel told him about Jesus’ divine father. After that, Joseph remained betrothed to Mary and raised Jesus as a son.

Another unappreciated comparison

Friday, as news spread about the allegations against Moore, another of his allies compared the Senate candidate not to Joseph and Mary but to Jesus himself.

Jerry Moore, Roy Moore’s brother, told CNN’s Martin Savidge that the women who say Roy Moore pursued them as teenagers decades ago “will have to answer to God for these false allegations,” Savidge said.

Jerry Moore then said that his brother is “being persecuted … like Jesus Christ was,” according to Savidge.

Again, the comparison was not appreciated by many Christians.

“A wall of separation between politicians and sacrilegious comparisons to Christ ought to exist,” said Philip Wegmann in the Washington Examiner. “To do otherwise is neither politically safe nor spiritually right.”

You don’t need to be a Bible-thumping Southerner to earn biblical comparisons these days.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, many of Donald Trump’s evangelical backers compared the brash and unorthodox businessman to the morally flawed kings in ancient Israel.

“God called King David a man after God’s own heart even though he was an adulterer and a murderer,” said Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of evangelical Liberty College and a staunch Trump supporter.

Other evangelicals compared Trump to Saul, the first ruler of the unified kingdoms; to Nehemiah, who built the walls around Jerusalem; and even Esther, who rose from obscurity to become a Persian queen. There grew to be so many biblical analogies that the Washington Post made a game of it. (Meanwhile, a growing number of white evangelicals decided to be more accepting of politicians who commit immoral acts in their personal life.)

What does Christian Scripture say about comparing ourselves to faith’s founding families? One indication comes in a letter written by St. Paul.

“Each one should test their own actions,” Paul writes in Galatians. “Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.”