A few days ago, in response to comments
I made about Donald Trump’s disdain for women, an evangelical Christian friend advised
me to carefully differentiate between Trump and his supporters. Trump, he said,
is a flawed but worthy candidate, made to look worse by a vocal minority of
supporters whose values may clash with historic Christian teachings and modern
sensibilities. Candidates, my friend suggested, can’t be identified with or held
responsible for what their supporters say and do, and citizens aren’t electing
the rabble around the candidates, but are voting for the candidates themselves.
According to my friend, while Trump’s rallies might be filled with chants of
“Hang the bitch!” or “Kill her!” or “Cunt!” directed at Hillary Clinton, Trump
has more respect for women.
Like many evangelical
Christians, my friend is supporting a fantasy candidate. If anything is
abundantly clear, it’s that Trump most definitely despises women. He belittles,
demeans, exploits, insults, and assaults them.
Everyone knows about Trump’s
cavalier marital infidelity, and voters have been aware of Trump’s verbal abuse
of women for months – at least since Megyn Kelly called him out for
describing women as “fat pigs,” “dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.” If that
was not enough to prove Trump’s disdain for women, this week’s revelations should
have erased any doubt. Over the past eight days, we’ve learned that Trump has played
a role in at least three films that firmly tie him to the sexually exploitative
porno-industrial complex. And now the public is treated to audio and video recordings of Trump talking with “Today Show” host Billy Bush, boasting of sexual
conquests and bragging about sexual assault, suggesting that he can just take
what he wants by the sheer power of his Hollywood Walk of Fame star. When Trump
tells Bush that he just kisses and gropes women that he finds physically
attractive it’s like he’s writing a playbook for the sexually unhinged.
Trump’s departure from Christian
teachings at this point is absolute. It’s not a matter of tone, convention, or
word choice. When it comes to the ways he treats women, Trump not only falls
short of Christian standards, but he falls short of human decency. In these recordings, he admits to
– and celebrates – being a sexual predator. Christians should condemn that
behavior for the vile filth that it is. Instead many fantasize that it
doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter.
In the wake of the transcript
release, some Republican politicians have begun to distance themselves from
Trump, but many so-called leaders among evangelicals are unwilling to do so. Eric
Metaxas’ immediate reaction on Twitter was simply dismissive, emphasizing
Trump’s crude language and hairstyle: “Trump caught using foul language,
combing his hair badly. Could this be the end of his campaign?” Maybe in
fantasyland sexual assault is as trivial and normal as a bad combover.
These fantasies don’t end with
Trump’s character, but extend to issues and policies. In response to news of
the recordings, Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, said that
his support of Trump was never “based upon shared values,” but is based upon
“common concerns about issues.” Perkins and others would be hard pressed to
find evidence of that common concern in the real world. Trump has, until very
recently, been vocally pro-choice, and Trump’s comments about Muslims in the
United States give him no credibility on the matter of religious freedom. While
Perkins is at least willing to acknowledge a divergence of values, his
assumptions that Trump will prove a reliable leader on issues of common concern
to the Family Research Council are fantastical to say the least.
Let me make one thing clear: Evangelical
Christians shouldn’t vote for Trump. As Alan Jacobs writes, the proper response to Trump is revulsion. But if anyone is considering Trump, they
shouldn’t try to fool themselves or others about who he is. At the moment of
truth, how might they actually remind themselves who Trump really is?
When they go to vote, Evangelical
supporters of Trump should carry the transcripts of these recordings and reread
the sordid celebration of sexual assault and denigration of women right then
and there. They should remind themselves who Trump is – who it is they’re about
to throw their support behind. They should ask themselves whether they’d vote
for anyone else who says these things or does what Trump admits to doing. They
should wonder whether they would be – or whether they have been – up in arms if
someone on the other side of the aisle said or did similar things. Then they
should count the cost of the integrity, consistency, credibility, and witness
they will sacrifice.
Evangelical Christians tempted to
vote for Trump should acknowledge that they don’t get to vote for “fantasy
Trump,” the decent person with a loud minority of indecent supporters. They
don’t get to vote for the billionaire-real-estate-mogul-outsider (such a thing
does not exist – billionaire real estate moguls can be mavericks, but they
can’t be outsiders) who supports religious liberty (he doesn’t), protects the unborn (no reason to believe he will), loves
“the blacks,” and plans to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices. Just like the fantasy
Trump who respects women, that candidate isn’t on the ballot.