As I sit down to write this morning, the news is all about two destructive forces unleashing pain and calamity on our nation—one meteorological, one political. Hurricane Matthew, a monstrous storm that caused widespread damage and loss of life as it swept across the Caribbean and posed a major threat to the southeastern U.S., seems to be losing steam and veering away from the coast with much of its ruinous potential unrealized. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the Republican candidate for president.
As everybody knows by now, an audio recording has surfaced from 2005 in which the Republican candidate made vile and vulgar comments about women and spoke of his attitude and behavior toward them in terms that can only be described as predatory and demeaning. It is simply one more example, as though one were needed, to show that every time that man speaks, he hurts somebody.
What makes this latest episode even more distasteful is that, while Republican leaders—including some who had previously endorsed the candidate—quickly repudiated his contemptible remarks, several prominent evangelical “leaders” rushed to his defense and doubled down on their support for him. For those persons, who ostensibly represent the same religious tradition with which I identify, I have but one question, and I pose it with a heavy heart. Have you no shame?
This morning, I have been listening to conservative religious leaders–the same ones who, in the past, have repeatedly accused other Christians of deviancy and perversion simply because they wish to have their love and devotion for a member of the same sex recognized in a solemn ceremony of legal marriage–try to explain why the Republican candidate’s repeated displays of misogyny, xenophobia, and racism should not disqualify him for the presidency.
I recall their moralistic condemnation of politicians from the other party for their infidelities and other admittedly atrocious behavior while now they urge us to overlook the same kind of reprehensible language and conduct in their candidate. And I ask again, have you no shame? Do you even know the meaning of the word hypocrisy, and are you aware of how often Jesus used it to characterize the religious leaders of his day?
I share your belief in the potential of God’s forgiveness and transformative grace in the life of a penitent sinner. And I hear you when you quote the words of Jesus when he said to those ready to stone a woman for adultery, “Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone.” But all the goodwill that those generous sentiments embody is squandered when you apply them so selectively and so obviously under the influence of partisan politics.
I understand your loathing of the Democratic Party’s platform. A decade ago, I would have found it intolerable for the same reasons you do today. But no fear of encroaching socialism and no desire to see conservative justices appointed to the Supreme Court is worth the damage your intemperate and uncritical endorsement of the Republican nominee inflicts upon our corporate testimony as Christ-followers. You sully our family name among those who do not identify with Christianity, and you undermine the evangelistic efforts of those who believe the Gospel of Christ elevates the very persons whom the Republican candidate has repeatedly demeaned.
I’m sick of pharisaical “prophets” who predict the end of civilization and the social order every time they are asked to broaden their horizons and surrender some of their prejudices. When their biblical and Christian defense of slavery crumbled in the aftermath of the Civil War, they promoted what former Alabama Governor George Wallace called “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.” Nevertheless American society experienced racial integration, in large part, and did not disintegrate.
Those same voices warned against the dangers of interracial marriage, opposed civil rights legislation, and have not ceased to make it difficult for minorities to vote. They have opposed the right of gays and lesbians to enter into legal marriage covenants, and they propose laws that will enable merchants to withhold service from those who engage in lifestyle practices they find offensive, all in the name of “religious liberty.”
Having lost all or most of these battles for discrimination and against social and ethnic equality, they have now set their sights on who can use public restrooms. The loudest voices in that campaign advance their ideological goals through the dissemination of misinformation and the promotion of fear and ignorance, not least of which is the unsubstantiated suggestion that public transgender facilities actually increase the danger of sexual abuse.
When it comes to the danger of sexual abuse, news reports over the past few days would suggest that we have much more to fear from the influence of misogynistic public figures like the Republican presidential nominee than from a transgender woman who is simply trying to live as normal a life as she can in a society that, for the most part, cannot begin to empathize with her struggles.
We’ve had enough hypocrisy and judgmentalism in the guise of “family values.” I deplore the position taken by so-called Christian leaders who persist in their defense of the indefensible, and I will not be guilted into silence by those who have sold their spiritual birthright for a mess of political pottage.