Monday, October 10, 2016
Donald Trump is Josh Duggar, Writ Large. Sorry, I Mean Writ "Yuge."
So I outed myself as a sexual abuse victim after having spent the prior two decades confiding that fact about myself to a bare handful of people closest to me. I did so because I felt--and still feel--very strongly that Christian culture needs to take a long, hard look at how it enables, excuses, and covers up allegations of sexual abuse. Even after the reckoning brought about by the Roman Catholic priest scandals, we as Christians still struggle mightily with taking seriously the scope and scale of sexual assault by our adherents.
I was disgusted by Donald Trump's comments on that 2005 tape--not just because I experienced being coerced into having someone grab my own genitals that traumatic night 21 years ago--but because I have long since cut out any possible contact with my abuser from my life, and that simply isn't possible in the case of Donald Trump. As a major party's nominee for president, he is on every network, every cable news outlet. And even after he loses badly on November 8th, he will continue to have an outsized media presence because (a) he is Donald Trump, and (b) Trumpism is not going to die with his electoral defeat.
To put it another way--why do we have a lower bar for the person we'll vote for to be the leader of the free world than I do for the people I keep contact with in my life? I love my friends, but even with all their obvious gifts, smarts, and thoughtfulness, I'm not sure I'd actually want any them with the codes to the nuclear football. That job should be reserved for the barest of handfuls of people in the country.
I cannot stress that point enough. My friends, to a person, provided me with incredibly kind and thoughtful words of support when I did out myself and share my personal history of sexual abuse. They showed far more humanity to me in that moment than Donald Trump ever has in the public stage. And I still wouldn't necessarily want to hand the nuclear codes over to them simply because they are my friends and I love them.
And my situation is a luxury: I was able to cut off all contact with the person who coerced me and abused me. And it was only one person, on one night. Some victims are repeatedly assaulted, some are assaulted by multiple people, and for some, it is impossible to completely cut their abusers so cleanly and entirely out of their lives.
Those are luxuries we simply do not have with Donald Trump--not on Friday when the tape dropped, and not now after evangelical Christian leaders like Ralph Reed, Tony Perkins, Jerry Falwell Jr., and Pat Robertson all elected to continue to stand by Trump's candidacy (and in Robertson's odious case, actually endorse the behavior Trump was caught on tape describing).
American Christianity's moral credibility is facing a great precipice: do we continue along the way we have for decades of having our institutional identity go hand-in-hand with an increasingly racist, sexist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic message being peddled in this election, or do we finally break free of our self-made shackles and finally, in the true tradition of the Biblical prophets, begin speaking truth to power?
This isn't about politics, I promise. It really isn't. I haven't even mentioned a single political issue--not a word from me today on the Supreme Court, or the Affordable Care Act, or anything of the sort.
This is about something much more fundamental to our humanity. I saw very few people, if anyone (aside from the same litany of public Christian figures like Mike Huckabee) defend Josh Duggar. But I see so many people right now defending Donald Trump.
So to those who are doing so--especially if you identify as Christian--is your excusing the predatory behavior of a serial womanizer worth communicating your disdain to the scorned wife who is his opponent? Is the spiritual and mental pain you are communicating to sexual abuse victims worth the chance to continue to stand with someone who bragged about repeatedly forcing himself on women?
And can you answer those questions without bringing up Bill Clinton? Because Slick Willie--morally detestable though he surely is--is not on the ballot. And when he was, I beg you, a thousand pardons for my not having voted against him. But in my defense, I was six and ten years old the two times that he was on the ballot.
No, this time, it is your guy's name that is on the ballot. And you have a choice. A choice that can define you, should you choose to let it. You can choose to continue to minimize and excuse who and what he is.
Or you can decide to reclaim your Christian identity anew. You don't have to vote for Hillary. In fact, if you do find her abjectly unsuited for the job, then please don't vote for her. There are any number of third-party candidates out there. Or take a cue from any number of Republican leaders who are now saying that they'll write in someone else.
Scripture says, "How can I see your faith apart from your actions?" (James 2:18, CEB) It comes from a longer passage on the importance of action as a result from, and a reflection of, one's faith.
Denying the reality of sexual assault is one such work. It is reflective of a certain faith, or absence thereof.
It is not a work, I think--not after the priest scandals, not after Josh Duggar, and most certainly not after Donald Trump--that God desires from us.
And to my friends who identify as female: I see your hurt and your pain not just from Trump's comments and half-assed apology for them, but also from the ways in which your friends or relatives are excusing and spinning those words away.
I share that pain--so far as I am able to as a man--because of my own story as a past victim of sexual abuse.
And I continue to hope and pray that you will be embraced by a world that affirms your pain for what it is, rather than minimizing or dismissing it for what the world would prefer that it be instead.
October 10, 2016
#NeverTrump image courtesy of Twitter