Like many women, the days following aftermath of the tape revealing Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault—and the numerous women who have reported him behaving in just that manner—have felt painful, heavy, charged for me. Like Michelle Obama put it in her powerful response, “It hurts.” It’s personal. For many women, it triggers memories of the most painful experiences in our lives or other women we love. I’ve talked to several friends who, like me, have chosen to avoid Facebook and conversations, even with some we’re close to—not because we don’t want to talk about what happened, about the insanity of a person of his character having support for the White House, but because we cannot handle one more person downplaying the gravity of those words. Each time this happens from someone we thought would get it, it hurts. It feels like a betrayal.
But it’s not just those words and those who dismiss them as “locker room talk” that hurts. (The “locker room talk” excuse may be the ugliest excuse possible. If it was true that some men regularly brag about sexually assaulting women in locker rooms—which many athletes flatly deny—that would be an additional outrage, not an excuse.) There were allegations of assault and harassment against him before this happened. His words in the past have not shown respect for women. It was almost surprising to me that there was as much backlash from previous supporters at the tape’s revelation as there was. Didn’t his supporters already know this about him?
For many Christian women, the source of hurt, of betrayal, comes especially from men, evangelical Christian leaders in our lives and in the public eye who continue to downplay Trump’s character. He still holds a majority of evangelical support. Many evangelicals, especially white evangelicals, tend to not vote Democratic, have many concerns about Hillary Clinton, and want Republicans in seats of power, so this election is a difficult one. Acknowledging these concerns about the Republican candidate comes at the very real likelihood of loss of political power.
But, “what good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36). Women are waiting to hear the men in their lives, in their churches, say that this matters, that they matter.
And many women are not waiting at all. They are sick of waiting for men in the church to fight for women. Many female Christian leaders are confidently speaking their truth despite the high percentages of evangelical support for Trump. Consider this: many news outlets have covered prominent leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr. and James Dobson’s continued support for Trump. But Beth Moore and Jen Hatmaker, two of many female Christian leaders to publicly speak against Trump, have significantly more of a following than either Falwell or Dobson.
And some, although far from the majority, of evangelical male leaders are standing with them. Wayne Grudem has withdrawn his endorsement. Russell Moore, who has opposed Trump from the beginning, says because of his public opposition to Trump he regularly hears privately from women who long for their brothers in Christ to stand with them. Closer to home, within the CRC, many leaders have publicly spoken against Trump, including Calvin seminary prof and ethicist Matthew Tuininga, who has written a powerful piece, “Donald Trump and Sexual Assault: What Else are Evangelical Voters Willing to Accept?” in response.
This is a painful election that is in many ways dividing this country and the church. But please, when it comes to assault against women, let’s not be divided. Let’s openly and boldly stand together and say that this is a big deal, that this unacceptable. As Tuininga put it, “If evangelicals publicly support Donald Trump, the chief result will not be the advance of the sanctity of life or of religious liberty, let alone of family values. The result will be the collapse of any evangelical credibility on moral issues whatsoever.”