Sunday, October 16, 2016

Defending the Indefensible

I've been struggling this week with a bad case of anger.

I’ve been taking deep breaths.

Sitting outside, staring at the sky.

Praying. Reading the psalms.

Reading and rereading the psalms.

I’m normally fairly good at deflecting anger.

Good at putting it in a cupboard somewhere in my mind and locking the door until I have time to process.

Good at turning the other cheek, smiling a little more brightly.
Shaking it off.

Letting it go.

This week?

Not so much.

Did I mention it was International Day of the Girl on Tuesday?

It was the day the UN invites us to think about girls around the globe. The hazards they face. The struggle to learn, to grow, to thrive, to live.

I was planning to post this week about abortion. Did you know that the leading cause of death for girls 15 to 19 – worldwide –is suicide?

Until 2015 the leading cause of death was pregnancy. That’s still the case in developing countries, but globally it’s tilted toward suicide.

There’s a sad story there.

A story about a world that sees girls’ bodies as objects to be used while stepping down hard on the dreams and sorrows inside.

Somehow the Day of the Girl and Michelle Obama’s celebration of the accompanying Let Girls Learn campaign were drowned out in the media storm surrounding Donald Trump’s odious tape.

And the attendant swirl of denouncement, defense, endorsement, unendorsement.

And the recurrent theme of women stepping forward to say things they'd said before but no one seemed to hear, or things they never said because they feared no one would listen.

I’m not surprised at all by Donald Trump.

Anyone who has spent a few honest hours trying to understand him should know that his character was formed by a father who trained him to “be a killer, be a king.” He spent his formative years in a military academy where he devoured Playboy and bragged about his conquests, then was mentored by Roy Cohn, a man who spent his career destroying the lives of friend and foe alike. 

Despite assertions that he's changed, converted, adopted Christian values, his rude remarks to others and boasts about his own wealth and power are consistent with troubling stories about him dating back decades. 

The Choice 2016: Frontline investigates what has
 shaped Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton 
Nothing Donald Trump does could surprise me.

What surprises me, angers me, grieves me to the core is the support and defense he continues to receive from people I have respected.

“It’s just words. He never did those things.”

“He’s apologized. Move on.”

“It’s just how men are. It’s no big deal.”

“Hillary’s no saint.”

You want to understand rape culture? There it is. Normalized, excused, condoned, deflected.

Maybe I spent too many years as a camp counselor, listening to girls share their grief and sorrow.

Or as a Girl Scout leader. 

Youth minister.

Or as a sister, neighbor, friend.

I have heard too many stories. Seen too much hurt.

Felt some of my own.

The teacher who focused sexual attention on a new senior girl every year and everyone knew and no one did a thing.

The boss who draped his arm around his girl cashiers, dangling his hand wherever it wanted to land, blowing cigar smoke in their faces.

The girls who lived in houses with men who stopped by their beds when the house was quiet.

The girl whose father and brothers touched and talked about her in public the way Trump touches and talks about Ivanka.

The women struggling to build careers in offices where the only avenue forward took a detour through the bedroom.

No big deal?

Everyone does it?


Good men are appalled.

Decent men recoil.

I watched the debate Sunday evening and was struck, as were many, by the way Trump paced the stage while Hillary Clinton was talking. He threatened her with jail, interrupted her repeatedly and stood behind her, grimacing, while she spoke.

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone as boastful as Trump.

Or as willing to lie about everyone and everything.

Or as deliberately, intentionally menacing.

His behavior – even on stage, even during a presidential debate – reminds me of all the times and ways girls I love, women I respect have been shut down, scared into silence.




For women and girls, it’s often lose-lose.

Speak in a soft voice when you’re trying to lead?

You clearly don’t have what it takes to be up front, to command attention, to be in charge.

Speak firmly and clearly in a no-nonsense voice?

You’re too masculine. Or too harsh. Too "strident." Have you ever heard a man called "strident"?

What if you disstance yourself from a husband who betrays and wounds you?

You clearly don’t respect marriage. You don’t understand forgiveness.

But if you defend and look for ways to preserve your marriage despite lies and infidelity?

You make yourself responsible for the very sins that harmed you. Tarred with the same fat, slimy brush.

As I said, I’ve been reading the Psalms.

The word that’s been speaking to me is “vile.”

On Tuesday, angry and grieving, I found myself in Psalm 12: 
Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore;those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.Everyone lies to their neighbor;they flatter with their lipsbut harbor deception in their hearts.. . . You, Lord, will keep the needy safeand will protect us forever from the wicked,who freely strut aboutwhen what is vile is honored by the human race. 
I’ve been troubled this week by the image of Trump, freely strutting about, rousing his followers to cheers and chants, bragging about assault then saying it’s all lies, honored and endorsed by those who should know better.

It’s alarming to see, still, men and women who claim to be followers of Christ trying to link their cause to that of Donald Trump.

Psalm 101:3 says: 
I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it. 
Last week a group of evangelical leaders launched an open letter and petition making clear that they want no part in Trump or his campaign. It says, in part: 
Mr. Trump has fueled white American nationalism with xenophobic appeals and religious intolerance at the expense of gospel values, democratic principles, and important international relationships. He mocks women and the sanctity of marriage vows, disregards facts and the accountability to truth, and worships wealth and shameful materialism, while taking our weakening culture of civility to nearly unprecedented levels with continuing personal attacks on others, including attacking a federal judge based purely on his Mexican heritage, mocking a disabled reporter, and humiliating a beauty pageant winner for her weight and Latina ethnicity—to give just a few examples.
Because we believe that racial bigotry has been a cornerstone of this campaign, it is a foundational matter of the gospel for us in this election, and not just another issue. This is not just a social problem, but a fundamental wrong. Racism is America's original sin. Its brazen use to win elections threatens to reverse real progress on racial equity and set America back. 
Donald Trump's campaign is the most recent and extreme version of a history of racialized politics that has been pursued and about which white evangelicals, in particular, have been silent. The silence in previous times has set the environment for what we now see.
For this reason, we cannot ignore this bigotry, set it aside, just focus on other issues, or forget the things Mr. Trump has consistently said and done. No matter what other issues we also care about, we have to make it publicly clear that Mr. Trump’s racial and religious bigotry and treatment of women is morally unacceptable to us as evangelical Christians, as we attempt to model Jesus’ command to “love your neighbors as yourself.”
Whether we support Mr. Trump’s political opponent is not the question here. Hillary Clinton is both supported and distrusted by a variety of Christian voters. We, undersigned evangelicals, simply will not tolerate the racial, religious, and gender bigotry that Donald Trump has consistently and deliberately fueled, no matter how else we choose to vote or not to vote.
 A group of 700 evangelical women leaders signed their own short letter expressing concern:
As Christian women we are appalled by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's recorded remarks that disparage women and condone sexual assault. Such language cannot be dismissed as “locker room talk.” Mr. Trump must offer public contrition that fully acknowledges the seriousness and depravity of his actions. 
The sin of misogyny has caused many of us to experience sexual assault or sexually abusive language that threatened our safety, dignity and well-being. Christian leaders cannot condone such violent speech about women as a minor mistake or an innocent attempt to be “macho." 
Even now, there are still many who embarrass themselves and the name of Christ by defending the indefensible, still insisting that a man unable to keep a contract, respect an opponent or speak the truth would be a suitable leader.

I understand concerns about Hillary Clinton. I am not endorsing her or singing her praises.

I am also not claiming God has appointed her as savior of our nation. Not promoting prophecies that she’s our only hope. 

Any who make those claims for Donald Trump need to read through the many many Old Testament passages warning about false prophets, warning that God’s people delude themselves when they align themselves with political power then prophecy God’s approval. 

There are no sinless candidates in this election.

No pure party. 

No one free of baggage.

But that doesn’t excuse our inability to discern.

Or the tragic damage to the name of Christ when linked with Donald Trump's.

One more passage from my study of the word "vile", from Ezekiel 16:49-51. Make of it what you will:

Samaria did not commit half the sins you did. You have done more detestable things than they, and have made your sisters seem righteous by all these things you have done. Bear your disgrace, for you have furnished some justification for your sisters. Because your sins were more vile than theirs, they appear more righteous than you. So then, be ashamed and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.

This post is part of a continuing series on What's Your Platform 
Beyond the Party Platform July 24, 2016
A Different Way July 31, 2016 
Election Fraud and Rigged Elections, August 10, 2016 
How Long Will the Land Lie Parched? August 21, 2016 
Walls, Welcome, Mercy, Law August 28, 2016
Workers and Their Wages, Sep 3, 2016 
Educating Ourselves On Education, Sep 10, 2016 
Let's Talk, Sep 17, 2016
The Language of the Unheard, Sep 24, 2016
Maintain Justice, October 9, 2016