Last week, I noted that a number of Trump defenders among conservatives, especially conservative Christians, are following a hypocritical script that we saw in the sex abuse crisis. Got a lot of pushback on that. Today, in the Washington Post, the conservative Evangelical writer Nancy French writes about the same thing, but from a highly personal position: she was sexually assaulted as an adolescent by her family’s pastor. Excerpts:
Some found out about the abuse several years later, but nothing changed. The preacher was too valuable to confront? As far as I know, no one ever mentioned it. He preached with a straight face and lost interest in me when my breasts fully developed.
As soon as I got old enough to leave the house, I quit Christianity, painted my nails black, became a liberal and picked up a cigarette habit.
He didn’t do anything wrong. You caused this. You enjoyed it. You deserved it.
These words in my head bounce around, and I’ve never been able to catch them to properly evaluate their veracity.
The first female president possibly will have ridden the coattails of her husband (who has been accused of rape) to the Oval Office; the GOP nominee likes younger women, used to hang out with a known pedophile and bragged on video about doing to women what the preacher did to me so many years ago.
When the Trump videotapes broke, I watched the news and Twitter feeds of prominent evangelicals to see justice be done. But what I saw was all-too-familiar and yet somehow still shocking. “This is how men talk,” one said. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” another said another — who used to “focus on the family” and had never uttered that phrase to refer to any Democrat who ever walked the face of the earth.
It’s hard to describe the effect 2016 has had on sexual abuse survivors. I believed the men in my party when they shrugged off the constant liberal accusations of being anti-woman.
But Pope John Paul II’s words ring true: “Christ … assigns the dignity of every woman as a task to every man.” If that’s right, the men in my party, in my church, in my life have failed; they ask me to participate in overlooking the offense.
Of course, dear. Take that bullet for the team. For the greater good. If you don’t, the Enemies of Righteousness win.
Read the whole thing. It’s a punch in the gut. I remember sitting in front of the television in my apartment on the day Bill Clinton was impeached, thinking that it was so great that justice had been done, and that powerful man had not been able to get away with his abuse of power. So many of us on the Right felt that way, and enjoyed pointing out what a pack of hypocrites liberals, especially liberal feminists, were to defend Bill Clinton simply because he was on their side, and if he went down, the Enemies of Righteousness would triumph.
That is still true about the left. And it’s true about us on the right too. It was true about many on both the Catholic left and Catholic right during the scandal. Partisans of both sides, neither wanted to focus too much on malefactors on their own side, and rationalized not doing so.
Humans want justice, but we can’t stand too much justice.
These men gave up, because their politics requires they give it up, the sympathy to see how such remarks affect others. The men I’m thinking of aren’t normally so callous. But politics.
They know rape is bad, but that’s as much as they’ll admit. Every form of sexual abuse, even being “handsy” and making suggestive remarks, has a place on the spectrum with rape at the other end. Each violates the woman’s integrity and dignity and each includes the threat of further violations. Each objectifies the victim, de-humanizes her, and thereby makes her vulnerable.
Many men would be surprised at how many women they know have such stories and how angry they are about it. Christian men might be surprised at how often these stories involve Christian men.
I want to tell such men: If you can’t understand how this experience affects women in general, try to imagine a man talking like that about your wife or your daughters. How would you feel if you walked into a room and found an older man being “handsy” with your 22-year-old daughter or making flirtatious remarks to your wife about her body?
What would you say or do then? That’s what you’re notsaying or doing when you say the hot mic remarks are just the way guys talk, or declare “He who is without sin, cast the first stone,” or demand Christians forgive the speaker though he hasn’t repented, or change the subject to the political issue you think is at stake, or try to divert attention by pointing to the other side’s problems, or in one of several other ways rationalize away such talk. You are not caring for the least of these as Jesus tells you to.
Read on. Again, a punch in the gut. We need to be punched like this.