'Locker Room Talk' | Sojourners

'Locker Room Talk'

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Donald Trump has continued to shrug off his condoning and bragging about sexual assault on the ubiquitous Access Hollywood video — which now many of our children have seen as well via social media — as merely “locker room talk.”

It was my oldest son, home for his fall college break, who told me last Friday, “You need to watch this Dad; it’s really disgusting and it’s all over Facebook.” So I did watch it, and my son was right: It is utterly disgusting to hear Trump reduce women to property that he can handle however he wants to.

My son is an 18-year-old college baseball player, and a lifelong athlete who has been in “locker rooms,” or in his case, dugouts and the gyms, for his entire life. He said, “I’ve never heard that kind of talk from any of my teammates or fellow athletes … never.” My younger son, who at 13 and also a baseball and basketball player, confirmed that he had never heard any of his sports buddies talk that way. I felt deeply offended and angry, that my two sons couldn’t avoid hearing Donald Trump boast about groping women and laughing that because he was a star he could get away with it; those words are now everywhere in a video nobody can avoid.

Donald Trump was a 59-year-old man when he spoke about women as mere objects for his sexual gratification — and he is now the presidential candidate of a major party for president of the United States.

Of course this it is not “just talk” as he and his defenders have claimed. But also concerning is the response from some Republican and religious leaders who had previously supported Trump now saying they can't anymore because of the women in their lives — daughters, wives, and mothers — who they want to protect. Women don’t need protection from men; women need men to stop being predators, enablers, and bystanders. Women are human beings made in the image of God regardless of their relationship to a man. This isn’t a woman’s issue; it’s a human issue.

What about our sons, and the ways we want to raise them? What about us as men, and the despicable example of manhood that Donald Trump represents? This tape, and his appalling rhetoric that continues to mark his campaign, show that Trump is not a strong man; this is not “macho talk” as Pat Robertson tried to dismiss. This kind of behavior is an embarrassment to manhood, and any man who can't say that is also a weak man. Theologically and spiritually, Donald Trump’s attitudes, words, and behavior expose the fact that he doesn’t regard women as made in the image of God, of equal value to him, or deserving to be treated as fully human beings. That is not a Christian view, and his religious devotees should tell him how un-Christian his views and behavior toward women are.

On an MSNBC show over the weekend, I was asked by a defender of Trump if I believed in forgiveness. Of course I do, and know I need the forgiveness and grace of God every day. But even if Donald Trump was sincere in asking for forgiveness (which many still don’t feel he is) people could forgive him and hope that he turns his life around, but still not believe he is morally fit to be president of the United States. The word “repentance” means more than just saying you are sorry; it requires a change of heart and direction, and we have yet to see that in the behavior of Donald Trump in his treatment of women and everybody else for that matter.

I’ve been stuck with a commentary on Donald Trump by one of his former top executives, Barbara Res who, because she is a woman is often lifted up by Trump as proof that he hires, promotes, and respects women. She said she liked her job but finally had to leave. “He became too famous,” Res said. “He’s terribly sexist and is a womanizer for sure.” But she said he’s also a “megalomaniac,” and added: “Now, I don’t think he respects anybody. I don’t think there’s a person alive he respects, because he thinks he’s God.”

Well, Donald Trump certainly isn’t God, but his increasingly autocratic and disrespectful behavior toward all others is exhibitive of someone who thinks he is “a god” — of course, one of the false demi-gods that we see in history and, dangerously, sometimes in politics.

Several former Trump supporters are now backing away from him. But many of those white Republican and white religious leaders still supported the candidate during his assaults on racial minorities, immigrants, Muslims, the disabled, and all the previous inappropriate comments he has made about women. Why did it take these newly revealed comments — in which he is specifically targeting white women — to get these white leaders to turn away from Donald Trump? Is this just another example of how people of color and the attacks against them still don’t matter equally to white male political and religious leaders?

Of course, many people of faith have already declared moral opposition to the campaign and candidacy of Donald Trump in a statement released before the newest Trump video against women came out. More than 80 evangelical leaders wrote to oppose his racist and misogynistic rhetoric and called on others to join — and nearly 20,000 people have already joined them:

[S]ometimes historic moments arise when more is at stake than partisan politics — when the meaning and integrity of our faith hangs in the balance ...We believe that racism strikes at the heart of the gospel and that racial justice and reconciliation is at the core of the message of Jesus … because we believe that racial bigotry has been a cornerstone of [Trump’s] campaign, it is a foundational matter of the gospel for us in this election, and not just another issue… We, undersigned evangelicals, simply will not tolerate the racial, religious, and gender bigotry that Donald Trump has consistently and deliberately fueled …

This is an unusual election. Despite how else and who else we vote or don’t vote for, the moral repugnance of Donald J. Trump’s words and actions marks a moment of ethical choice for many in this country, including people of faith. Our moral choice is clear.

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