In the recent article “Stormy Daniels and the Search for Truth in America” I called for a recommitment of people of faith to the importance of truth. In this Washington Post article “In an age of Trump and Stormy Daniels, evangelical leaders face sex scandals of their own.” the authors outline several scandals by faith leaders accused of various acts of sexual abuse or assault. The article notes some sad trends among religious leaders and sees links to the current support of Donald Trump by evangelicals.
Several issues come to mind as I read this article. The first is highlighted in the article itself. White evangelicals are by far among the strongest supporters of a President tainted by a history of sexual abuse allegations. The infamous video tape where he detailed his attitude toward women is on public display for all to hear and judge. Yet, such revelations have not had any impact on his support from this population who claim to be disciples of the one who declared “the truth will set you free.” I have argued that Freedom so often prized in America cannot thrive when truth is dying. Freedom is not only about the ability to own weapons of mass destruction but about respect for self and others. When others lie to me it is an assault on my freedom to think for myself, when I knowingly accept the lie I surrender that freedom. A commitment to truth is essential to spiritual renewal.
This tolerance toward men who perpetuate sexual acts demeaning to women and others is symptomatic of a deeper problem in religion and in the society; an unwillingness to hold certain men accountable for their actions toward women and the church’s continued willingness to keep women and minorities in a second-class position. Many of us know of ministers and church leaders with long histories of sexual misconduct but who are still not only tolerated but promoted in the church’s hierarchy while the women whose lives have been irreparably harmed have been left to deal with this on their own. Some denominations, including my own, continue to refuse to ordain women as ministers citing various bible texts to support their stance but I cannot help but wonder, what if women were the ones in leadership who had to make decisions about male ministers who engage in sexual misconduct? After all women constitute the majority of church membership yet men dominate the leadership.
The examples highlighted in the Post’s article are more noticeable because of the prominence of these leaders but this sort of behavior is a regular occurrence and those of us who have spent our lives in the religious sphere know it well. This is the time to unmask this hypocrisy and let the light of truth shine in the dark corners of church life. Until we are willing to do that we are not going to see a change in support of those in public life who perpetuate this wrong.