As the news broke that Trump had bragged in 2005 about sexually assaulting a woman, many Christian women stepped up to essentially say, “No more.”
Kay Warren, wife of Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren and mental-health advocate, tweeted, “As a victim of sexual assault, I tell you firsthand of devastation wreaked on women & girls by predatory men & boys who think women ‘like it.’”
Popular author Jen Hatmaker took to Instagram to call Trump’s comments a “travesty” and “national disgrace,” and she reminded followers that they had many options on Election Day. Julie Roys, a host with the conservative Moody Radio network, wrote, “I honestly don’t know what makes me more sick. Listening to Trump brag about groping women or listening to my fellow evangelicals defend him.”
We were angry after Trump minimized his words as “locker room talk.” But we were just as angry watching Christian leaders describe the statements as merely “inappropriate” and “low on [evangelicals’] hierarchy of their concerns.”
It’s actually hard to know which stung worse: Trump’s words or our leaders’ defense of him. “Try to absorb how acceptable the . . . objectifying of women has been when some Christian leaders don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” Moore tweeted.
Silence on the seriousness of sexual assault is akin to what assault survivors feel when they are not believed or are otherwise told that the violence they endured is ultimately minor. There’s a word for it: re-traumatization. It’s what happens when the men who are called to honor, defend and stand by you trade that duty for political expedience.
Pastors, college presidents and policy advisers who continue to defend Trump after his comments not only risk harming the church’s witness, they also risk alienating the largest segment of every evangelical church in America. According to a 2016 Pew study, Christian women are more religious than men by all measures.
Women outnumber men in nearly every evangelical church in the country; they are often the ones serving on the church board, conducting the choir and planning vacation Bible school. True, at almost every evangelical church, a man is behind the pulpit. But take away the women, and he’s preaching to near-empty pews.
As evangelical author Tyler Wigg-Stevenson quipped this week, “If I were running for president, and I needed the evangelical vote to win as [Donald Trump] does, I’d better not get [Beth] Moore mad at me.” Based on Twitter followers, he said, “she’s talking to 60 times more regular churchgoers than Ralph Reed.”
But especially in light of more women coming forward with accusations of Trump groping them, evangelical leaders need many more of our male leaders to publicly denounce Trump and the normalization of misogyny that he represents.
The lack of public acknowledgement signals to women a self-preserving fear of losing followers and constituents, and, at worst, a disregard for the seriousness of sexual assault.
The good news is that Christians have a unique story that upholds the dignity of women amid our rape culture. We believe God has entrusted his own image uniquely to women, so that we might live with worth, dignity and creative rule alongside men.
In light of the gospel, women are restored to God’s original intent for us to flourish as co-stewards over creation. And, in light of the gospel, men can see women not as objects, conquests, threats or mere temptations, but as essential partners in the work of taking this gospel to the ends of the Earth. Misogyny is replaced with shared mission. If only more men would join us.
Katelyn Beaty is author of “A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World” (Howard) and an editor at large at Christianity Today magazine.