Trump, Pence, Falwell and Forgiveness

For me, an unrelenting reality of Trump's lewd and sexually-assaultive words regarding women is not just that he uttered them -- and we, as Christians, know that words reveal the state of one's heart at that time (Matt. 12:34) -- but whether or not those words reveal the current state of his heart. None of us ought to assume a snap-shot opinion of someone and force a low moment in one's life as representing the ultimate determiner of one's character. Granted, he uttered those words at age 59, only eleven years ago, while married to his then-pregnant and current wife, and could have amended his ways. Is there evidence?

This is the problem. He has openly confessed in the past that he has no respect for women. Watch any ad campaign from Hillary Clinton and you can hear for yourself him being asked if he treats women with respect and he answers: "I can't say that, either." (link) The fault is not ours -- those of us who oppose such an individual for the presidency -- that he uttered those words, that he openly confessed to not treating women with respect, or, and this is significant, that he continues to disrespect women. A 70-year-old Donald J. Trump was up at 3 a.m. tweeting against former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, degrading her with words about her weight, falsely insinuating she was involved in a scandalous sex tape. If Trump has changed, if he no longer disrespects women as demonstrated in 2005, then where is the evidence?

The real fear here is that the leaked audio of Trump in 2005 rightly represents the current state of his heart and we are granted absolutely no evidence to the contrary except words read from a teleprompter and constant demands of change from his staunch political supporters. If he has changed then why is he up at 3 a.m. attacking Alicia Machado, demeaning her humanity by stating she was overweight, calling her Miss Piggy, and maliciously lying about her being involved in a scandalous sex tape? Is that called change? Is that called respecting women? He is the same man and he keeps reminding us of this inevitable truth.

What is my point? My point is that, while we always want to avoid snap-shot thinking, we also must ask the harder question regarding change (repentance). That someone, anyone, said or thought or behaved in an immoral or unethical manner at one point in their life does not necessarily define such a person for the rest of their life. What does define a person, however, is their consistent living. When one consistently thinks and says and does repeated behavior then the character of that person can be judged thereby.

Repentance and forgiveness are wonderful. No feeling is so sweet to the soul then, having done or said something wrong, being forgiven by grace and recognizing the wrongdoing. For the individual who does not think he or she has done wrong, however, then repentance is impossible. Trump thinks he is a changed man regarding demeaning women and still demeans women. Repentance involves recognizing the wrong nature of what was said, or done, and then making efforts to change one's thinking about that context. There has been no change. We see no evidence yet that there has been change: 29 days until this man is to be elected for president and we still see no evidence that he respects women.

His running mate, Mike Pence, claims on Monday, 10 October 2016, to "believe in forgiveness." Well, good for him, and so do we as Episcopalians and regenerate Christians. Pence has forgiven Trump. But does Pence extend that forgiveness to the mistakes and sins of Hillary Clinton? Nope! His hypocrisy is alarming. But this is par for the course for the "Christians" of today: the ones we want to extend forgiveness to are those whom we favor. Thank God that Jesus is not like American "Christians."

Do I forgive Donald Trump for his verbal sexual assault? As of the Second Presidential Debate, Trump informed Anderson Cooper that his words were not sexual assault, and all he is guilty of is "locker room banter" with the boys. This is frighteningly false. As stated in the post, "The Problem with Evangelicalism and Politics," Trump is guilty of perpetuating the exact same cognitive distortions as sex offenders and is not even aware of it. In sex offender therapy, men are taught about cognitive distortions, erroneous patterns of thinking that instrumentally lead them into their sexual offense cycle. These include minimizing the offense and blaming others by deflecting. Notice what Trump states: 1) that was just "locker room banter" is minimizing the sexual offense and the degrading of women; 2) "Bill Clinton has said worse to me" is minimizing the offense and blaming Bill Clinton by deflection; 3) "I'm sorry if anyone was offended" is not an apology -- that is tantamount to saying, "I'm sorry that you were offended."

Rachel Held Evans rightly tweeted: "Every time Trump (& supporters) call bragging about sexual assault 'locker room banter' they normalize it for all the young men watching." (link) Religious hypocrites like Jerry Falwell, Jr. defend Donald Trump's sexually assaultive words by deflecting to the "we're all sinners" motif, a rhetorical device that allows him to support Trump in spite of his sex-offense mentality. Falwell insists: "Five years from now no one will remember what horrible things Donald Trump said about women." (link) Women at Falwell's Liberty University are told to "get over" Trump's sexually-offensive words, attitude, and heart and vote for him. (link) This is not Christianity. This is a Christian phony whose true religion is not the teachings of Jesus Christ but explicit and over Republicanism.

Men like Jerry Falwell, Jr., Mike Pence, and other toxic evangelicals who lend their support to a person like Donald Trump enable sexual predators like Donald Trump. They mask their politics with a quasi-conservative mask and brand their Republican religion as "traditional Christian values." Both are a farce. Neither represent the teachings of Jesus as found in Matthew 5-7. Their concept of "making America great again" is bringing back a 1950s mentality, when women were barefoot and pregnant, LGBTQ people feared for their lives, African-Americans and other minorities were suppressed and oppressed, and the White Man was favored in the country. That idea must die. That concept is unAmerican, unChristlike, and the very opposite of the soon-coming Kingdom of God, in which Kingdom resides ransomed people from every tribe and language and people and nation. (Rev. 5:9-10) Maranatha!


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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.