With little high ground to attain any more, evangelicals who continue to endorse Donald Trump must enlist the abstract to explain their ongoing support. The Bible preaches forgiveness they say, and this is one of those times when that practice should be employed.
To wit, Robert Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and a member of Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board, has called the candidate’s recent comments about the women Trump assaulted “lewd, offensive, and indefensible.” But he’s voting for Trump because Hillary Clinton destroyed emails. God must be proud…and Jeffress has yet to master the word indefensible.
Then there’s Mike Pence, who, since being chosen as Trump’s second-in-command has had very little trouble selling his soul. This past week he urged the students at Liberty University to withhold their criticism of the candidate because “[a]s Christians we are called to forgive, even as we’ve been forgiven.” He went on to say, “Last Sunday night, my running mate showed humility. He showed what was in his heart to the American people.”
Except he didn’t. This week the newly “humbled” Trump said, in essence, that he could not have raped one of his victims because she was too unattractive to be raped. It’s a chilling defense, but one that provided his worshipers with a few good-ol’-boy chuckles at a recent rally. To Trump rape is not a crime, it’s a crumb tossed out by a celebrity that we commoners could not possibly reject. Never mind that a person would never be too ugly to abuse, rob, or murder. No, those are crimes. Rape, for Trump, is just hijinks, locker room talk, sex gone a bit askew.
That attitude, now gaining renewed acceptability among otherwise rational people, is probably one of the reasons why rape is the most under-reported crime in the country and why more than three-quarters of its victims report PTSD or something akin to it. Many fear leaving their homes, or meeting strangers, or being intimate even with partners—such is the residue of these so-called hijinks. Trump claims his accusers are lying—and to be honest, somewhere between two- and eight-percent of rape reports are false—but since seventy percent are unreported, can we say that for every ten reports, nine are factual and another sixty or seventy victims are out there, maintaining an embarrassed silence? (Excuse the inaccurate math, but it’s close enough.) Incidentally, eight out of ten rape victims know their attacker, so there’s that.
Over the past several decades the glacially slow change in rape attitude had begun to take hold. Men and women who had endured sexual assault gained recognition for what they were: victims. The last two weeks have eroded that attitude.
In Paradise Lost Satan’s second-in-command Beelzebub suggests to his leader that perhaps, in light of the mistakes they’ve made, they should beg God’s forgiveness. But Satan, unrepentant, blasts his subordinate’s cowardice. “To be weak is miserable,” he says, “Doing or suffering,” and vows to refute and confound good forever. That determination to fight against all odds makes Satan a hero in the Shakespearean sense, and though we may abjure Satan, we have often admired the person who rises from the ashes, e.g., Richard Nixon after his humiliating loss in 1960 won the Presidency eight years later. But Trump is the burlesque of the hero, for while Satan acknowledged his mistake but vowed to press on, Trump acknowledges nothing. And Pence? One lies and the other swears to it.