Regardless of bigotry and hate spewed by the Republican candidate for President of the United States, the American Christian Right has been among his strongest supporters. Following the disturbing video of Donald Trump discussing sexually assaulting women, many Republicans have jumped from the Trump Train and openly condemned his comments. While some supporters continue to cling to the derailing campaign, particularly Evangelicals including Vice Presidential candidate Michael Pence, one must question, what would lead them to disavow this candidate? Many thought a Trump Contrition was coming during the October 9th debate; and it was a true repentance that would allow Christians to overlook his bad behavior.
Trump’s original response that his 2005 conversation with Billy Bush was nothing more than locker room banter was not enough and his follow up apology offered an insincere repentance that claimed the video was nothing more than a distraction and something that should be of no interest. He then went on the attack, condemning Bill Clinton’s behavior and claiming that Hillary Clinton “bullied, attacked, and shamed” her husband’s victims.
During the October 9th debate, rather than a contrition, Trump demonstrated his misogyny, abusiveness, and poor temperament time and again. To begin with, he attempted to humiliate Hillary Clinton by filing in women who have claimed sexual assault by Bill Clinton. He then used his time to respond to questions to attack Clinton for her response to her husband’s infidelity and argue that Bill Clinton’s behavior is far worse than his own. At points it seemed reasonable to wonder if Trump knew which Clinton is running for President.
As the debate continued, the Republican candidate responded in classic Trump fashion, deflecting, blaming, and attacking. When a Muslim American asked how she could ensure safety for her family, Trump responded by saying that Islamophobia can end if Muslims become responsible for reporting terrorism. When asked if he could truly be a leader for all Americans, he responded by saying that Clinton is the one who called his supporters deplorables. When asked about not paying taxes, he responded affirmatively saying it was Clinton’s fault for not changing the tax laws.
Trump commented that Clinton has “great hate in her heart.” His repeated interruptions, crude remarks, and lurking demonstrated abuser like traits and his visible uncomfortableness being forced to share a stage and allow a woman to speak was evident.
In a time where Trump should have responded with humility and admissions of poor judgment, where he should have apologized to Nancy O’Dell and Arianne Zucker, and to all women for his blatant misogyny, he demonstrated his true character by refusing to accept responsibility, shifting focus to the Clintons, and using a grade school like ploy arguing: “but they are worse than me.”
Following the first debate, polls reported that Trump had a 60% approval rate among Evangelicals. No doubt, it is curious that Trump’s strongest supporters are Christians. Perhaps the foundational messages of love, inclusion, and social justice have become lost among Western culture’s efforts to create an Americanized Jesus. Nonetheless, one must wonder, at what point will those who claim to follow the message of Christ back away from a candidate who encourages violence hatred, bigotry, misogyny, and so on? A Jesus like candidate in the political arena surely does not exist. Nonetheless, Trump has proven himself to lack basic human compassion and respect for others. It is time for Evangelicals to realize that a vote for Trump is an unholy vote.
Gina Messina, Ph.D. is an American feminist scholar, Catholic theologian, author, and activist. She is also Co-founder of Feminism and Religion. She writes for The Huffington Post, has authored multiple publications and is the co-editor of the highly acclaimed Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay. Messina is a widely sought after speaker and has presented across the US at universities, organizations, conferences and on national platforms including appearances on MSNBC, Tavis Smiley, NPR and the TEDx stage. She has also spoken at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations to discuss matters impacting the lives women around the world. Messina is active in movements to end violence against women and explores opportunities for spiritual healing. Connect with her on Twitter @FemTheologian, Facebook, and her website ginamessinadysert.com.