Christian vs. Christianist: Sexual Ethics Edition

Christian vs. Christianist: Sexual Ethics Edition January 27, 2018

Here is an excerpt from a letter by Dr. James Dobson, Evangelical Moral Leader:

September 1998

Dear Friends:

Greetings to you all. Shirley and I have been visiting the historic city of Boston for the past few weeks while working on a new book called Coming Home. I’ll tell you more about that at Christmastime. We have loved being together and are particularly grateful to God for His healing touch after my illness. Toward the end of our trip, however, we were shocked and dismayed by the admission of the President’s affair with “that woman — Miss Lewinsky” — which brought humiliation on himself, his family and our nation. Millions of words have been written and spoken about that sordid story, which I have chosen not to address during these past seven months. But now I want to express some passionate views that are on my heart.

As with many Christians around the country, Shirley and I have been in prayer for our leaders in government who must deal with the fallout from this scandal. They will need great wisdom and discernment in the days ahead. Our most serious concern, however, is not with those in Washington; it is with the American people. What has alarmed me throughout this episode has been the willingness of my fellow citizens to rationalize the President’s behavior even after they suspected, and later knew, that he was lying. Because the economy is strong, millions of people have said infidelity in the Oval Office is just a private affair–something between himself and Hillary. We heard it time and again during those months: “As long as Mr. Clinton is doing a good job, it’s nobody’s business what he does with his personal life.”

That disregard for morality is profoundly disturbing to me. Although sexual affairs have occurred often in high places, the public has never approved of such misconduct. But today, the rules by which behavior is governed appear to have been rewritten specifically for Mr. Clinton. We now know that this 50-year-old man had sexual relations repeatedly and brazenly in the White House, with a woman 27 years his junior. Then he spoke on national television while shaking his finger at the camera, and denied ever having a sexual relationship with Miss Lewinsky. He was the most powerful man in the world and she was a starry-eyed intern. That situation would not have been tolerated in any other setting — ever. And yet the apologists for the President have said endlessly, “It’s just about sex,” as though cheating on your wife was of no particular significance. But the majority of the American people replied, “I support the President.”

Let me ask, in what other context such behavior would have been acceptable? When a professor is known to have had consensual sex with a student, the university dismisses him or her forthwith. Academic institutions recognize their responsibility to protect the interests of younger and more vulnerable individuals. When a corporate executive is similarly accused, especially if numerous women claim to have been “groped” or abused in the manner of Kathleen Willey or Paula Jones, that man is fired. Period! If a middle-aged physician had sex with a younger patient in his office, he would probably lose his medical license. If a psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor entered into a sexual relationship with a patient of any age, he would be charged with malpractice. It is stated in the code of ethics for these professions.

I remember it well. “Character matters” they said. And you know what? I believed that. I still believe that.

But Dr. Dobson doesn’t believe that. He is busy passionately striving to gin up fasting and prayer to make sure that this self-confessed sex predator–who slept with a porn star while his third wife was recovering from childbirth and then paid her $130,000 to keep her mouth shut–will not be impeached. Yes. The man who created Focus on the Family is striving to make sure that an impenitent adulterer and fornicator–but a Republican one!–is protected from all consequences of the very sin he railed against in 1998.

Truly hath the prophet Russell Moore spoken when he said, “The Religious Right are the people the Religious Right warned you about twenty years ago.”

But wait! There’s more!

All the normal marks were hit by the social conservative Christians at St. Blogs and throughout the RightWingoSphere in their kabuki-like responses to this latest news of vileness from their god king.  So they blathered:

  1. This is the liberal media and “fake news” (because the Wall Street Journal is totally a bastion of liberalism).
  2. Then we moved on to the comparisons of Trump to King David (except that he just has all the adultery, none of the repentance, humility, wisdom, or faith).
  3. After that, we got the out and out lies from the likes of Franklin Graham that Trump was a “changed person“. The evidence for this? Absolutely none. Not a drop. Just a pure unadulterated lie for Jesus.  That’s why this “changed person” kept his payoffs on the downlow, is still calling his sexual assault victims liars, and is now lying that he did not try to have Mueller fired.  Because he is an utterly impenitent liar.
  4. And finally, we arrived at Evangelical Muckity-Muck Tony Perkins declaring that he gave Trump a “mulligan” for his unrepented, hidden, and paid-off act of fornication and adultery. Why, you may ask? Perkins was extremely clear: not because of mercy, nor because of Trump’s innocence, but because of Perkins’ lust for vengeful power. No. Really:

Evangelical Christians, says Perkins, “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”

What happened to turning the other cheek? I ask.

“You know, you only have two cheeks,” Perkins says. “Look, Christianity is not all about being a welcome mat which people can just stomp their feet on.”

So given the choice between all that crap about character mattering and vengeful payback of his culture war enemies, Perkins says, “Screw the teaching of Christ. Payback!”

What is also extremely notable in all this is that nowhere in the Right Wing Noise Machine or the Christianist press or blogosphere do you read the real headline:

“White Male Evangelical Leaders James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and Franklin Graham Give Melania Trump’s Husband a Mulligan for His Adultery Without Bothering to Consult Melania Trump”.

It does not, for one second, even occur to these Guardian and Protectors of the Family to consult the woman against whom the act of adultery was committed.

Yes, to be sure, the discussion of adultery against a third wife–and one who herself committed adultery against Trump’s second wife–is problematic. But you’d think that they’d at least pretend to respect her a little, just for show. But she never even enters their thoughts. They declare Trump’s absolution without once considering the person he betrayed.

In other news, “prolife” Christianists continue to mysteriously have a reputation for misogyny.  (And don’t get me started on their contemptuous disregard of Trump’s son.)

The place of Melania Trump in the minds of Christianist Trump defenders is a curious one. One of them told me the other day that she was “a far better Catholic than you will ever be”.

Fair enough. That’s entirely possible. I will count myself blessed indeed just to make it to heaven and have no views on my standing in comparison to others except the general hope that I will get a seat somewhere up in the nosebleeds of the Heavenly Stadium. I have not a clue about the sort of Catholic upbringing she had, so no idea of her knowledge or interior freedom that have brought her to the present.  So I leave all that to God to judge.  She seems to me, from what little I can glean from her public appearances, to be decent sort, genuinely pious from what little I saw of the visit to Rome, pleased to meet the pope, particularly pleased to be around little kids. In many ways she has always struck me as a sad, trapped person genuinely looking for a way out of the Freak Show and into peace. Indeed, she seems to me to be almost exactly the sort of person Pope Francis has in mind in discussing pastoral care for people stuck in the middle of deeply problematic (from a canonical standpoint) relationships. I would not for one second stand in her way if she sought the Eucharist and assume she is exactly the kind of person Jesus feels deep compassion for–and one who is seeking him bearing whatever history and crosses she does.

But that’s the thing: the very people who are defending Trump’s adultery and giving him mulligans and reaching for their fainting couches about the “judgmentalism” of us mean, mean critics of his impenitent fornication are the same people freaking out at Pope Francis because Amoris Laetitia calls the Church’s shepherds to be gentle and merciful with people like Melania Trump.

Once again, it gives you the ever-so-strong impression that for the Catholic Religious Right as for the Forgiving White Males of Evangelicalism, she is invisible except when useful. Club somebody over the head with “she’s a far better Catholic than you” when they criticize her adulterous husband? Fine.

But forget about her situation completely when the job turns to attacking evil Pope Francis and Amoris Laetitia or arrogantly excusing her husband without so much as consulting her. Me: I’ll leave her situation in the hands of whatever priest or bishop she turns to for shepherding and God bless her. Not my business.

Which brings us to the next distinction between the Christian and Christianist approach to Trump. For of course the Religious Right which, twenty years ago, said “character matters” now says “Not our business” when trying to shut up his critics. Tony Perkins isn’t as crude as Nina Burleigh, who said in 1998 that “I would be happy to give [Bill Clinton] a blowjob just to thank him for keeping abortion legal” but he means the same thing. He will gladly overlook Trump’s fornication and adultery as Burleigh overlooked Clinton’s–and for the same reason: to support a President who is not only keeping abortion legal, but re-funding it five times.

Yeah, yeah I know. “What? Trump’s prolife!” etc. blah blah. Here’s reality: Trump’s SCOTUS pick says Roe is “the law of the land“.  (He also, just for grins and giggles, says that gay marriage is “absolutely settled law” but let’s set that aside, Messrs. Dobson, Graham, and Perkins).

The p0int is this: Roe is not going anywhere. It’s just not. That carrot is now dry and shrivelled.  Meanwhile, the man Lifesite News fawns over as “the most prolife President in American history“–who bought the support of the March for Life with some cheap empty words–has, along with his Party, refunded Planned Parenthood five times. Practically speaking, he’s as good a friend to Planned Parenthood as Clinton (Bill or Hillary). But because Christianists believe the heretical soteriology that “Saying you oppose abortion taketh away the sins of the world” the Religious Right now says “Fornication and adultery are private matters. Good Christians must not speak of this anymore! Because abortion–and revenge!”

Yet they do go on speaking, incessantly, about Bill Clinton’s adultery and fornication. They also (as they do not with Melania) love to go on talking about Hillary’s guilt for not kicking Bill out. She was, you see, a parasite riding Bill’s coattails and is therefore guilty for not practicing the virtue of divorcing him and breaking up her family. But they are strangely quiet on the “Melania should divorce Trump” front. It’s like they are just making it up as they go along.  And it’s especially like they just cannot face the awful fact that they won and Hillary is gone and is now totally irrelevant to the national conversation.  They live eternally on 11/8/16 and cannot admit the fact that the moment he won was the moment they assumed responsibility for their vote. Instead, they perpetually deny that responsibility by shout “But Hillary!” over and over instead of confronting Trump on all his lies and evils.  That is why, here in the present, in the real world, they are defending an adulterous sex predator right now.

That said there is this truth left to Christianists: Adultery and fornication, while grave sin, are not crimes. So while character matters to me, as a Christian (as it matters to all Christians), it does not matter to the law and Christianists, who care only for power, not Christ or the gospel or the truth, therefore do not care either. For them, the Spirit killeth; the law giveth life.

But, and this is my final point, we do need, civically speaking, to care about crimes like sexual assault and rape. But while Christianists vocally profess their belief (which I emphatically share) that Bill Clinton is a rapist, they move heaven and earth to deny that Trump is a sex predator. And they do this despite the fact that the evidence for Trump’s crimes is even stronger than the evidence for Clinton’s.

Clinton has been accused of sexual assault by four women. He has been accused of rape by one. We have no tape-recorded confession of sexual assault from Clinton.

Trump, in contrast, has nineteen (at least) victims–and he has openly confessed to committing sexual assault on tape.

Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard all the lame excuses and hair-splitting from Christianist defenders. Locker room talk. When he said “and they let you do it”, that means it’s consensual. All the lies, lies, lies that Christianists tell to defend the utterly indefensible.

Here’s reality: At the end of the day, Trump is guilty, guilty, guilty of being a sex predator and nineteen of his victims confirm it. But Christianists don’t merely give him a mulligan, they actively join the President as he uses the might of his office in re-victimizing those women by calling them nuts, sluts, and liars.

Christians, in contrast, stand with the victims of injustice, whether the perp is Clinton or Trump. They oppose adultery and fornication, not based on whether they are legal, but based on the fact that they are wrong. They see victims of betrayal such as Melania, not merely when they are useful, but because they are human beings. And they speak truth to power, especially when that power is corrupt and promising them he will punch their enemies. Christians, in short, live by the gospel and seek first the kingdom of God.

Christianists live by lies and seek only power and money.

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