The right-wing religious activist group One Million Moms is upset over a Burger King commercial in which a man, trying out the new non-meat burger, says “damn, that’s good.”
According to their press release:
“One Million Moms finds this highly inappropriate. When responding to the taste test, he didn’t have to curse. Or if, in fact, it was a real and unscripted interview in which the man was not an actor, then Burger King could have simply chosen to edit the profanity out of the commercial,” the group said in a press release.
“Burger King’s Impossible Whopper ad is irresponsible and tasteless. It is extremely destructive and damaging to impressionable children viewing the commercial. We all know children repeat what they hear.”
My husband and children were laughing about this together, and I commented “I’m pretty sure that group supports Trump, too.” We looked it up and yes, there they are thanking Trump for denying funding to Planned Parenthood, and defending him against a satiric representation in a children’s book.
One Million Moms claims to be fighting against indecency. So why are they not protesting Trump? Why are they, instead, thanking and defending him?
This is a man who is the very embodiment of indecency, in any meaning of the word. He has bragged about assault, been accused of multiple acts of predation, including marital rape. He was one of many wealthy and powerful men close to convicted child rapist Jeffrey Epstein. He has deliberately walked in on women in changing rooms. He uses crude sexist and racist slurs. mocks the disabled, and leads trashy populist rallies designed only to stir up hatred and hysteria. For a man born into wealth, he is entirely lacking in the kind of “decency” associated with good etiquette and correct social behavior. This is a man who does not know how to behave in public. As David Bentley Hart famously described him, he is a person you flees at parties.
I think one of the most monstrous offences of the past four years has been seeing the people who for decades harangued us about morality and decency turn and fawn upon a man who is the antithesis thereof. It’s not just the hypocrisy of it all. It’s the abuse on top of the hypocrisy on top of the abuse.
The people who show up now at Trump rallies, who write LOVE TRUMP (flag emoji, heart emoji) on their social media, who lead prayer meetings calling blessings down on Trump’s head – these are the same people who ran the purity campaigns that caused so much damage to young people in Christian communities. They kicked pregnant students out of Catholic schools, slut-shamed girls in short skirts, attacked and bullied gay teens, and policed us for our language, music, and reading. They told us we must be pure, or our lives would be worthless. They told us we must be virtuous, or burn in hell. They told us we needed to call out the vulgar, denounce LGBTQ people, rat out sexual transgressors, speak up and object if anyone told a dirty joke.Because of these people we grew up perpetually afraid of damnation, afraid of our latent sexuality, ashamed of our natural desires, horrified even by our own bodies. They held high a standard of moral perfection to which we never could aspire – because it was never really about human flourishing. It was not human at all.
Lives have been ruined because of the relentless morality-policing of these religious leaders, school administrators, teachers, youth leaders.
Over the years, many of us may have learned to distrust their rules, disbelieve their account of morality. We have seen that for many of them, obsessing over enforcement of purity was really intended only to cover their own moral failings in matters of sex and marriage. That, indeed, is the likely rationale for their support of Trump: the excuses they make for his moral failings also serve to cover their own predations and infidelities.
But one thing we maintained: our belief that there is such a thing as moral virtue, even if it’s not the thing they said it was. We may no longer believe that sexual morality is all about not being gay, or wearing “modest” dresses, but we care about actual offenses against sexual ethics, such as rape, objectification, commodification, and predation. We may not think that it’s bad to use salty language, but we do know that words have power, and can hurt. We try to avoid those words that hurt the vulnerable, and save our aggressive words for aggressors.
We may even still be Christian. We may be deeply, faithfully Christian. It’s just that we no longer buy into the nationalist religion of white supremacy and purity fetishizing that we were told would save us. We still love Jesus – just not Fake White Jesus with his rosy cheeks and American flag.
And now, when we are trying to live according to the principles of ethics, justice, and decency we still believe in – now, when we call out the truly sinful, speak against real violations of justice and honor – now, when we do as we were taught to do, and stand up for what we believe is right even if it means losing friends and prestige – now, when we try to follow the Gospel, we are told to sit down and be silent?
The hypocrisy of those who claim to defend decency while standing up for everything that is base and indecent is breathtaking. They’re not just violating our “progressive” codes of virtue and decency. They are violating the traditional codes of morals they told us were so important.
Then on top of this hypocrisy, Trump’s religious devotees dare to pretend to still have a moral high ground. They are still trying to police and shame us – this time, for doing what we know is right.
We might be rid of the menace in the White House within a year, if all goes well. But what will we do with this colossal betrayal on the part of our fellow Christians? How can we go on co-existing with them, worshiping with them? How could we do so, in good conscience, knowing what we now know about their attitudes towards the refugees, the non-white, the queer, the marginalized – attitudes no doubt the less privileged already knew about. If only we had listened to them.
And what will “Christianity” even mean in this nation, tethered as it is now to Trump’s falling star?