After ‘Locker Room Talk’ Tape Emerges, Can Evangelical Women Stay Behind Trump?

(Getty)
(Getty)

Trump’s salacious comments about women are proving too much for a growing number of conservative Christians.

Over the weekend, as Donald Trump’s sexually aggressive comments on a leaked tape blew up the news cycle and threatened to sink his candidacy, a bulwark of support emerged among male evangelical leaders. Prominent evangelicals like Ralph Reed, Jerry Falwell Jr. and Robert Jeffress have all doubled down their support for the GOP nominee.

In the past, it might have been taken for granted that this meant the evangelical constituency would fall in line.

Not this time. On Sunday, Beth Moore, a popular speaker and Bible study author whose books have been New York Times best-sellers, spoke out about Trump and against these male evangelical leaders, tweeting, “Try to absorb how acceptable the disesteem and objectifying of women has been when some Christian leaders don’t think it’s that big a deal.” Moore, who is very popular in conservative Christian circles, usually refrains from getting involved in politics. But her take reflected an argument breaking out with renewed force among evangelical women—especially younger ones—about whether it’s really possible to support a man who writes off bragging about sexual assault as “locker room talk,” as he did in Sunday night’s debate.

A profound split has emerged among evangelical women. While many are standing firmly behind Trump, a growing number of them are starting to defect from his ranks of supporters. Some of them were shaky on Trump to begin with, and many have begun to speak out against him only after the most recent leaked tape. Hearing Trump brag about sexual assault was the last straw for women who had already started to question whether a thrice-married misogynist was the best candidate for president. “I’m really, really struggling with this election because I think one of the most important things to consider when choosing a president is the ramifications on judicial nominations,” says Jessica Frieberg, a 29-year-old paralegal from Southern California. At the same time, she wonders if she can “really vote for Trump when he, as an individual, behaves in such morally and ethically reprehensible ways.”

While evangelicals have typically supported the Republican presidential nominee by a wide margin in recent decades, Trump’s candidacy was already causing many in the evangelical base to question the long alliance between their faith community and the GOP.

For many young evangelical women, support of Trump was never an option in the first place. Julia, a 21-year-old newspaper editor in the Midwest who asked to be identified by only her first name, comes from a “fairly conservative background” but has never considered voting for Trump. He “is the antithesis of every value I was raised to hold or have since come to hold,” she says—values like “kindness, open-mindedness, humility, truthfulness or any awareness of how the world actually works.” She says her faith drives her to hope “that the president would value those under his or her care, but the only person I have seen Trump value is himself.”

Whitney Jones, a 26-year-old technical writer from Murray, Kansas, graduated from the Southern Baptist Convention-funded Union University and voted Republican in the 2008 and 2012 elections but has “never once considered supporting Trump, though both my parents and grandparents support him.” She’s become a Hillary Clinton supporter in this election and, in what she calls a “big move,” registered as a Democrat a couple of weeks ago. And Katie Loveland, a 33-year-old consultant in Helena, Montana, is involved in a number of offline conversations with evangelical women who “saw through Trump from the beginning.” Many of those women, she says, are trying to hold on to their evangelical label—meaning theologically conservative Christians, as opposed to more liberal mainliners—but “feel that they are being pushed to the brink by this election.”

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SOURCE: Politico Magazine
Laura Turner

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