A Washington Post report takes a swipe at both “white evangelicals” and President Donald Trump, saying that the two groups have something in common.
“As white evangelicals have been some of President Donald Trump’s staunchest defenders, a handful of their leaders find themselves contending with a problem all too familiar to the commander in chief: a sex scandal,” the Post reported, referring to allegations of Trump’s affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels.
In recent months, at least four leaders in the evangelical move have been “accused of violating the tenets of their faith, from adultery to sexual abuse,” the report stated.
It’s happening at a time when the #MeToo movement is shining a spotlight on allegations of sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace. And that might mean the spirit of the #MeToo movement is hitting home where some people would say is the most unlikely of places: churches.
Is he setting a bad example?
Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told the Post: “(Trump’s supporters) seem enthralled to his approach to life. They seem completely untroubled by the…women who accused Trump of harassment or assault. For some large number of white evangelical men, there seems to be an attitude toward women that’s disturbing and not biblical.”
“A lot of people are going to think it’s laced with hypocrisy,” he added. “They say one thing and do another. And that the faith is not transformative, faith is just a proxy for political tribalism. It doesn’t transform lives in the way it should.”
Recent events are causing a “reckoning in the evangelical world right now,” Russell Moore, who leads the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told the Post.
That reckoning, Moore said, is the realization that some pastors exude so much authority and charisma that they can face the temptation of becoming become predators over the very flocks they were called to protect.
The story includes the following examples:
Frank Page, president and chief executive of the SBC’s executive committee, who announced his resignation because of an “inappropriate relationship.” Reports did not detail the relationship, but Page issued a statement that called it a “personal failing” that has “embarrassed my family, my Lord, myself, and the Kingdom.”
Page was one of several evangelical leaders who met in September with Trump and praised him while in the Oval Office, the report notes.
Bill Hybels, a co-founder of Willow Creek, one of the nation’s largest churches, was called out last week after the Chicago Tribune published a series of allegations that he “made suggestive comments, extended hugs, an unwanted kiss, invitations to a staff member to hotel rooms and had a consensual affair with a married woman.”
In an interview with the Tribune, Hybels denied the allegations.
Hybels drew standing ovations when he told his congregation the allegations are “flat-out lies,” the Post reported. Hybels, who served as a spiritual adviser to then-President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, plans to retire in October, according to the report.
Late last year, Paul Pressler, a leader in the conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention in the late 1970s and early 1980s,” was accused of abusing a young man for several decades beginning when the alleged victim was 14 years old, according to reports. There is a pending lawsuit against Pressler, who is a former justice on the Texas 14th Circuit Court of Appeals and who served in the Texas Legislature.
Finally, gymnast Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to make allegations against sports physician Larry Nassar, has also spoken out about her sexual-abuse allegations regarding Sovereign Grace Churches.
What about the timing?
Scott Thumma, a professor of sociology of religion at Hartford Seminary, noted that allegations are appearing shortly after the death of evangelist Billy Graham, who had a policy of never being alone with any woman besides his wife.
The practice became known as “the Billy Graham Rule.” Vice President Mike Pence reportedly follows it and many high-profile evangelical leaders have also adopted the practice.