The Moral Vacuum
It comes as no shock that since November 2016 a vacuum has been forming in the United States. To be specific there is a moral vacuum. CNN did a piece on this very subject noting that when questioning the Trump administration regarding the dozens of women who have accused President Trump of sexual harassment or assault, and when Press Secretary Huckabee Sanders replied that they were liars and "no one in his base batted an eye -- we knew that something significant had changed."
Something has changed in the last year.
During the campaign, in the midst of chaos, bullying, and uncertainty over which candidate would actually get the nomination, Evangelical Christians were jockeying for position at the table. They sought position to retrain their own status and power rather than serving as a moral compass. When the Access Hollywood tapes were made public and leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr. stood beside the Donald, the moral high ground once held by evangelicals and Christians alike began to slip.
For better or worse, the majority of the un-churched or de-churched America does not differentiate between a conservative evangelical and a progressive Christian. There's no difference because after all both are disciples of Jesus Christ and for those outside the church the differences in theology and doctrine do not make much sense if any at all. Yes conservative evangelicals are anti-LGBT and yes progressive Christians do have a hard time rally together often devouring their own, so the lack of distinction between the two camps should not surprise anyone. There are national gatherings for both groups where they claim moral and theological superiority over the other but nothing much comes from those except for bad press, which in turn hurts both sides.
The past few weeks have been full of sexual assault and harassment revelations. Victims who were once frightened to come forward are now coming out of the dark, sharing the darkest secret they've ever held. Weinstein started it and as of this afternoon we have moved away from Judge and candidate Roy Moore to Al Franken.
Conservatives, typically Republicans, once held the moral high ground when it came to sex and sexual assault but that was purely optics. Conservative preachers regularly preach(ed) about the importance of a conservative sexual ethic, criticizing liberals and those who would consider to make contraceptives available to teenagers. Harassment and assault was present in these communities but were often hushed with theological and social threats, resulting in 'slut-shaming' of the victim.
This is not to say that progressives are without skeletons in the closet. In the 90's we have Clinton and dresses, which was my first formal education in the politics of America. Today we have Louis C.K.
What we have learned these last few weeks though, is that conservative evangelicals are willing to sell off their moral authority (what was left of it) in trade for a continued seat at the table with folks like Trump.
Just this week on the American Family Radio Network commentators were calling for the 'Biblical burden of proof' to be used in the Roy Moore case, saying that the Moore's accusers need to have witnesses to the acts, which would prove difficult in the case of sexual assault because if a witness failed to stop the assault they would be just as guilty as Moore.
Theological work, like that being done on AFRN, is dangerous. It's also counter-productive to the work Christ calls all disciples to participate in.
While conservative evangelicals are engaging in selective witch hunt to oust sexual predators from the public sphere, progressive Christians have an opportunity to reclaim the moral ground on behalf of the church lost by our conservative evangelical brethren.
We have seen this happening with the #MeToo campaign. But the problem is that our attention span does not help us to move past the social media post. Yes, sharing stories online is great but are we listening. When you share something on Facebook or Twitter it is easy for me to keep scrolling if I don't want to read it. Or worse, if I've become numb to them.
Progressive and moderate Christians (evangelical, non-denomination, and mainline) need to use this as a moment to facilitate and listen. Space can be created in our communities for victims to speak and for people like me to listen. We need to listen more and tweet less. This will allow us to begin changing our culture around sexual assault and harassment rather than simply condemning and calling for resignations (which should continue to happen across the spectrum when these crimes come to light). Resignation after a sexual assault has been proven and/or admitted to is an brainer.
Christianity is declining in the United States and one reason for that is that many outside the church view us as hypocrites. Let's not be hypocrites in this situation. Progressives have an opportunity to take a step forward. I hope it can be done without the infighting that usually takes places.