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Conservative Evangelical Leaders Bailing from Trump Campaign?

If you have been wondering where conservative evangelical Republicans draw the line regarding their support of Trump, the moment of truth may have arrived, as evidenced by couple of recent statements from religious leaders.

In his Washington Post opinion page article, “Donald Trump has created an excruciating moment for evangelicals,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, writes:

This past weekend, political analysts described the situation inside the Trump campaign as “DEFCON 5,” an acknowledgment that the revelations of a sexually explicit taped conversation with Trump posed the prospect of immediate defections from key Trump constituencies, and evangelicals are at the top of that list.

..How could “family values voters” support a man who had, among other things, stated openly that no man’s wife was safe with him in the room? A casino titan who posed for the cover of Playboy magazine? A man who boasted that he did not repent of his (well-documented) sins and would not?

Citing “a marriage of convenience between evangelical Christians and the Republican Party” which  resulted from “the divide over issues like abortion and the definition of the family,” Mohler explains that conservative evangelical tolerance of Trump’s excesses thus far were largely due to their opposition to Hillary Clinton, who became their lightening rod for liberal values.

However, adds Mohler,

…This year, the Republican nominee is, in terms of character, the personification of what evangelicals have preached (and voted) against. Married three times, flaunting Christian sexual mores, building his fortune and his persona on the Playboy lifestyle, under any normal circumstances Trump would be the realization of evangelical nightmares, not the carrier of evangelical hopes.

…The release of the sexually explicit tape revealed Trump in a light that must be the worst nightmare for the candidate’s campaign. It revealed a sexual predator, not merely a playboy.

Further, says Mohler, “Trump’s horrifying statements, heard in his own proud voice, revealed an objectification of women and a sexual predation that must make continued support for Trump impossible for any evangelical leader.”

Mohler is just one voice. But consider Joshua Dubois’s post “Powerful Evangelical Women Split From Male Church Leaders to Slam Trump” at The Daily Beast. A Dubois writes about Beth Moore,  who preaches in arenas and writes perennial best-sellers on religious lists:

“I’m one among many women sexually abused, misused, stared down, heckled, talked naughty to. Like we liked it. We didn’t. We’re tired of it,” Moore said. She also had a word about evangelical leaders still supporting Trump: “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’s broken silence about the 2016 race—rooted in her own experience with sexual assault—signals a widening gender divide between evangelicals. Increasingly, moderate and conservative Christian women are speaking out about Trump’s brand of misogyny and divisiveness, and condemning support for the nominee or silence about him from male evangelicals.

“When Christian women like Beth Moore choose to publicly speak about their own experience with sexual assault, it signals to me that they do not feel heard or understood by fellow Christian leaders who continue to support Trump,” Katelyn Beaty told me. Beaty, until recently the print managing editor of Christianity Today, the country’s largest evangelical Christian publication, is the author of A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World. “Moore and others are saying to their fellow leaders, the one-in-six statistic”—of women who have experienced sexual assault—“includes me. When will you believe me and stand up for me?”

Dubois adds that “Her comments sent ripples around the evangelical world and were seconded by Christian mega-speaker and author Christine Caine. Sara Groves, the Dove Award-nominated Christian artist, told me, “Someone like Beth can go a long way in helping Evangelicals recognize these major blind spots.”

Further, notes Dubois, “Dr. Russell Moore—head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and a leading conservative Christian voice against Trump—says he is hearing privately from women like Groves and Moore all the time.”

“I have heard from many, many evangelical women who are horrified by Christian leaders ignoring this as an issue,” Moore told me. He says these women leaders have “spent their entire life teaching girls to find their identity in Christ and not in an American culture that sexualizes and objectifies them”—and they are now disgusted that evangelical men are not standing up and speaking out. Nish Weiseth, popular Christian blogger and author said that when it comes to Christian men still supporting Trump, “Disappointed seems like too soft a word. It’s devastating.”

None of this is to suggest that conservative evangelicals will be voting for Clinton in large numbers, and certainly they will continue to hold their strong views on topics like reproductive rights, same-sex marriage and other “family values” issues. But it looks like many conservative evangelicals, particularly women, will not be voting for Trump — and that’s good news for Clinton. And if a significant number stay home, that’s good news for down-ballot Democratic candidates, as well.

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