I woke up in the middle of the night last night with a sense that something was very wrong, but I couldn’t place what it was. My family was safe and yesterday had been a good and productive day. What was bothering me? I laid there listening to my husband’s peaceful deep breaths and wondered.
Then I remembered what I had seen on the news before going to bed: that disgusting video of Trump bragging about how he had groped women. But that wasn’t what was bothering me. Not exactly. I was not surprised that Trump would say or do such things to women. What was bothering me was the Conservative Evangelical Christian leaders who were supporting him.
I had a happy and supportive childhood with the exception that the church I went to told me that I could not be a pastor, elder, or even teach men — and that if I married and had children, I must quit my career. It took me awhile to understand that was ridiculous and I would not go to hell if I used all of the skills and talents God had given me to their fullest.
So despite my upbringing, I went to Georgia Tech, graduated with honors, and got a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering. In fact, my picture appeared on the front of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution the day I graduated. Women were just that rare at Georgia Tech!
I spent twenty years in the corporate world. I worked my way to VP of Engineering. I managed large groups of engineers (mostly men). My teams won several national product and management awards. We were the first to develop internet email! I was a technology adviser to two white house administrations (Bush Sr and Clinton). Never once in those twenty years was I sexually harassed. Not once.
Unexpectedly, as I volunteered in my sons’ youth group, God gave me a passion for ministering to others. So I “retired” at the ripe old age of forty and went to seminary, got my masters, and was ordained.
I thought the church was a safe place.
But it was in the church that I experienced sexual harassment for the first time. It was another member of the clergy — a head of staff — leaning into me as he whispered into my ear grotesque details about how he had gotten a woman pregnant. Another time he emailed me and told me to call him on his cell phone until he found and answered it. I called multiple times until I decided this was not my job. Later I learned he was using the phone as a vibrator.
It was then I got a visit from a congregant who said this clergy person had gotten “touchy feely” with her in the copy room. I started asking around and he was making a lot of women, mostly staff members of the church, feel uncomfortable with inappropriate touching and vulgar stories. I quietly reported it to the governing authorities of the denomination on a Monday.
The following Wednesday, I got a call from the regional leader of the denomination saying that if I pursued this that the clergy in question would lose a job at an out of town church where he had just accepted a head pastor position and that was too harsh a punishment. He was getting a promotion!
This regional leader requested that I drop it. I refused and insisted that he follow denominational rules and investigate it. I met with his crack investigation team once. Then less than a week from when I reported it, I had a voicemail saying that it had been investigated and they could find no evidence (despite emails and documentation I had provided them) and were going to drop it. They never even spoke to the woman in the copy room.
In the voicemail, I was instructed not to tell anyone. I requested a meeting with the regional leader of the denomination and that person said no. It was then I learned that not one, but two women clergy who had worked at the church before me had been treated poorly by the clergy. One had sued and the church had settled in her favor out of court.
The harasser and his defenders were Conservative Evangelical Christians. Hence my waking up in the middle of the night last night.
I call this situation along with what is going on now (Evangelical leaders supporting Trump) a result of the “Evangelical Male Syndrome.” You see, these Evangelical male leaders believe the Bible teaches that God put them in charge — in charge of their families, their wives, the church, and the world. They believe that if they are happy then everyone else must fall in line. They also believe it is everyone else’s job to make them happy. They believe this is the way God designed the world. And anyone who doesn’t fall in line with their desires and happiness is going against God’s plan for the world.
Trump makes them happy. He meets their personal needs. It matters little that he harasses and gropes women or insults African-Americans, Hispanics, or the disabled. Trump makes these Conservative Evangelical Leaders happy and if they are happy, no one else need be.
I call this the Evangelical Male Syndrome. You know men who suffer from this. They are the ones who believe that God put them in charge and their desires and needs take precedence over anyone and anything else.
By the way, Conservative Evangelical men have a higher than average rate of spousal abuse(1). These leaders don’t support a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her body. And they are voting for Trump!!
The good news is that God isn’t like this. God intended for the world to be one where men and women respect, love, and care for each other. God created women and gave them gifts to be used just like the men.
As I lay in bed thinking this over and listening to my husband’s peaceful deep breaths, I took comfort in having someone next to me who has supported my hopes and dreams all these years. Someone who has never made me feel less. Someone who loves me like God loves me — not like Trump loves women.
Don’t buy into the Evangelical Male Syndrome. Let’s create a new world, one where the great love of God for all people reigns.
Check out April’s Books, Disorderly Parable Bible Studies, for group and individual study.