Faith 2016 News

Will evangelical women turn the tide against Trump?

(RNS) She never used his name. Or mentioned the recording that roiled so many of his evangelical Christian supporters.


RELATED: Conservative Christian women confront their doubts on Trump


But popular evangelical speaker and author Beth Moore clearly repudiated Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s remarks about women and the Christians who have defended him in a series of tweets on Oct. 9.

“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 tweeted.

And Moore isn’t the only prominent evangelical woman who has spoken out in the week since the release of the now-infamous “Trump tape,” a 2005 recording of Trump bragging about forcibly kissing and grabbing women and attempting sex with a married woman.

Katelyn Beaty, editor at large of Christianity Today and author of “A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home and the World.” Photo courtesy of Katelyn Beaty

Katelyn Beaty, editor at large of Christianity Today and author of “A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World.” Photo courtesy of Katelyn Beaty

Authors Jen Hatmaker, Christine Caine, Trillia Newbell and Kay Warren; musicians Nichole Nordeman and Sara Groves; and Moody Radio host Julie Roys also have made news for their renunciations of the presidential candidate’s remarks.

“I think it took a comment from Trump that personally affected a majority of evangelicals for there to be a tipping point,” said Katelyn Beaty, editor at large of Christianity Today and author of “A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World.”

“More than half of every church is women, and all those women are affected by comments about sexual assault.”

The Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study backs that up: 55 percent of all evangelical Protestants are women, according to its findings.

And while “men who have a very clear institutional position of leadership” are viewed as spokespeople for evangelicalism, Beaty said, evangelicals themselves are more likely to look to writers and speakers, both men and women, as leaders.

Anglican pastor Tyler Wigg-Stevenson pointed out on Twitter that Hatmaker, a woman, has more Twitter followers than Dobson, Falwell, Reed and Tony Perkins combined — and her Facebook audience is even larger.

Comments by Beth Moore and other evangelical women — notably, white evangelical women — who have started to speak out over the past week give “women in the pews, your average churchgoer, permission to speak out politically in a way that they didn’t feel comfortable doing before,” Beaty said.

Last week, an open letter condemning Trump’s remarks drew more than 400 signatures of female Christian leaders in the first hour it was posted — more than 800 in the hours after that, according to the Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO of the Faith in Public Life Action Fund.

A number of male Christian leaders followed, including John Piper, James MacDonald and Russell Moore, who has been steadfast in his opposition to Trump. Wayne Grudem recanted earlier statements of support for the candidate. Both Christianity Today and conservative Christian publication World Magazine published editorials criticizing both Trump and his evangelical defenders. And on Friday, the hashtag #EvangelicalsAgainstTrump took off on Twitter.

That comes even as others like Ralph Reed, Jerry Falwell Jr. and James Dobson have doubled down in their support of the Republican nominee and #WomenWhoVoteTrump started trending on Twitter. Notably, Beaty said she hasn’t heard any prominent evangelical women voice support for the Republican presidential nominee.

AnaYelsi Velasco-Sanchez, the organizing and programs director for The Reformation Project and a signer of the petition. Photo courtesy of Matthew Vines

AnaYelsi Velasco-Sanchez, the organizing and programs director for The Reformation Project and a signer of a petition opposing statements by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. Photo courtesy of Matthew Vines

More than 20,000 women and men also have signed onto a petition on change.org started by evangelicals denouncing Trump’s statements not only about women, but also about Mexicans, immigrants, Muslims and refugees. That petition also denounces the idea that “evangelical” means “mostly white, politically conservative, older men.”

And many nonwhite, female evangelicals across the political spectrum have been speaking out against Trump since he first announced his campaign for president.

“There are almost two evangelicalisms in the United States,” said AnaYelsi Velasco-Sanchez, the organizing and programs director for The Reformation Project and a signer of the petition.

“I really, really want acknowledgement and credit given to the women of color who have been at the forefront of that, who have lost speaking opportunities, financial opportunities, as a result of their staunch opposition. I think suddenly pretending this is a new conversation is disingenuous and disrespectful to their efforts.”

Christena Cleveland, associate professor of the practice of reconciliation at Duke University’s Divinity School. Photo courtesy of Carolyn Scott Photography

Christena Cleveland, associate professor of the practice of reconciliation at Duke University’s Divinity School. Photo courtesy of Carolyn Scott Photography

White evangelical women may not have been comfortable talking about politics previously, Velasco-Sanchez said, but for women of color, it’s “survival work.”

Larycia Hawkins’ decision last December to wear a hijab in solidarity with Muslim women — a decision that led Wheaton College to part ways with its first black female tenured professor — was sparked by Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States, Christena Cleveland pointed out.

Cleveland, associate professor of the practice of reconciliation at Duke University’s Divinity School, wrote a blog post back in March describing Trump’s campaign as a reaction to increased diversity in the U.S. — a trend affecting evangelicals whose ranks are 76 percent white, according to Pew.

“People of color in every space have been deeply, deeply concerned and have been making public proclamations against him that have come at great cost to them and no one was listening,” she said.

Marlena Graves -- who's been tweeting about Trump's "over-the-top" remarks on Mexicans and undocumented workers since he launched his campaign. Photo courtesy of Grace Frederick

Marlena Graves has been tweeting about Donald Trump’s “over-the-top” remarks on Mexicans and undocumented workers since he launched his presidential campaign. Photo courtesy of Grace Frederick

While she’s frustrated it’s taken so long for the larger church to listen, Marlena Graves, activist, author, speaker and petition signer, said she’s “just glad it’s getting out into the light.”

Graves, who has been tweeting about Trump’s “over-the-top” remarks on Mexicans and undocumented workers since he launched his campaign, hopes evangelicals will learn from the women, particularly black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American women, within their ranks.

“Who did Jesus spend his time with? The people on the margins, and I think we have something to say — I don’t want to say to the church, but to the white church,” Graves said.

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

35 Comments

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  • Keep in mind that the word “evangelical” is being used without qualification (or even examination) in this article. For example, Larycia Hawkins was the hijab-wearing “evangelical” Wheaton professor who had quietly stopped subscribing to the Wheaton Statement Of Faith, (particularly with reference to the nature of Jesus Christ), despite still being signed up on the document.

    Certainly it’s no crime to wear a hijab as a push-back against some of Trump’s words, but Trump had nothing to do with Hawkins’ **theological** abandonment of evangelicalism as described in the Wheaton Statement Of Faith, (her erroneous teaching that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.)

    Then there’s the so-called “Reformation Project”, mentioned in connection with program director AnaYelsi Velasco-Sanchez. But the Reformation Project, founded by “gay Christian” Matthew Vines, is actually an **attack** on evangelicalism. It’s main mission is not about opposing Trump. Instead, it has **always** been about opposing the Bible’s prohibitions against homosexual behavior and gay marriage.

    So don’t just accept the term “evangelical” merely because a headline employs the term. Check out the actual beliefs, the actual history, the associated groups, to see if folks are really “Evangelical”.

  • If you take away the all-night tweets, economy-busting trade policy, disturbing comments on nuclear weapons, suspicious connections to V. Putin, and apparent pandering to xenophobia, melanophobia, & sexism, then Trump doesn’t seem so bad.

  • I have been speaking out about Trump since he first threw his hat in the Republican primary ring. Both the Republican and Democratic nominees are foul, dishonest, untrustworthy people – even more so than most politicians. I’m afraid our babies and our constitution will not survive Hillary and I’m afraid our women and minorities will not survive Trump. There is a reasonable candidate I have found named Evan McMullin. He has my vote. As a victim of childhood molestation, I cannot with any form of good conscience vote for Donald Trump. He is the quintessential arrogant, selfish, mentally unstable narcissist who has no empathy or concern for anyone whom he cannot use for his own agenda or who doesn’t remind him of himself.

  • I am an older white evangelical who has been #NeverTrump since the beginning of his campaign. Frankly, I am baffled that evangelical “leaders” who should know better continue to support a man who is unfit for any public office, let along President of the United States. One good thing might come out of this, and that is a recognition that American Evangelicalism is far more diverse today than it was even thirty years ago. I am grateful for the many women and persons of color who are stepping up into evangelical leadership. They give me hope for the future.

  • I would only caution that making a claim to the meaning of Evangelical is itself an extreme act of hubris. Anytime a worldview requires compartmentalization, it’s a good indication that worldview is no longer Christian. Christ taught unity and love; he taught it to everyone regardless of station. He wasn’t a big fan of partitions.

  • Not “both.” Sec. Clinton has been the victim of 30 years of lies, innuendo and Fake Congressional investigations by the same forces that created trump.

  • “I am grateful for the many women and persons of color who are stepping up into evangelical leadership. They give me hope for the future.”

    Excellent comment. Ditto for me.

  • Evangelical (and all) women should vote for Hillary over the misogynist/sexist/predator/bully Trump. She is much closer to central Christian ethical principles than Trump. — Edd Doerr

  • Yes, her ongoing email scandal is proving EXACTLY how close Hillary is to “central Christian ethical principles.” Heh.

    You and I would be in jail right now, Edd, if we had done the same mess Hillary has done. She won’t go to the Jail House, but she is demonstrably NOT fit to go to the White House.

  • Bill *snatched* the women, and Hillary *silenced* the women. The perfect tag-team of sexual assault.

    You’re not doing women any favors by voting for Hillary.

  • But you didn’t deny that Hillary’s email scandal would have put you and I in jail by now, while Hillary got a free pass from the FBI director (which even some FBI agents were upset about.)

    Everybody knew the fix was coming, when Slick Willie just happened to step off his plane and walk across the tarmac, uninvited, to Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s plane (which just happened to be sitting there!) for a nice warm chat about grandchildren and such. Sheesh.

    The Hillary & Bill Show, whether “back then” or “right now”, is totally convinced that the laws of our nation **don’t** really apply to them, and that the voters don’t even care about truth anymore. Is that mess what you want in the White House?

  • The email matter is of little importance except to the dwindling goofies who support Trump and “Loser” Pence..

  • The case for supporting Trump as a Christian is profoundly simple: his espoused policies are vastly more likely to move the needle back toward the Christianization of our society than the opposite. Hillary Clinton will support continued (and indeed broader) aboryion on demand. She will work to preserve and increase society’s support for harmful alternative lifestyles. She will advance a welfare state that incentivises sloth and subsidizes irresponsibility. She will do nothing to prevent Christian professionals from being jailed for their consciences.

    Hillary Clinton’s America represents the further erosion of Christianity in public life. That makes the prospect of it a profound evil. The only practical way to prevent a Clinton Presidency is to support Trump.

  • Great article. Thank you Evangelical women, particularly Evangelical women of color. I am in your debt. The whole country is.Mary Rakow(white Catholic convert proud of my Evangelical roots) Brava !!

  • So you are a tool who will go for someone who pretends to care about your agenda. You are so beholden to attacking civil liberties of others in service of your Theocratic Anti-Democracy version of Christian faith that you will vote for anyone who makes empty promises to that effect. Trump doesn’t even bother taking people like you seriously and you still vote for him. That is just plain boneheaded.

    You really hate this country that much?

  • Nope – they (we) will be voting write in names, or even a third party. Hillary loves to kill unborn children. She loves it, voting for late-term abortion. She does not hold any (let me repeat) any evangelical values. It’s just that we can now see through the smoke and mirrors of that ‘disaster’ that is called Trump.

  • What specifics? He is a theocratic anti-civil liberties type. Like you. The Republican candidates who ran on such a platform were so resoundingly inept and unpopular that even fellow conservatives didn’t care for them.

    So now you guys are desperate for anyone who even pretends to listen to your bigoted, ignorant, anti-American agenda.

    It is absolutely insane and completely counterfactual to assume Trump gives a flying fig about his and your religious beliefs or any notion of giving them color of law. Nothing about what he has said or done points to him keeping his word with ANY supporter. This is a guy who made a living cheating investors, contractors and the public.

    He’s a New Yorker. Bible thumpers are as foreign to him as Tibetan monks or the villages where he finds his future wives. He doesn’t care about your bigotry against gays or your desire to turn the country into a christian theocratic state. On what planet would you be led to believe any promise to that effect was even remotely credible?

    Christian Trump supporters are tools. People too gullible and too desperate for anyone who is a Republican. So much so that they are torching their own party because they don’t want to feel ignored. One part desperation, one part dishonesty, with a smattering of delusion.

  • What sort of Christian man could hurt his nephew and seriously ill grand nephew (who needed life long medical care) over a dispute? Mr. Trump was already extremely wealthy in his own right by the time his father died, but he had no conscience and refused to continue paying for the family health plan just to spite his nephew who dared to dispute him over the will. He is not and never was a good Christian man and I could never support him because of this.

  • Trump both snatched the women and now is trying to silence them. Maybe voters should support him because he’s so efficient?

  • Hillary does NOT favor killing unborn kids.She supports women’s rights of conscience and religious liberty. She is a far better Christian than Trump by any standard.

  • Well, he’s probably not actually the Anti-Christ. That this is all I can come up with in his behalf, though, sure tells you something.

  • Murder is murder. She supports it. She voted in favor of late term abortion. She has blood on her hands – half of the deaths were female -si don’t even give me that garbage about her supporting women’s rights when she denies them the right to live!!!

  • Abortion is not murder. Well over 99% of abortions are done before the fetus is capable of consciousness, at 28-32 weeks of gestation. Before the possibility of consciousness there is no person there. That is the view of science. That is the view of the Bible (Gen 1:27 and 2:7). About half of all pregnancies are terminated spontaneously; does this mean that God OKs or allows abortion? Those who want to outlaw abortion (and there are over 50 million abortions per year worldwide) simply want government to deny women freedom of conscience and religious liberty. — Edd Doerr

  • Well said, Edd. A miscarriage is an abortion by God. Keep that in mind, evangelicals.

    Too many evangelicals continue to support Trump, despite evidence of his sexual assaults on women, racism, bigotry and insults of older people, of women’s looks, and the handicapped. Evangelicals have lost the moral high ground.

  • They haven’t done squat in the past when various political candidates have run on platforms which attack women’s rights, or when politicians have openly attacked the dignity of women. So I don’t really take their outrage and allegations of decisive action seriously here.

  • “Hillary Clinton’s America represents the further erosion of Christianity in public life.”

    I hope so, because that’s one of the reasons I will be voting for Hillary.

  • Do we have to take this or that? I can understand being against Trump. And I can see no way of being for him except as the lesser of the evils. But does that mean being for Clinton? We need to look at the other names on the ballot. And at the write in candidates. We have no moral leadership in either party. Remember that the Pharisees and Sadducees (the conservatives and liberals in religion) put Jesus to death. And today neither party is offering much moral leadership. Choosing between Republican and Democrat may be much like choosing between Pharisee and Sadducee. Jesus had harsh words for both.

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