Michael Brown has responded to my subtly-titled article “If Hypocrisy were an Olympic Sport, Evangelicals would get the Gold” in which I argue that his support for Donald Trump coupled with his moral censure of Pete Buttigieg exhibits hypocrisy and provides evidence that he is bigoted and homophobic.
Brown begins by quoting his tweet that started it all:
“Choosing an out and proud ‘married’ gay man to run for president, let alone become president, would contribute to the further degeneration and moral confusion of our society along with further attacks on our most fundamental rights.”
He then reflects,
“When I tweeted this statement out on February 8, it received far more retweets and likes than my average tweet. Far more. So, it obviously struck a chord.”
Yes, it did. But surely, Brown cannot be surprised about this: after all, nothing riles evangelicals like gays and gay marriage. As Jeff Lowder said on Twitter, “If only [evangelicals] thought gay sex caused global warming, then they might care about global warming.”
But of course, with the praise of conservative Trump-supporting evangelicals also comes the criticism of many others. As Brown puts it,
“What else could I expect? The moment you say a word about Mayor Pete being ‘married’ to another man, all while flaunting his deep Christian faith, you will be called a homophobic bigot.”
That may apply to the other critic that Brown responds to in the article. But it is important to understand that I am not criticizing Brown’s critique of Pete Buttigieg simpliciter but rather his censure of Buttigieg while supporting Trump. The issue is moral consistency.
“So be it. I’ve been called worse things than that.
“Come to think of it, Jesus Himself, our perfect Savior, was called far worse things.
“And He told us to expect the same: ‘It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul [basically, the devil himself], how much more the members of his household!'”
Let’s pause for an important point: just because you get criticized as a Christian, doesn’t mean that criticism is unjustified. After all, there’s only one Jesus and you ain’t him.
According to Prof. Randall Rauser, however, to call me a homophobic bigot is not out of line. (Prof. Rauser is a moderate Canadian evangelical and a constant basher of President Trump.) As he wrote in his blog, “Behavior and reasoning like this provide very plausible evidence that Christians like Brown have an irrational fear of and/or antipathy toward gay people.”
Let’s consider Brown’s framing of the issue. He cites Jesus as saying that since he was called “Beelzebul”, his faithful disciples can expect to be called terrible things too. Ergo, if Brown is being called terrible things, then that criticism is because he’s being a faithful disciple. (And by the same token, if a nominal Christian is providing that criticism, they do so because they’re being an unfaithful disciple.)
But of course, that doesn’t follow at all. While it is true that followers of Jesus will face unjust criticism, many followers of Jesus also face justified criticism. And while it is true that some criticism of fellow disciples will be unjustified, that criticism may also be well justified as I believe that mine is.
This is the time where Brown should really consider some of Jesus’ other words on religious hypocrisy, as when he called hypocritical religious leaders whitewashed tombs, blind guides, vipers, and even children of the devil. By contrast to those sharp words, Brown quotes me as saying “Behavior and reasoning like this provide very plausible evidence that Christians like Brown have an irrational fear of and/or antipathy toward gay people.” Compared to Jesus’ fiery indictments, I come across as, in Brown’s words, a “moderate Canadian evangelical.”
Interestingly, while Brown takes issue with my criticism of him (a fellow Christian), he then accuses me, a fellow Christian, of being a liar:
“To say, I ‘fall over [myself] to excuse Trump’s grotesque immorality’ is to speak a lie.”
(A liar is one who speaks a lie. If a speak a lie, it follows that I am a liar.)
But let’s be clear on what a lie is: to lie, one must believe that-p and communicate to others that not-p with the intention that they come to believe that not-p. Thus, for me to be lying here, I must first believe that it is false that Brown falls over himself to excuse Trump’s gross immorality. But I don’t believe that is false. I believe it is true. So by definition, I am not lying. It’s a false charge.
Thus, we see that Brown has falsely accused me, a fellow disciple, of lying. If I may borrow some lines from Brown, “so be it. I’ve been called worse things than that. Come to think of it, Jesus Himself, our perfect Savior, was called far worse things.”
But if I am not a liar, what about Brown? Is he a hypocrite for simultaneously supporting Trump despite Trump’s moral cancer on the body politic even as he impugns Buttigieg and all who would support him? Or not?
Brown says no and he provides two reasons for this, two reasons to treat Trump differently than Buttigieg. First, he claims that Trump is repentant for his sin while Buttigieg is not; second, Buttigieg is on the vanguard of a homosexual agenda to transform society. I’m not going to bother the claim about a homosexual agenda here. But I will ask you to consider whether you think that Buttigieg’s role in removing the stigma from gay people and gay relationships is more troubling than Trump’s assault on the rule of law (more on that below).
Now let’s turn to consider the first charge. Brown says that Trump is truly repentant for his bad behavior. What evidence is there for this? Curiously, Brown places all his evidence of Trump being a changed man who has truly repented on his response to the Access Hollywood tape. He writes:
“President Trump is not flaunting his past immorality, nor is he pushing it presently. Instead, when the ugly tape of his lewd comments went public, he said, ‘I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize . . . . I pledge to be a better man tomorrow and will never, ever let you down.'”
I have several points by way of reply. First, I do not believe that Trump’s video presents a genuine, truly repentant apology for his hot mic monologue in which he brags about forcibly grabbing women’s crotches. Why?
- To begin with, it has been observed that communication is more than 90% body language. I would ask you to watch the video with the sound off. Does it look like a man repentant, contrite, sorrowful? On the contrary, his brow is furrowed throughout, exhibiting consternation, aggression, not contrition. He speaks with an imposing lear, he leans forward, his shoulder movements suggesting his hands are moving together in that Trumpian triangle rather than leaning back in openness and vulnerability.
- When you turn the sound on, Trump speaks with a firm, angry tone. And even worse, before his “apology” is through he makes a point of saying that Bill Clinton is worse. A genuine apology is not one that deflects to the bad actions of a third party.
- Trump also claimed that his bragging of sexual assault was “locker room banter” as if it is somehow normal for sixty-year-old men to brag about sexually assaulting women. (It isn’t.) This is not taking ownership of one’s actions and abjectly apologizing for them. Quite the opposite.
To conclude, to believe that Trump genuinely apologized for the Access Hollywood recording, one must be incredibly naive, self-deceived, or both. Suffice it to say, there is precisely zero plausibility to Brown’s outrageous claim.
But it gets worse. The Access Hollywood recording is but one instance in an ongoing saga of Trump’s grotesque sexual behavior. Time does not permit a comprehensive account here including Trump’s appearance in a softcore porn film or his obscene banter with shock jock Howard Stern or his sexualization of his own daughters. Instead, we’ll focus on a few particular low-lights in his catalogue of unrepentant depravity.
To begin with, Brown neglects to mention that Trump paid off porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy bunny Karen McDougall, two women he had sex with while his third wife was home with their newborn child. Trump paid off these two women during the election through his lawyer Michael Cohen, thereby committing a felony. He then lied about this to reporters on Airforce One. The signed checks were later produced by Michael Cohen. (Cohen is now serving a prison term for his part in this crime. Trump has not been indicted due to the DoJ’s policy of not indicting a sitting president.)
So where is Trump’s repentance for committing adultery on his third wife (or, for that matter, on his second wife? Or his first wife)? And where is his apology video for committing a felony during the election by covering up the liaisons with covert payoffs?
And that’s just the tip of a rotting iceberg. Trump is also accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault by more than twenty other women. He claimed during the election that he would sue these women after the election. But he never did. Why? No doubt, because he would then be required to give testimony under oath in order to rebut charges that he did precisely what he bragged about on the Access Hollywood tape.
At the same time, several of those women are currently suing him. See, for example, the ongoing Summer Zervos lawsuit against Trump. Zervos desperately wants to go to trial in her suit against Trump for defamation. Trump, by contrast, is doing everything to prevent this. Does that sound like an innocent (or at least repentant) man?
Next, why does Brown’s defense of Trump consist solely of one issue relating to sexual ethics? Talk about tunnel vision! What about his continual and repeated vulgarity? For example, last week, he said “bullshit” in a public address. Then he proudly tweeted a video with multiple uses of the f-word. Does this sound like a man behaving in a manner befitting of the presidency?
Even more troubling, what about Trump’s ongoing attempt to subvert the rule of law? Leading Republican senators like Susan Collins admitted that the House established that Trump solicited a foreign power to intervene in a domestic election but inexplicably, she claimed this act was insufficient to remove him from the presidency. However, she hopefully claimed that he had learned his lesson.
What abhorrent self-delusion: Since Collins made that inane, self-deluded wish, Trump has since redoubled his efforts to subvert the rule of law, most recently by retaliating against trial witnesses (Sondland, Vindman, and even Vindman’s twin brother). This is mob behavior and that alone is grounds for further impeachment. In addition, in the last two days, he intervened in the actions of the Department of Justice regarding the case of Roger Stone leading to four prosecutors on the case resigning in protest. Even worse, he has since also threatened a sitting judge on Twitter
These are the actions of a would-be dictator. And Brown wants to talk about the Access Hollywood tape? If ever there were a case of straining gnats and swallowing camels, this is it.
And yet, despite all of Trump’s moral garbage, his sexual deviance, his vulgar, uncouth and lawless behavior, Brown is more incensed that, as he says, Mr. Buttigieg “has kissed his partner at public rallies.”
I conclude with a simple question: if that double-standard is not evidence of bigotry and homophobia, then what is?