Monday, October 17, 2016


Saturday before last I was at the local Tea Party meeting. We hear from candidates and speakers at these meetings. And then, at the end, we just discuss whatever is on our minds. One of the things on everyone’s mind that weekend was the audio recording of Trump saying vile things about women, which most of us have heard too much of, and too much about. One man brought up the subject, and he was pretty disgusted, and concerned that such comments could reflect badly on any Republican man.

A woman who attends regularly spoke up. She said men talk like that. She’s been married to a cop for several decades, and she hears that kind of talk all the time. It’s just talk. Locker room talk. All men do it.

The first man said, “I hope you don’t think we all do.” And our president, a good Christian man, agreed with him; they don’t talk like that—ever. The first man said maybe some of them talked badly in junior high locker rooms, but they’d all left that behind at about age 12.

I appreciated his standing up for good men. And I’m puzzled by the woman who thought that kind of talk is acceptable.

It is uncivilized. You cannot expect someone to lead people toward civilization if they are mired in savagery.

I grew up in a relatively civilized time and place. I rarely heard profanity spoken around me. I was an adult before I heard the f-bomb spoken in my presence. It was a coworker at my summer job, who used it frequently. It shook me, because it was so against propriety, and he didn’t seem to care. Without my making any comment, our boss reminded him not to talk that way in my presence. He tried, off and on, to control himself, but it slipped out anyway.

I don’t remember anyone talking locker room talk around me while I was young. And I grew up with brothers, and their friends, who made very little effort to make me comfortable around them, or to convince me they were anything but typical bad boys. But they wouldn’t have said things like that in my hearing. Even teenage boys knew, back then, not to do and say certain things in the presence of children and women. Outside of entertainment and reading, I have still had almost no one use that kind of profanity around me.

Trump is half a generation older than I am, so he ought to be aware of propriety, but he seems to lack that sensitivity.

Some of the conversation the week that followed has been about the sanctimonious former supporters who claim this audio from eleven years ago was a bridge too far. Now that they see who this man really is, they withdraw their support.

And then others point out that, among these shocked people are multitudes of women who have read Fifty Shades of Gray. Which is supposed to mean they do not have the moral authority to condemn Trump for his filthy talk. Some people even argue that, in Trump’s case, it is only talk, not actual sexual assault, like Bill Clinton committed. And then accusations from women start appearing, some of them credible.

Maybe some instruction about civilization is needed—again.

I have not read Fifty Shades of Gray. But I am an avid reader, so of course I have looked into what it is about. No, it would never be something I would choose to read. Not a chance. Among the many reasons is that it is purported to be a book encouraging combining sadism and sex, with neither commitment nor love—and leading the woman (and women readers) to believe that somewhere in that savagery, there might be some sort of exciting version of true love, which they yearn for. In other words, it is a lie—a very ugly one. You don’t find civilization by wallowing in savagery.

It is an equally ugly lie that men get to view women as objects, and that they are entitled to more objectifying sex acts against women if they are rich or powerful. Both of the main presidential candidates apparently believe this, and live out the belief. Former President Bill Clinton is at least as vile in his behavior toward women, and Hillary has attacked the women who have attempted to stand up for themselves and call him out.

There is no civilization there.

Among the discussion has been a fallacy aimed at Christians, about avoiding judgment. After all, we’re all flawed human beings. This is probably worth devoting a number of Sunday sermons or lessons to. But I’ll try to be brief here.

Judging is about unrighteously condemning a person—assuming you have that power instead of God. You can’t know a person’s heart, their efforts toward or away from the good, because you don’t know the total background that has led them to where they are. Judging, in this sense, is discarding a person as irredeemable, refusing to allow the atonement to apply in their lives.

There’s a better term for what is happening with Trump (or either Clinton): discernment.
Discernment is perception, understanding, insight. It is accurately judging based on a broad and deep body of evidence.

From my old Websters New World Dictionary, 2nd College Edition

Discernment is what we use when we decide who to date and marry. If you’re a teenage girl, it might be true that you don’t really know a person until you’ve spent time with them, but you still don’t get on a motorcycle behind a greasy, smelly stranger on the off chance he might turn out to be just the person you want to be father to your future children. (I once had this contrast put to me, when the answer to me seemed obvious, because I used discernment, but not to the foolish younger teen girl who took off with that guy.)

You use discernment to decide who to spend time with as friends, who to associate with in church and community.  

Discernment is how you decide who to hire. You collect the data—the resume, the portfolio, the recommendations. You interview. You don’t say, “Well, he talks about women as sex objects, he lies, he brags, and does other things I might consider unethical and would never do, but we’re all flawed and I don’t want to judge, so I’ll go ahead and hire him.” 

You don’t do that. You use all the information you can get, and then you use discernment to make a good hiring decision. An election is exactly that—a hiring decision.

Judging a person is between you and God—you’re telling God whether He should condemn a person, in this life and the next, based on your ideas of right and wrong. There are a lot of people about whom you can withhold judgment, people you can pull for to improve, to come to the side of light. But you still wouldn’t hire them, or invite them to date your daughter.

If you thought Trump was an ideal representative of the Republican Party, with its long-standing history of conserving liberty, prosperity, and civilization, until this audio leak—then you weren’t using discernment during the Primary process, or since.

If there’s one thing we need more of right now—at every level of the election, and in our news sources and entertainments—it is discernment.

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