Beth Moore doesn’t spend much time on politics.
The enormously popular evangelist—her sermons and conferences sell out arenas and printed Bible studies are perennial bestsellers—is more likely to be found helping women understand the life of the Apostle Paul or tweeting about her husband, new granddaughter and two adorable dogs.
But something changed for Moore after Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president of the United States, was caught on tape bragging about his ability to sexual assault women. When Trump said, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything,” Moore had had enough.
“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?”
Beth Moore wasn’t alone in her condemnation of Trump. 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.”
Groves herself was impacted by Trump’s remarks. “When I first heard the tape, I was shocked, and a bit surprised at how deeply it hit me,” she said. “I immediately thought of my own experiences, and of friends who have experienced much worse.”
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.”
These women see Trump’s comments not just as a gender issue but also a theological one; as Rev. Lisa Sharon Harper, Chief Church Engagement Officer for Sojourners, shared with me, “Trump’s offense is not only against a gender. His assaults on women are direct assaults against the image of God on earth.” Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, the pro-life African American Christian leader, brought it back to scripture as well, noting that evangelical leaders are failing to “stand up, as Jesus did, against every form of racism and bigotry on open display almost daily by Donald Trump.”
Despite their disappointment, women Christian leaders see some light at the end of the tunnel, and they hope that this election will finally separate evangelicals who misuse faith for partisan ends from those seeking to advance the cause of Christ. As Katelyn Beaty said, “my hope is that more Christian men will stand up for their friends, wives, daughters, coworkers, and siblings in Christ and refuse to align themselves with a leader who is and will continue to be bad news for half the human population.”
“There are those that are digging in and holding on to some strange mashup of politics and faith,” Groves adds, “but I also see a great number who are starting to see the difference between the body politic, and the body of Christ.”