Trump is as much a symptom as he is a problem. 

One of the best pieces of wisdom I ignore is ‘don’t read the comments section.’ I get sucked in every time. Few things simultaneously enrage and depress me more than the responses to articles, posts and tweets. I am beginning to think Stephen Fry was right to leave Twitter, it is becoming an increasingly toxic place. 
Today I made this error by reading comments under a meme shared by a British friend in which a woman who had recently come forward to confirm Donald Trump’s claims about himself, that is, that he has forced himself on women against their will, is ridiculed as a ‘5 out of 10’ and therefore a liar. 
Of course, as I expected the comments and replies to comments were a mix of, claims of smears or acknowledgement of the courage of victims of sexual assault speaking out. What was most shocking, and at times stomach churning was the constant stream of comments that victim blamed, threatened female commenters or demeaned them as unattractive so they had nothing to fear from Trump.
Again, as I have been before, I was shocked that was when I clicked on the profiles of some of those making such deeply offensive comments, their walls were often filled with videos of Christian music or Bible verses. These are people who claim the name of Jesus. 
One commenter, a British lady, who’s response to a woman who spoke in support of a victim of sexual assault reads, ‘I hope you get sexually assaulted H, but it’s unlikely as you’re fat,’ appears to be a Sunday school teacher at a Baptist church. Another saying, ‘these women are just annoyed he only groped them and they didn’t get his money,’ had moments before posted about their love for Jesus. 
Of course not all of these comments are from church-going people but there are enough for me to be taken aback. This is not the way of Jesus by any stretch. How can one hold to the sanctity of humanity on the one hand and wish sexual assault and rape to someone with whom one disagrees on the other? 
The language he uses and the claims that Trump has made about women is a scary problem as he is a powerful man very close to even more power. However, I think what scares me more is not the problem that Trump is himself but the symptom that he is of a deeply rooted problem within western culture. 
The more I read about these accusations against him the more my attention has moved away from him to the behaviour of many who support him (by no means all who support him but enough to take note). If there is one thing that Trump’s campaign has exposed it is that underneath the surface of the western world’s progress towards gender equality the view of women as sexual products to be rated, used and disregarded is as strong as it ever was. It seems that the message is that attractive women deserve it, those who complain are angry they didn’t get more from any man who assaults them and that others are ugly and therefore their opinion is worthless. This isn’t isolated this is a pattern painted across the whole of the internet. 
How do we speak out against this? Surely the threat of rape or the incitement to rape or sexual assault is or should be a crime? There is a conversation to be had. Somewhere in our move forward we appear to have armed misogyny with more weapons that it had before. 
How does the church respond to this? How do we avoid burying our head in the sand and arriving to the conversation decades too late as we have with most conversations on sexuality over the last century? How do we challenge influential Christian leaders who mark all of this down to ‘election year talk?’ How do we handle those within our churches and networks who make these remarks whilst acknowledging the darkness within our own lives? 
Trump’s campaign has sliced open the thin scab on a deep festering wound within our society and the church must be at the forefront of healing it. I don’t have a single clue how to do it and am open to suggestions of what part I can play as a church leader beyond modelling and speaking of equality and condemning misogyny. This cannot continue. No matter who wins the US election on 8th November we have work to do, we have hearts to change and hurts to heal.

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