But one glaring hypocrisy ruins the sincerity of their words: Many of these evangelical promoters of sexual purity voted for Donald Trump, remained silent while their Christian allies voted for Trump, or weren’t disturbed enough by everything Trump did before the election to vote against him.
You can’t trash Hugh Hefner when your rhetoric against the president is either mild or non-existent.
No one has summarized my disgust any better than Brandon Ambrosino, writing for Religion News Service:
In many ways, both men objectified women, but I honestly think Trump was worse about it. Some have pointed out that while Trump’s sexual indiscretions were momentary, Hefner’s were a lifelong habit. But Trump, decades-long owner of beauty pageants, has repeatedly and consistently bragged about the sexual behavior he’s “gotten away with” over the years with various women, who, according to his own admission, did not always consent to his advances — if we can even call unwanted groin-grabbing an “advance”…
It just seems like there’s cognitive dissonance going on here. If you believe the objectification and sexualization of women are bad for society, then why would Trump be your candidate?
“Cognitive dissonance” is the perfect descriptor for what we’re seeing here.
Hefner, born to devout Methodist parents but becoming an atheist in adulthood, never pretended to be anything other than who he was. Trump, on the other hand, strategically catered to the evangelical crowd by hitting all their hot-button topics. He promised to overturn Obergefell, told them they could say “Merry Christmas” again, talked about how the Bible was the only book better than his own, and formed an evangelical advisory board. Even since taking office, he’s signed a (virtually useless) executive order allowing pastors to promote candidates from the pulpit without putting their churches’ tax exemptions at risk and tweeted out a ban on transgender troops in the military.
Why do all these things? To get those Christian votes and keep his base happy. His sincerity was always in question, but evangelicals voted for him in large numbers, arguably because he also promised to appoint anti-abortion justices to federal courts. That’s the one promise he’s kept so far.
Never mind that Trump himself doesn’t give a rat’s ass about any of those issues. He knew what to say to win them over, and they fell for it. More to the point, they supported him while hand-waiving away his sexual indiscretions, racist history, active bigotry, obvious lies, and awful treatment of those who worked for him by simply writing it all off as mere “sins.” We’re not electing a pastor, said people who spent years trying to impeach Bill Clinton for his own (consensual) indiscretions.
Today’s outrage over Hefner reminds me of two things about the evangelical voting bloc: One, that its members still sometimes care about sexual morality. And two, that they usually only care about sexual morality when they are able to leverage that concern to motivate voters. In my book, these evangelicals have lost any moral high ground from which to lecture culture about sexual morality.
He’s absolutely right.
Nothing destroys the idea of “Christian morality” more than blatant, unrepentant hypocrisy.
There’s a lot that Hugh Hefner deserves to be criticized for. But the conservative Christians who go after him while the body is still warm aren’t people who have any credibility to make those arguments.
This piece originally appeared on Friendly Atheist.