What will be taught in history classes about the election of 2016? It will be about the equality of women. But the campaign also has clarified the negative perspective: it is about the death spiral of society as patriarchal.
This campaign – as dreadful as it has been – may be remembered as genuinely historical. It can prove historical due to a range of reasons that could come to pass. We may see the Republican Party implode; we may see a new political alignment based more on “identity” than on economic and class realities; we may see globalization and technological developments, such as robotics, change the whole landscape. And those are only some of the possibilities that loom before us, for we find ourselves in a rising, watershed, moment of worldwide change.
But, this campaign began with one grand possibility that would be “a first” for the United States: the election of a woman as President. When all is said and done, that should be the most notable step forward. For patriarchal inequality has been the longest standing wrong in human society, and this election can have a significant effect on the long road still ahead toward the genuine equality of all human beings as proclaimed in Christianity and the Declaration of Independence.
The superiority of men and the view of women as the weaker sex – with all that implies – has stood for all of human history as a given reality of nature. For most people throughout the human enterprise this was not a matter of prejudice, but just the way things are. And of course that meant that women were to be treated accordingly by men, and the ladies were to treat each other that way. Such a deep-seated matter of “reality” has been and will remain hard to overcome. We haven’t even been able to pass an equal rights amendment according to what the Declaration of Independence already declares.
Note this, for I have not heard it declared: History will observe that this election was significant for the equality of women not only because a woman was elected, but because her opponent was rejected largely on the basis of his recalcitrant patriarchal prejudice and personal treatment of women. The combined reality of a women being elected President and of her opponent being convicted in the court of public opinion of standing for the continuing patriarchal abuse of women should prove effective in the cause of human dignity and equality for each and every person.
The positive statement of what this election has been about is the election of a woman; the negative statement of what this election has been about is the rejection of the patriarchal attitude. That is why the whole issue of Trump’s abuse of women, at least in language and perhaps in acts of criminal misbehavior, are so very, very relevant to the election. His abuse is only secondarily about sin or immoral behavior; primarily, it is about an attitude towards women that is no longer to be accepted.
There has been a rebuttal making the social network rounds against Christian pastors who reject Trump’s behavior. It asserts hypocritical and self-righteous moralizing. The point being made is that rejection of Trump on the charge of immorality violates the Christian precept that God can use broken vessels for good. They point to sinners in scripture, like King David and Paul, and even pagan Cyrus, the Persian King who is given credit in scripture for being God’s instrument for freeing the People of Israel from Babylonian exile. Never mind that it is the Christian view that God shapes everything to the good, or that in each instance employed for their argument, repentance remained the necessary dynamic (e.g. David was rebuked by Nathan: “You are the man;” Paul was knocked off his horse and blinded) and Cyrus would never have been considered for the throne of restored Israel. They are missing the point: it is not the candidate’s sin or personal moral failure – as some abstract wrong – that is making the difference, it is the attitude toward women that is no longer acceptable.
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Joe Morris Doss is the President of At the Threshold, a newly launched international and ecumenical organization fostering the transformation of the Christian Church. Bishop Doss served parishes in Louisiana and California as an Episcopal priest, and the Diocese of New Jersey as Bishop. An attorney with a background in civil rights, he enjoys a national reputation in and out of the church, primarily as an advocate for justice, and in particular as a champion of minorities, women, and children. Bishop Doss is also granted special recognition in the church as a liturgist, ecumenist, and leader for church reform. He is the author of five books, including The Songs of the Mothers, a popular memoir about a rescue mission to Cuba titled Let the Bastards Go, chapters in edited books, numerous articles, and a successful play about a man he defended on death row appeals, who was executed on October 30, 1984. He is presently consumed with activities to help rebuild Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. Bishop Doss personally testifies that he has found most “professional” satisfaction in his skills as a parish priest.