Earlier this week I witnessed a moment that brought tears to my eyes, exposed the immense amount of hurt that lies just beneath the surface of American life, and demonstrated the necessity of grace.
It involved my wife, Nancy. A local Christian college called Williamson College invited her to speak to students on the topic of “loving your enemies.” The inspiration for the talk was a story she wrote for the Washington Examiner last December.
Nancy was slightly apprehensive before the speech. The last time she’d visited a local Christian college, a man rushed up to her after she had been honored in the college’s chapel, got in her face, and yelled “Fuck you and your husband. You’re ruining America.” It was unnerving.
But this was supposed to be a feel-good speech about overcoming political differences. I’d urge you to read Nancy’s essay. The story is remarkable. In 2016 both Nancy and I experienced a profound rupture with the political party we’d belonged to our entire adult lives. She grew up a young Republican in Henry County, Tennessee. She worked for Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander when he was a presidential contender.
She was a ghostwriter for Ann Romney, Sarah Palin, and a host of other Republicans. In 2006 we formed a volunteer group called Evangelicals for Mitt, which attempted to answer evangelical questions about Mitt Romney. In 2012 we were both Mitt Romney delegates to the Republican National Convention.
Then 2016 happened, and everything changed. While we were both Never Trump conservatives and rejected Donald Trump early in the presidential campaign cycle, nothing hit Nancy quite so hard as the combination of the Access Hollywood tape and the multiple, corroborated allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment against Trump.
Nancy is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. And after the Access Hollywood scandal, she told her story in The Washington Post. A Vacation Bible School teacher molested her when she was 12 years old. It turned out that the man was a serial abuser. Nancy’s pastor later told her that 15 women in the congregation had complained about him. Yet nothing decisive was done.
He was never prosecuted. He was never truly punished. He left Nancy’s church and later coached girls’ basketball at a Kentucky high school.
My wife came of age politically during Bill Clinton’s administration, and she was repulsed by his sexual scandals. She was disgusted by the Democratic Party’s defense not just of a serial philanderer but of a man who’d faced his own corroborated reports of sexual assault.
She’d thought the Republicans had a moral spine. After all, they’d impeached Clinton. The Southern Baptist Convention had passed a resolution in 1998 highlighting the importance of moral character in public officials.
Then came Donald Trump. Nancy choked on Republican hypocrisy. She choked on the Church’s betrayal of its own professed values. Her essay ended with these two paragraphs: