Herman Cain and Sexual Harassment

I am a sucker for political debate. Many a Friday evening I curl up on the sofa and take in the friendly banter between pundits on the PBS News Hour and most weeknights I enjoy the ever-so-hilarious Daily Show. On the one hand I long for a more European-style approach to elections—short and to the point—and, on the other hand, I admit political events form a large portion of my daily entertainment.

Given this year’s prominent Republican contest, it has been impossible to miss the antics as several candidates have risen to the top of the field only to fall amidst their blunders, mistakes, or, in the case of Herman Cain, allegations of sexual harassment.

While I have been surprised by Cain’s staying power within the conservative block of the Republican party where many Evangelicals stake out their support, I suppose that looking deeper within the milieu of American contemporary Evangelicalism can explain, to some degree, their reasons for dismissing these allegations despite their seriousness.

Christianity Today, a leading voice for American Evangelicals, provides some interesting insight. Its website ChristianityToday.com hosts several blogs, one dedicated to politics. Despite the preponderance of sexual allegation material on Cain strewn throughout the Internet, Christianity Today’s political blog contains no story related to such information. Instead there is a recent post claiming President Obama is hostile toward Christianity, one that states the National Association of Evangelicals is calling for nuclear cut-backs, and even a couple highlighting Cain’s stance on abortion (pro-life and pro-choice, a stance very much in question for these readers). But, if you’re looking for an assessment of Cain’s potential penchant for sexual harassment, do not look here.

There is, however, a separate section on the Christianity Today website for issues related to women. Here, then, is where you can find a recent post on Cain, probably because this is something for women only.

On the Her.meneutics blog, Gina Delfonzo wonders how Christian communities can use this Cain-induced opportunity to think about creating places where people are valued and sexual harassment is not part of the culture—a good question, to be sure, even as it skirts the crux of the more pressing issue, namely whether or not such allegations, if confirmed, reveal a candidate lacking in moral fiber among the group commonly referred to as the value voters.

Capitalizing on the moment for moral reflection, Delfonzo suggests in her blog that Jesus treated women as persons and by following his example, we could create experiences where women and men are valued and where no one is dismissed as a sexual object. So far so good.

What baffles me is Delfonzo’s follow-up remark where she writes,

Imagine if the church taught men and women, from childhood on up, that kind of attitude. My guess is, we would see more men treating women as equals in every way, and taking their concerns and feelings seriously. We might also see more women willing to give the benefit of the doubt in moments of ambiguity, especially in cases where the men had always shown themselves to be of good character.

She goes on to suggest that if people followed Jesus’ example cases of ambiguity would probably decrease as well.

Let me see if I get this right. Following Jesus means men will listen to women and in return women will tread lightly when men say and do things that could have sexual overtones. Because she is a woman of God, she will give him the benefit of the doubt.

Is there any wonder why so many women are silent?