It has been impossible to avoid coverage of the tape of Mr. Trump’s comments about his behavior towards women. It has been virtually impossible to avoid hearing the comments themselves. I found the comments very upsetting, demeaning and completely unacceptable from anyone, let alone a 59 year old man who at the time was in the position of employer and public figure.
I’ve been reflecting in the last few days about language and our culture and the way that we talk about each other. This tape is particularly egregious and is not the equivalent of any other example. But, it seems to me that the way that we talk about each other is an important issue and that it is one that we need to address. In just the last six months, in our public discourse we have seen young black men referred to as thugs and bad guys by officers of the law and candidates for public office. We have seen a presidential candidate label her opponent’s supporters as deplorable and irredeemable. We have seen law enforcement officers called pigs and tyrants and spit on. We have seen people labelled as criminals and terrorists only because of their religion or nation of origin. We have even heard the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury label ordained women and LGBT people as “serious obstacles to unity” rather than as human beings with calls from God to ministry. The church is not exempt from this trend. I hear people speaking of their fellow congregation members or clergy in similarly demeaning ways.
I see all of these and more as examples of a disturbing trend in the way that we treat one another. Every time we renew our Baptismal Covenant, we promise to strive to respect the dignity of every human being. The first step in that respect is paying attention to the way that we think and speak about each other. We must think and speak about each other as equal human beings, as people with as much right to dignity and respect as we have ourselves. We must change our own ways of speaking about each other.
We must also not be complicit with the trend in our world to treat others as less then us. We must not be silent when people around us speak of others as less than. We must speak up. We cannot allow talk in the locker room, or the fraternity house, or the lunch table or the office or the parish hall or church meeting room. We must speak up when we hear other spoken of in ways that do not respect their dignity as loved children of God.
We have all promised Christ himself that we will respect the dignity of every human being. We must start with our own speech and move on to the speech that we allow to happen around us. It is quite literally the very least that we can do as followers of Christ.