Friday, November 18, 2011

Herman Cain and His Accusers

I have been saddened by the recent allegations that Herman Cain has sexually harassed women with whom he has worked.  It is always difficult to know if such allegations are true.  But there seems to be growing evidence.  A number of women have come forward.  At least one received no settlement monies and her former boyfriend has confirmed what she said.  This situation does not look good for Mr. Cain.  The more evidence that is brought forth, the harder it is to dismiss the allegations as lies or people with an ax to grind.

But the jury is still out and I for one have not made up my mind definitively.  However, several things about this whole situation have really saddened me.

First, Herman Cain is a (loudly) professed Christian.  He is very open about his faith.  He is a life-long Baptist.  He has served in church leadership.  He has performed and recorded gospel music.  If the allegations are true—and I’m not sure whether they are—that does not represent men of faith in the best light.  The secular world can view this as another example of Christian hypocrisy and another reason for atheistic cynicism.  Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton and John Edwards—among others—have professed to be Christians as well. 

Second, Herman Cain is a married man.  I feel bad for his wife.  This experience must be humiliating and painful.  And if the allegations are true, how even more agonizing.  Whether they are famous or not, the infidelity of a spouse destroys trust and intimacy in the relationship.  I have had close friends whose marriages have been devastated by a spouse wandering.  I believe marriage is supposed to be forever--not just until one person gets bored.  For Christ followers this is a biggie.  Our Lord taught on this topic on several occasions.  But even if you are not a person of faith, infidelity causes such pain to the other spouse, as well as to children, to other relatives and even family friends.  I don't understand why anyone would embark on that path, though it is apparently not uncommon.
Third, whenever a woman comes forward with allegations of sexual impropriety against a famous man, the woman is attacked in the media and by average citizens.  Her credibility, her motives and her character are all attacked.  Perhaps even worse, her physical appearance is scrutinized and ridiculed.  Male comedians take cheap shots, which the public think are funny and often repeat.  Think Paula Jones.  Think Gennifer Flowers.  Think Anita Hill. 

I find it ridiculous and hypocritical that the person with the courage to come forward would be attacked.  Who in their right mind would sign up for such public abuse?  In my opinion, based on what I know about gender bias and the difficulty of prosecuting sexual assault, it is a very rare person who would bring to light such allegations unless they thought they were trying to do a public service and trying to achieve justice.  Indeed, there is empirical and anecdotal evidence suggesting that sexual harassment is vastly underreported because of how allegations are received and the negative repercussions to those reporting.

When Sharon Bialek went public and declared she wanted to bring a face to the allegations against Mr. Cain, my first thought was that phrasing would be exploited by comedians and average citizens to make fun of her appearance.  I felt badly for her.  I could just imagine what was coming.

Years ago, I read a book by Ann Coulter and there was a portion of the book where she defended Katherine Harris, the Florida Secretary of State who called the election for George W. Bush.  Ms. Coulter described how Ms. Harris’s appearance was then ridiculed in the media.  She was essentially characterized as ugly and in need of a makeover.  There is much that I dislike about Ann Coulter.  I probably don’t agree with her very often.  But I very much agreed with her assessment of the attack on Ms. Harris.  Ms. Coulter described that one of the cruelest things you can do to a woman is to attack her appearance, and the public ridicule of Ms. Harris’s appearance was an uncalled for low blow. 

That is true.  Much more so than men, women are judged by their physical beauty or perceived lack thereof.  It is shallow, it is unfair, it is destructive, but it is reality.  And such attacks can really undermine a woman’s confidence.  Think of all the money Paula Jones spent on plastic surgery. 

I grieve for my sisters who go through that kind of humiliation.  I am sad to live in a culture that is so shallow.

1 Thessalonians 2:2

On the contrary, we had the courage through God to speak God’s good news in spite of a lot of opposition, although we had already suffered and were publicly insulted, as you know.

Proverbs 31:30 (Amplified Bible)

Charm and grace are deceptive, and beauty is vain [because it is not lasting], but a woman who reverently and worshipfully fears the Lord, she shall be praised!

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