He said he meant no harm.
He realizes now it was wrong.
Clearly there was a misunderstanding about intentions – perceived or real.
Al Franken, Democratic United States senator from Minnesota, is resigning.
It’s major news. We only have 100 senators in a nation of 340 million people.
For the past three weeks, things in the senate had been pretty quiet. Franken, serving his second term, had been accused of sexual harassment by a woman news reporter several years ago, before he was a senator. He acknowledged the offense and apologized.
Then other women came forward with multiple charges of sexual misconduct.
By midweek, the tipping point came.
Democratic women senators began calling for Franken to step down. They were joined by their male colleagues, including the Democratic leader in the senate. It seemed another senator joined the public chorus every two minutes – statements and texts grew from a stream to a mighty current in a few hours.
It happened that fast.
Senator Franken’s resignation came the same week that congressman John Conyers of Michigan, the Dean of the House of Representatives, serving there since the 1960s, also resigned amidst mounting allegations of improper sexual conduct.
The allegations against Franken and Conyers followed widespread similar public charges that have swept through Hollywood, the news media and the corporate world for several months, claiming the careers and reputations of well-known leaders in their fields.
In the special senate election in Alabama, Judge Roy Moore, the Republican – and staunch conservative Christian crusader – has been accused by several women of sexual assault, one claims when she was 14. Moore has fiercely denied all charges, calling them an evil attack against him for his moral stands. President Trump, whose own record on this sort of thing is less than pristine, has endorsed Moore anyway.
Just in time for the holidays, this new cultural phenomenon, with all its sordid, tawdry and spewed-forth details, has raised a central moral question for our anything-goes, sex-drenched nation.
What does it mean for a man to truly respect a woman?
What male behavior toward women must stop? And if not, be publicly condemned and punished?
Sexual harassment and assault; threats and intimidation; fear of retribution. For too many, especially in the workplace, this is a woman’s reality. Powerful, aggressive men trying to get what they want, feeding their lusts; acting entitled.
Washington is the narcissism capital of the world.
Egos are massive, manner and speech arrogant; men have dominated; deference is paid and fawning sycophants are plenteous. It’s not a pretty picture. Men’s quest for power includes their grasp for women – especially vulnerable subordinates.
The halls of power have always been rife with unbridled sexual presumption. And the longer men have wielded power the more obnoxious and predatory they have become.
The underlying cause of all this, other than men’s libidos, is a contemptuous disregard for women as equal human beings. Only a man who looks down on women could be guilty of performing what has been graphically described by the victims of these assaults.
Our elected officials are no saints and we would do well to resist holding them to that lofty standard. They are only human and the ways of our capital would tempt Francis of Assisi.
Still, we must hold our representatives to some standard of decency. Otherwise, our self- government becomes itself corrupted by increasingly licentious leaders.
When that happens the very soul of our republic is infected.
Here’s the good news – best remembered and celebrated in this Christmas season.
God and his Son Jesus have a very high regard for women.
When the Creator of the universe entered human history, he chose to become the “offspring of a virgin’s womb.”
God dispatched the angel Gabriel to visit Mary and he told her she was “highly favored” and blessed among women (Luke 1:28). Another angel told Joseph he should not fear becoming Mary’s husband. No condemnation, embarrassment or scandal would be permitted to touch her pure and holy life.
A woman nursed God, bathed him, clothed him and changed his diapers. What beauty is there in the condescending incarnation! And what honor conferred upon a woman.
Mary raised Jesus to adulthood, perhaps as a single mom for some of that time.
No one in history did more to recognize and embrace the dignity and equality of women than Jesus Christ. In a culture and time when women were held in low regard.
Jesus honored his mother. He invited Martha’s sister Mary to sit at his feet with his disciples, the inner circle, and learn of his coming kingdom. Even when her sister wanted her in the kitchen. He forgave the young adulteress when, under law, she deserved death and gave her a second chance at new life.
Jesus permitted a prostitute to anoint his feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. Then, in the presence of a houseful of prideful men, Jesus forgave her sins which, he acknowledged, were many.
Jesus condemned the self-serving exploitation of easy divorce (Matthew 19:7-9) and raised a purer and higher standard against lust and adultery (Matthew 5: 26-28).
Because the Messiah came, Paul tells us, there is no longer male or female. We are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
What does it mean for a man to truly respect a woman?
Jesus set the example.
Let us follow him.