The Sad Wretched Theology of Misogyny and Misconduct in the Bible Belt

Many faithful congregates will travel to churches, synagogues, and places of worship on any given Sunday. I can only hope that sermons and talks begin to center around protection of the physical bodies of parishioners from sexual misconduct and violence of any kind which make up the body of Christ and the body of the church.

The recent hashtag #metoo has become a much needed space online for women’s stories of abuse, harassment, and sexual violence. An accompanying hashtag #churchtoo accompanies #metoo. I preface this article by saying I do not feel brave or courageous and I believe that my personal lived experiences are unfortunately not isolated.

Withstanding I honor all women who have decided to speak about sexual violence and to those who are still suffering or decided to speak out off line or not at all; please know I value your choice and respect your lived stories.  This is one of my many #churchtoo experiences.

  • I overheard an associate youth minister reporting to the Senior Pastor that a youth teenage girl told him that she had been raped. The Senior Pastor stated, “We have nothing to do with that.”

Growing up in America’s Bible Belt; I was taught primarily to be a “good” quiet bible toting Baptist by women in Sunday school. However, the 11 a.m. service was ruled by a man in a long robe spewing a message supposedly from heaven. I can barely remember a time that I was more disappointment in the overall leadership’s response to misogyny and the public degrading of women than I am now.

Listening to several women from diverse backgrounds give voice to their personal experiences of misogyny and sexual assault by church leadership is reprehensible. After witnessing such allegations I used my voice to speak up for the victim who was alleging the crime of rape. Once I went unheard by my Pastor I went to the authorities. However, there are many more accounts and below are a few that I have heard over my thirty years in the church with many of them in leadership alongside men.

These accounts range from being touched in the choir loft by a creepy soloist as a 12-year-old girl with growing breast to being propositioned for sex in an isolated Sunday school room by multiple youth ministers when no one was looking. I asked these women did they ever report these offenses to clergy or anyone. “Who would have believed me, they knew it was going on”-they are well-known; I didn’t want to get them in trouble”.

As survivor of childhood assault I closely identify with each victim’s fear and common silence. I also hold the shame of my personal stories and the guilt of not doing more to protect more women and girls.

This continuation of the secret witness culture in part drives the disdain for traditional religious values and thus perpetrating what many churches are facing as a decline in church attendance by millennials. I believe that ideology is less important than introducing moralistic treatment and upholding human rights.

This must be spoken from the pulpit conductors; whom must call out the callous nature of church privilege. With the recent allegations of a current outspoken traditional bible believer senate candidate in the state of Alabama allegedly dating and improperly touching young girls while he was in his 30’s and in a power positions, I have been encouraged by some clergy voicing their disdain and publicly decrying him as a candidate.

However, I continue to wait for more clergy, pastors, preachers, and church leaders and members to come out in droves enraged speaking as an ally to those past and present who are victimized. The trend of silencing victims of abuse in religious spaces must end.

  • Is Christian leadership doing enough to address misogyny and sexual crimes in and out of the church?
  • What efforts or culpability does the church have in the societal harms perpetrated on womanhood?
  • Are clergy and pastors using scripture and mixed up theology to assert sexual crimes and the predators of these act.

The expectation of church leadership, mostly men in suits with extricable power is to teach loving principals and biblical truths. When this does not happen in a place such as the church that expounds holiness what does it do to the psyche of women who worship and serve under small gods steeped with predatory hypocrisies?

Pastors and church clergy roles are not meant to be superficial sin finders while ignoring their own or others maltreatment against women and girls. We tell victims of unwanted unwelcome abuse to report it; however, often when they do it goes ignored or is downgraded by so-called saints or hierarchy in the church.

How does the shaded tint of power and male privilege transcend into the stained-glass windows of what is supposed to be sacred spaces thus cascading a shadow on righteousness?

When the church goes dark on misogyny and sexual crimes rather than shining a light on a problem that exist within its walls the self-worth of women become publicly diminished from privileged authorities. How is this any less criminal than now President Donald Trump’s remarks caught on audio and alleged criminal behaviors? Debasing the value of femininity and castigating women issues as unimportant is limiting and decisively sexist.

As a voice for others around the world who may go unheard, I plea to well-meaning overseers, use your net to catch more than fish, use it to catch the idol of misogyny. If God’s chosen ones take advantage or see women as fruit to be picked; then Jesus believers are abandoning the tenants of one of the bibles great commandments.

Per Exodus 20:17, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Women and girls are neighbors to not be coveted (intruded upon) thus respecting their God given right to be treated without patriarchy, sexual harassment, and sexual misconducts. The role of the church and its leadership is to encourage women to speak up and out while cultivating safe and affirming spaces for this to occur. Conversely, as a women I scream today #metoo, #churchtoo, and yes #BibleBelttoo.

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Come see Salaam speak at TEDxBirmingham March 24th at the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center.  Find out more and get your tickets here.

 

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