It’s Not about Paige Patterson: Sex and Gender in the SBC and Beyond by Dr. McGowan
It’s Not about Paige Patterson, Continued: Sex and Gender Beyond Evangelicalism – by Elesha Coffman
Snippets from that page (Part One):
… Still, as my friend Todd Littleton has said, it is important to recognize that this isn’t really about Paige Patterson. This isn’t even about Southern Baptist seminaries.Patterson is merely a symptom of a much larger problem.
And while Todd is right to call out the theology of glory at work in Southern Baptist churches, I would like to draw attention to something more specific: the sex and gender ideology that saturates the SBC and American evangelical culture more broadly.
After I became a Christian as a teenager, one of the first lessons I learned was that my body was inherently a sexual object—something for which I should feel both awe and shame. Awe for the immense power I wielded over the minds and bodies of men and shame for the times I failed to protect their fragile purity.
….Her role is necessarily precarious: Appear physically inviting to men (you must “take care of yourself”), but not too inviting (“you don’t advertise what’s not for sale”).
Present yourself as open to sex (you don’t want to be a “prude”), but not too much (good Christian men don’t respect “loose women”).
In short, you must say no, no, no to everything until your wedding night; then your job is simply to say yes, yes, yes.
[The author recounts being groped by a male student at a Christian university, and she confided in another male student about it – he advised her not to report the guy, lest “both” their reputations be ruined]
…The way my experience played out makes sense within the culture that shaped me. Of course, the principles about gender and sex that we absorbed in SBC institutions and broader evangelical culture were not explained as principles. Instead, they made up an invisible web of discourse within which we learned to negotiate.
If the first thread of that web is that women’s bodies are sex objects and male-female relationships are always sexually fraught, then more of the threads could be summarized as follows:
A woman exists primarily for the benefit of the men in her life, typically her father or her husband.
A woman who senses a calling apart from those roles needs to figure out how her calling complements and supports the calling of her husband. The husband’s calling, gifting, and agency takes priority over the wife’s.
And this reality must be prepared for and practiced in the dating relationship.
The man leads; the woman follows. (No mention was ever made of women who may not feel compelled to get married or who are not attracted to men at all.)
[snip other examples on the author’s list]
…It is this last one—divinely ordained deference to male authority—that helps explain the stories emerging from Patterson’s tenure at both Southeastern and Southwestern seminaries.
When joined with overarching male headship and a “touch not the Lord’s anointed” (Ps. 105:15) view of the pastoral office (and all of its derivatives), the sex and gender discourse that exists within SBC and American evangelicalism easily leads to the perpetuation and concealment of harm against women.
Certainly, I know plenty of men who hold to male headship who do not endorse the other principles outlined above. Yet, the tangled discursive web remains in place, and women and men are continuing to suffer.
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