Conservatives Don’t Need Spokesmen Like Paige Patterson; We Need a Better Vision of Manhood & Womanhood

Paige Patterson, the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and hero to many conservatives, is fighting for his professional life after his regrettable remarks concerning battered wives and a “very attractive” and “built” teenage girl.  While many evangelicals are calling for Patterson’s resignation, including nearly 3,000 Baptist women, some are defending him. In fact, one woman commented on my Facebook page that those who are calling for Patterson’s removal are merely “whipping up emotions” to remove “one more socially conservative voice from leading a seminary.”

Seriously? Defending women’s dignity is “whipping up emotions”? Others insinuated that the controversy is just “overblown” and evidence that “victimhood” has entered the church. If women would just grow some thicker skin, this whole debacle would go away and conservativism would thrive.

While I can appreciate the good Patterson has done over the years defending inerrancy and galvanizing conservatives within the Southern Baptist Convention, remaining in his position now does nothing to advance conservativism. It merely reinforces a negative evangelical stereotype to the watching world. Even worse, it excuses misogyny – something that has flourished for far too long in conservative evangelical circles.

“(Paige Patterson) remaining in his position now does nothing to advance conservativism. It merely reinforces a negative evangelical stereotype to the watching world. Even worse, it excuses misogyny.”

What’s needed now is not for women to grow thicker skin, but for Christian men to shed the callouses from their hearts.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a conservative. And theologically, I align much more closely with complementarians like Patterson, who believe men and women are equal in worth, but different in function – than I do with egalitarians or feminists, who believe men and women are functional equivalents.

But Patterson’s comments make conservatives look bad – horrible actually. His comments represent a perversion of biblical manhood and womanhood, yet it’s a perversion that many believe is the standard, and we have ourselves to blame for that.

For far too long, conservative women have simply taken the dismissive, condescending, and even abusive behavior. And for far too long, good and decent conservative men have overlooked it. This needs to stop.

In case you’re not familiar with the current controversy, audio recently surfaced in which Patterson tells about a time he counseled a battered wife to stay in her relationship and pray for her abusive husband. She returned later with two black eyes, and confronted Patterson saying, “I hope you’re happy.” Patterson replied, “Yes . . . I’m very happy,” because apparently the woman’s prayers had resulted in her husband coming to church the following Sunday.

Reflecting on Patterson’s comments, Michael Gerson astutely wrote in the Washington Post, “This, presumably, is Patterson’s version of a happy ending: A wife gets battered, but the church gets a new member. God works in misogynist ways.”

Patterson also condoned the objectification of a “very attractive” and “nice” 16-year-old girl during a 2014 sermon. In the sermon, Patterson recounted that a teenage boy near him remarked when he saw the girl, “Man, is she built!” The boy’s mother rebuked him, but Patterson defended the boy saying, “He’s just being biblical. That’s exactly what the Bible says.”

“For far too long, conservative women have simply taken the dismissive, condescending, and even abusive behavior. And for far too long, good and decent conservative men have overlooked it.”

Biblical? There’s nothing biblical about objectifying women. And as the mother of a 16-year-old girl, I’m repulsed by Patterson’s remarks. They’re creepy and inappropriate, and worst of all – they’re demeaning. Sadly, though, this kind of behavior is not uncommon in conservative circles.

In “A Letter to My Brothers” published last Thursday, Bible teacher Beth Moore bravely told about decades of being demeaned, dismissed, and objectified by her male counterparts in the church. She described a time just a year ago when she met a theologian whose books she had read and had long respected. She anticipated having dinner with this Christian leader and discussing theology, but the instant they met, “he looked me up and down, smiled approvingly and said, ‘You’re better looking than ______________ (another woman Bible teacher).’”

That kind of behavior is unconscionable. But it’s not uncommon. I’ve experienced similar slights.

I remember riding in a van once with a well-known Christian pastor to an event where he was speaking and I was emceeing. He looked at me in my heels and asked, “So what are you doing tonight?” When I told him I was emceeing, he looked like he had sucked on a lemon and asked me what kind of an event this was and why a woman would be serving in that role. Wow, thanks.

I have also heard accounts of men walking out of Christian events when a woman got up to speak. I have even heard prominent Christian men excuse that behavior.

But these slights seem minor compared to women who have been told to return to an abusive home, or forced to take the blame for the demise of their marriage at their husband’s unfaithful hands.

In my book, “Redeeming the Feminine Soul,” I recount the story of Anna Duggar, wife of Josh Duggar from the reality TV show 14 Children & Pregnant Again! In 2015, the idyllic home Anna thought she and Josh shared was rocked by revelations that Josh had repeatedly cheated on her, harbored an internet porn addiction, and signed up for two paid subscriptions to Ashley Madison, a website that facilitates extra-marital affairs.  

Given these devastating circumstances, one would expect Anna’s Christian community to rally to her support. But stunningly, soon after Josh admitted to his affairs, the Duggar’s family pastor said in a sermon that if a husband is unfaithful, it’s often because his wife has failed to satisfy him sexually.

That’s repugnant.

“I could tell my father all these stories, but I knew it would never satisfy him, that I couldn’t win the battle for his support with evidence.  The burden of proof was on me . . .”

Similarly, Hannah Ettinger, someone who grew up in Christian fundamentalism and now is writing a memoir about it, recently recounted her story in the Washington Post. She writes that when her husband decided he no longer loved her and filed for divorce, her conservative Christian father judged her for it and refused to offer her any support.

“I could tell (my father) about the hours and hours of conversations in which (my husband) obsessed over his feelings for another woman and questioned whether he had ever been in love with me at all,” she writes. “I could tell my father about how, a month after we separated, my ex called me up and told me through tears that he’d slept with someone else, and it wasn’t good, and could we still divorce but be friends with benefits?

“I could tell my father all these stories, but I knew it would never satisfy him, that I couldn’t win the battle for his support with evidence.  The burden of proof was on me, and at stake was my family’s support, the validity of my faith and my character.”

Ettinger’s story is heartbreaking. Whatever your theology concerning divorce and remarriage, this is no way to treat a woman whose husband rejected her and then treated her like a leftover meal.

But what these regrettable accounts reveal is not complementarianism, or biblical manhood and womanhood. It’s patriarchy – an extreme and misogynistic form of complementarianism that upholds the curse against the woman in Genesis 3 (“he will rule over you”) as though it’s an ideal, instead of a regrettable consequence.  And it completely misses the new paradigm Christ initiated. Instead of ruling over his wife, a husband is supposed to sacrifice his life for her like Christ did for the church.

“(Patriarchy) is misogyny parading as theology. It does not view men and women as complements to one another; it views women as accessories to men.”

This is why I’m reluctant to identify as complementarian – and why I sincerely hope Patterson resigns. Though I believe in the essential, good and beautiful differences between men and women, and the clear order God has established between the sexes, I thoroughly reject the extreme subjugation and objectification of women that’s rife within pockets of the conservative church. That is misogyny parading as theology. It does not view men and women as complements to one another; it views women as accessories to men.

This form of complementarianism drives women to become feminists, which sadly, is rife with its own brand of misogyny. Instead of upholding women as women and celebrating our unique contributions, feminism seeks to make us into “the men we wanted to marry” and encourages women to kill their own unborn progeny. That’s about as misogynist as you can get.

Christian women today don’t need feminism, but they don’t need patriarchy either. And they certainly don’t need spokesmen like Paige Patterson. We need a good and beautiful vision of womanhood, and men who respect women as equals, yet treat us like ladies.

This is a unique moment when the both the church and the world is listening. As Christians committed to the gospel and the essential worth of every human being, let’s make sure we speak the right message.


 

I discuss these issues further in “Redeeming the Feminine Soul: God’s Surprising Vision for Womanhood.” Order now! Still 1/3 off list  price!

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11 thoughts on “Conservatives Don’t Need Spokesmen Like Paige Patterson; We Need a Better Vision of Manhood & Womanhood

  1. Susan Vonder Heide

    Sadly, some prefer to pretend that the Bible does not have verses like Galations 3:28, Ephesians 5:21, and Genesis 1:27 and some of those who prefer to pretend that those verses are not in the Bible have very fancy titles in conservative churches and related ministries.

  2. “While I can appreciate the good Patterson has done over the years defending inerrancy and galvanizing conservatives within the Southern Baptist Convention, remaining in his position now does nothing to advance conservativism. It merely reinforces a negative evangelical stereotype to the watching world. Even worse, it excuses misogyny – something that has flourished for far too long in conservative evangelical circles.”
    Amen. Well said!

  3. Pam Pugh

    Well said. This is key: “Misogyny parading as theology . . . views women as accessories to men.” Unfortunately—and sometimes tragically—woman being created to be an accessory to man is what many men and women believe to be God’s design.

  4. Wonderful article… Many kudos and blessings to Julie. I am 63, and for years I put up with sexually inappropriate behavior, by men who were supposed to be godly. To say that I felt demeaned by this does not begin to express the shame and deep sadness I felt. I bought a copy of her book, and it was even better than the article. Keep up the good fight. God bless.

  5. Marie Sober

    Thank you, for the good article. My experience being belittled by the Pastor and some male members of my church could be a soap opera. Many years I suffered under patriarchal, misogynistic, shallow stereotypical put downs, until I knew had to leave the church. My husband actually called the Pastor and “this” time he listened. I agreed to stay and my husband has made a point to talk to men expressing negative stereotypical views. Funny it took a man telling another man to stop, Men? When will you step up and stop the madness infecting our society?

  6. Jim

    FYI: Here is a link to a sermon with similar comments made by the famous pastor, W. A. Criswell. He expounds much more than Paige Patterson does in video linked above. I found other similar comments by pastors in the past. Being beautifully and wonderfully made is a correct biblical description of women, but it must be adhere to the biblical qualifications of

    Is Paige Patterson misogynistic (showing dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women) or does he objectify women (degrade to the status of a mere object) women). From what I know of him, I would say almost certainly not. but he does seem to definitely err at times with lack of clarity or failing to give the full counsel of God’s word when trying to make a point. Recognizing a woman’s beauty can be good and honorable if done without envy, lust, or genuine love for the object of that recognition. Even the Bible does that. See the verses below.

    Also, here is link to a good and balanced commentary on this issue from Brent Hobbs@
    http://sbcvoices.com/the-mess-we-are-in-can-we-say-enough-is-enough/

    Interesting how the Bible refers to three key people in the Bible:
    • Genesis 29:17b (NIV) “…Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful.”
    • Genesis 39:6b (NIV) “…Now Joseph was well-built and handsome.”
    • Esther 2:7b (NIV) “… Esther had a lovely figure and was beautiful.”

    • Irene Portokalis ,Alumna

      Very well said Mr. Jim. Jesus is the one that elevated womanhood. It is also a cultural thing. Ms Julie Royce drags the complemantarian issue to an exhaustive measure. As we grow spiritually, and we become more like Christ, the less petty we become with how men describe us. Someone said, “a good woman is stronger than authority” Ms Royce have you traveled abroad? Some cultures treat women differently. Not all men are mature. In face one pastor with a PhD told me once, “Men are weak.”
      So let’s grow up and learn to “be holy as I am holy” says the Lord. What does it mean to be more like Christ?

  7. Daniel Chiu

    How about Ephesians 5:22? All the feminists parading in the Churches accusing men of misogyny forget about this verse and other verses showing that women should respect their husbands and recognize God gave men the authority to decide in the family, husbands being the head of their wives!

    • Are you suggesting that wives should submit to abuse?

      • Daniel Chiu

        And how do you define abuse? And who is entitled to define what abuse is? Some women take the least rebuke as verbal abuse and justification for divorce! It’s a shame, how so called Christian women refuse to submit to the Lord by refusing to submit to their husbands, and try to justify it somehow. I can tell you stories of women who were really abused, not only verbally, but physically, and still refused to divorce, but trusted in the Lord. Their husbands became real Christian after seeing how they acted in trusting the Lord! One pastor in our Church tells us that his father was a drunkard, an abuser of high class, beating them, threatening to kill them, etc. but his mother was advised by the elders of the Church to shun the thought of divorcing, since he was not cheating on her (the only reason given in the Bible for divorce). As a result, the man converted, and became o preacher of the Word! We have come a long way in being influenced by the feminist movement! We even discard the direct teaching of the Word of God in order to do what we please, divorcing an inconvenient husband. And we do it thinking we are very spiritual too. Shame!

  8. Susan Vonder Heide

    Submitting to each other is a virtue but submitting to sin is not a virtue.

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