I have no idea why enlightened, thoughtful, educated black women would come to a place that treats them like children. Where their sexuality is treated like a curse, and where God’s truth remains subjugated to the time and culture in which it was revealed. Each morning, our daughters are brushing their teeth, looking in the mirror, wondering, “Why am I here?” And this awful, sexist Creation story that seems to brand her as Hazel or Miss Celie is all we have to offer them. Sister: you are not an afterthought. You are a human being, and all human beings were created in the image of Almighty God.
This is one of the most
oppressive statements a preacher can make. It involves the
presumption that, as man’s help-meet [Genesis 2], woman was
created uniquely for the sole purpose of serving man. She is to
train exclusively for that role, to assist Man in what he does
and in who he becomes. Whether explicit or implied, this is the
common belief in many black churches. It is usually not written
down anywhere, it’s just out there—in the air, an unbridled
sense of male entitlement. The woman is his asset, his property,
as are his house, his male or female slave, his ox or his
donkey. This is the word of God, as old and unambiguous, as
unchangeable as time itself. Genesis 3. Exodus 20. Women, who,
in most churches I’ve been to outnumber men at least 2-to-1, are
afforded a great amount of visibility but, in most cases, have
no actual power. Most conservative pastors will grant women as
much independence and input as possible while ultimately
regarding them as biblically-mandated second-class citizens.
This story, known as The Creation Story or The Creation Myth, is the root cause of our traditional oppression of women in the church, along with the letters the Apostle Paul sent to the early churches. Paul’s letters were extreme in their dismissal of women as even persons. They were seen, largely, as servants who cared for their fathers or brothers, and who should be taught the Word of God only at home and by their husband if the husband so chooses. Paul’s attitude toward women does not echo the personal example of Jesus Christ, Who did not differentiate His tone or approach based on a person’s gender, and Who welcomed women to follow Him. Yet it is not the personal example of Christ our pastors traditionally follow, but Paul’s personal narrative, treating Paul’s’ words literally as the inerrant word of God, which abuses their purpose and distorts their meaning. This is the doctrine under which I was raised, an oppressive and misogynist doctrine that kept my grandmother frying chicken in the basement and led many young women and boys into secret chambers to be sexually exploited by pastors and elders. That was, in sum, the purpose of women in the black church.
The Creation story suggests the Woman was, essentially, an
afterthought and perhaps a third less human (and thus less
entitled to human dignity) than Man. She was created exclusively
to serve Man and is the Man's property (and is so characterized
in the Tenth Commandment). The takeaway is the Woman is stupid,
and the story essentially blames the Woman Eve for the fall of
Man and subsequently cursed by God. This is a cynical take on
the story, but it is a story completely familiar to every child
in Sunday School. The world was made for boys. Girls are not
quite people in their own right. They are stupid and screwed
things up for everybody. Amen.
Is that it? Is that what a loving God, what an enlightened, biblically relevant doctrine has to say to young girls coming of age? You were not created in God’s image—your brother, who eats his own boogars, was. Your entire purpose is to train yourself how to care for a man and raise babies. How do we expect sisters to find a meaningful and informed connection to God when this is what the bible teaches? Do we ignore that teaching? This is one of those issues most pastors I’ve know simply fail to confront. It’s just out there, somewhere, our having turned both a blind eye and deaf ear toward it. We empower sisters to whatever extent but we know where the buck stops.
All of us, men and women, wake up in the morning and wonder what our purpose is. This is only natural. For men, all lanes are open. Women, however, are saddled with the Creation story, which implies they were an afterthought. Oh, yeah, maybe I better make somebody for the Man to talk to so he won’t be alone. She can cook and clean and have sex with him and make babies. The Creation story is, literally, dehumanizing to women. She comes across like the baby couples have when they need a genetic match in order to save the life of their existing child. Sure, they love the new baby, too, but it’s that “too” that makes for awkward dinner conversation. Each morning, our daughters are brushing their teeth, looking in the mirror, wondering, “Why am I here?” And this awful, sexist Creation story that seems to brand her as Hazel or Miss Celie is the best we can offer them.
Making things worse, there’s been a virtual epidemic of ghastly moral failure on the part of clergy. In far too many cases black clergy have absolutely no moral authority, so the security and safety a sister should feel within her church community simply doesn’t exist. Therefore, she must protect herself, and all men are indeed guilty until proven innocent, and then only maybe.