Are Misogynistic Teachings Inherent in Evangelical Christianity?
By now, many of you have heard about the sermon given by a Missouri pastor, Stewart-Allen Clark, of First General Baptist Church several week ago. A new article by NBC quotes Clark at length. Below I’ve included some thoughts on Clark’s misogynist teachings, which his denomination is quickly condemning while Clark is on a leave of absence and in some type of counseling....hopefully not Biblical counseling.
You may think this type of Christian sermon is a rarity, when in fact, these harmful teachings within Evangelicalism are predominant. I encourage you to read a recent article by Sheila Gregoire titled Is the evangelical view of sex at the root of our sex scandals? in which she confronts these destructive teachings and explains how they have taken root within Evangelicalism.
Below are quotes from Clark's sermon with responses from Exposing Religious Abuse (ERA)
"Why is it so many times that women after they get married let themselves go," Clark asked.
Look in the mirror. You are neither attractive nor fit. You are preaching a double standard of physical beauty to women that you do not apply to yourself.
"Don’t give him a reason to be looking around ...I really don’t believe women understand how visual men are," he added. "I don’t think women understand how important it is for a man to have a beautiful woman on his arm." But "God made men to be drawn to beautiful women. We are made this way, we can’t help ourselves," he said, without a reference to scripture.
ERA Response: 1) Clark wrongly places blame for a married man’s actions on his wife, eschewing any personal responsibility. Personal responsibility is not gender-based but required of all humans.
2) Clark reduces a wife’s value to her physical appearance, apparently placing no value on her intellect, personality, humor, and everything else that makes a person unique.
3) Clark infantilizes men which is denigrating to them. He reduces men to a species completely reliant on animal instinct rather than the intelligent, caring individuals that many are. As a woman with dear male colleagues and friends, I find this characterization of men highly offensive and inaccurate.
On weight, he discussed a time when he once counseled a couple.
"She looked like a sumo wrestler and he was a little guy," Clark said, adding that after the wife lost 100 pounds, the marriage was saved.
He said his wife has had three kids and had become "robust”, so she started Weight Watchers and lost up to 50 pounds.
"She wants me to look at her and nobody else. One of her favorite expressions is 'food never tastes as good as skinny feels,'" Clark said, quoting the long-controversial mantra. "I’m glad I have a wife that understands that's the way I am."
He added that he has a friend who has put a "divorce weight" limit on his wife.
"What’s the difference between a man's wife and a man's girlfriend? Oh about 60 pounds," Clark said to laughs.
1) I believe this topic is personal, between partners to determine how it impacts their relationship and sex life. IF a pastor believes there is a scriptural directive on the topic of weight gain, then why not reference it? Moreover, does this directive only apply to women, or to men and women equally. Clark’s lack of scriptural basis reveals that his sermon was based on personal, misogynistic beliefs. Look at pictures of him. I feel sorry for his wife.
2) Clark does not address the issue of weight gain in reverse. In some relationships, it is the man who gains more weight. He only addresses the issue from a male perspective.
3) Clark reveals his personal views that the responsibility for maintaining physical attractiveness within a heterosexual marriage is completely the wife’s responsibility. She must meet her husband’s arbitrary standard, but the husband has no such rule imposed on him.
Clark said that when it comes to makeup, hairstyles and clothes, women should wear what their husband finds attractive.
"Praise God for makeup. ... It’s like crack filler for drywall," Clark said.
"How about you ask your husband, not your girlfriend, not your hairdresser, not your mama. Why don’t you ask him what makeup looks good on you?" Clark said. "It’s important that he thinks you’re hot."
ERA Response: 1) Clark again reduces a woman’s value to her physical attractiveness.
2) Clark denigrates a woman’s intelligence, as if she cannot decide what looks good for herself, but must rely on outside input. Apparently, that’s not an option in his worldview.
3) Again, none of these standards are applied to men.
In one of two references to scripture in more than 20 minutes, Clark quotes 1 Corinthians to preach on sex.
"The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband," the scripture Clark referenced says.
"After you get married, men, put this on your headboard in the house," Clark said. "Whenever she’s not in the mood, take out your Bible."
Clark eventually conceded the rest of the passage: "In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife."
He said men will look elsewhere if they are not sexually satisfied by their wives, asserting for at least the eighth time: "We can’t help ourselves, God made us that way.
1) Clark condones sexual violence and rape of wives. He claims they must submit their bodies as their Christian duty, regardless of their own mental and physical health, emotions, or desires.
2) Clark objectifies wives as mere sex objects, rather than affirming an individual value and personhood. He simultaneously reduces the beauty of a real partnership and relationship to one based on pure physicality.
3) Clark absolves husbands from personal responsibility to be faithful to their wives if their wife does not accommodate her husband’s every whim and desire.
While I escaped an abusive marriage many years ago, I relate to these harmful Evangelical teachings on human sexuality and sex that are abusive and archaic. I finally wrote about my personal experience just a few weeks ago. These very teachings are what kept me in an abusive marriage for far too long and allowed by ex-husband to justify his abuse towards me.
If any of these teachings had true scriptural merit, one must demonstrate the source and whether or not they apply equally to the genders. If not, then Evangelicals should honestly affirm that that their scripture places a higher value on one gender over others. That suddenly becomes a hard sell to potential converts.
These teachings also undermine and diminish the possibility of a healthy relationship built on mutual respect, responsibility, and attraction. Ironically, Evangelicals believe their teachings on marriage and family are a form of rescue from the evils of secularism. Yet, secularist teachings cede far more value, protection, and autonomy to women than Evangelical Christian teachings ever have.