Creating Safe Sanctuary: DeTrumping the Church
By Rev. Sheri D. Smith Clayborn
Bragging about grabbing women’s body parts without permission; verbally degrading women; a charge of rape (recently dropped); and bullying and loud talking female interviewers—all became a part of the president-elect’s unofficial platform; and, he won. The deliberate hate speech and careless words of the president-elect have been incendiary, stoking the fires of hate, especially toward women.
Women have been disproportionately targeted by speech that has been interpreted by those with a deep-seated hate for women as permission to violate their bodies. Each misogynistic word further stoked the flame.
What role has the church played in creating an environment that allowed for this president-elect? Is this secular assault on women reflective of what women experience in the church? In Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective, Kelly Brown Douglas asserts,
To confront the issue of strained male/female relationships in the Black community would mean acknowledging the presence of sexism within that community. Black men and some Black women refuse to confront this issue and thus relinquish privileges that accrue from gender biased systems and structures.
Black Churches have made the fight against racism a priority; however, when will fights against sexism and misogyny be equally as important? After fighting the struggle outside the walls of the church, can safety for women be found within the walls?
Safety begins with acknowledgement. Sexist tendencies within the church include but are not limited to:
- the disproportionate number of women in clergy leadership since clergy women that get into the pastorate tend to start at lower ranks than their male clergy counterparts, even though they may have the same or better credentials;
- overuse of masculine language for an infinite, triune God;
- the dearth of ministries focused on eradicating sexism and misogyny (not just the empowerment weekend and talks that gets you excited about your future; but rather, consistent works toward the eradication of sexism and misogyny).
How many churches are addressing and working against human trafficking, domestic violence, spousal sexual abuse, abuse of power, and manipulation?
Black Churches have allowed evil within its walls for far too long. The church-at-large endorsed the president-elect by what it failed to do…exorcise sexism from its ranks. Throughout its history, the church has fought against racism while being complicit in displaying misogynistic tendencies that often create sexist realities deemed acceptable at various levels.
Please note that the elevation of a few women has not erased sexism and misogyny within the church. It is my hope that we, the liberated Black Church, will not wait for racism to be solved before we make a conscious effort to eradicate misogyny and sexism from within. De-trumping the church is absolutely necessary, and we must make a conscious effort to do so—immediately!
We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. –Elie Wiesel