When I was an adolescent, I remember my elders lecturing me quite often. There were the sermons in church and additional commentary from family during the week. The adults in my life had to do this, so that I could know right from wrong and make wise decisions.
Little did they know that I was paying attention to their behavior and their reactions to certain events more than I paid attention to their words. I liked to observe, and my observations led me to the conclusion that Baptists were hypocrites. In this post I am going to discuss one of the many scandals that took place in our community.
It was 1992. The church that I attended with my family was Missionary Baptist. In our city, we fellowshipped with about eight other churches on a regular basis. The pastor of one of these churches-who we will refer to as Rev. Slickback here-was very handsome, young and charismatic. He was also single.
Now back then, churches would usually pressure ministers like this to get married quickly, because a single and handsome pastor could become a problem since churches tend to be full of single women who might tempt him to ‘fornicate’. Rev. Slickback, however, evaded all the attempts of the church mothers to marry him off speedily. And all was going well for him-until the annual church business meeting took place.
A woman who was not a member of the church showed up in tears with a sordid story to tell. For the past year, Rev. Slickback had been sleeping with her. He went to great lengths to conceal their relationship. When she became pregnant with his child, he attempted to bully her into having an abortion. This pastor, this anointed man of god who condemned abortion from the pulpit, would rather have his jumpoff abort his child than face up to what he had done.
In having sex outside of marriage and abandoning the pro-life position, this pastor had committed two major sins according to the doctrine that we followed. But who do you think his church and our fellowship took issue with? Who did they judge and condemn? The woman! I can still remember the way my ears burned with anger as I listened to the women of my church-family members included-disparage this woman.
That heffa had no business going to the church business meeting like that!
That ho should’ve just kept her legs shut!
God don’t like ugly, she betta be careful tryin to mess with the man of God like that!
He’s just a man, if you offer it, he’ll take it. It’s her fault for being a slut…
I could not believe what I was hearing. Not one word of criticism of Rev. Slickback. Not one word of disappointment in his behavior. Not one word of sympathy for this woman who had been cruelly used as a sex object by this pastor. Not one word of condemnation over the fact that this man had forced her to have an abortion, even though all these women were supposed to be pro-life.
As I listened to them gossip, thoughts raced through my twelve-year old mind. As far as I was concerned, Rev. Slickback was the one who deserved the greater condemnation. He was the pastor, the one who was supposed to be special and anointed, the one who was supposed to know better. He was the one that had a responsibility as both a Christian and a leader in the church. To fornicate with a woman and then use abortion to hide the evidence was horribly immoral to me. But my elders and his own church didn’t see it that way. They were willing to extend the love and forgiveness of Christ to Rev. Slickback, but not to the woman that he had used and scarred for life.
In the end, Rev. Slickback faced no serious repercussions for what he had done. He resigned as pastor voluntarily, much to the chagrin of his congregation, who pleaded with and begged him not to leave. I suppose Rev. Slickback had some sliver of sense in him. He joined another church as an associate minister and continued preaching there.
The scandal with Rev. Slickback was just one of many that I would see in the Baptist church. The scandal and everyone’s reaction showed me much about my denomination.
It showed me that there were one set of rules for church members and another set of rules for clergy. It showed me that, in spite of all the hype, women were not valued. It showed me that the “women of God” had no concept of sisterhood and could be incredibly bitchy and hostile to other women. It showed me that the moral standards of the church were not etched in stone and could be revised at a whim. And most of all, it showed me that the people who I was supposed to look to for moral guidance were hypocrites with less sense and decency than the child they were trying to school.