the black church, misogyny, patriarchy, toxic masculinity, sexism, feminism, progressivism, women's empowerment

*It’s time for black men to admit defeat. The jig is up … it’s over … the fat lady is singing … the game’s in the refrigerator, the door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard and the jello’s jiggling. 

That’s right, fellas. The tide has completely shifted, the pendulum has swung, and black women are running thangs now (some would argue they always have). It’s time we take a hard look in the mirror and accept this cold, bitter reality. 

I shared this point of view with the men at my grandfather’s church during a breakfast meeting recently. 

“We have to take the church back,” one of the elders said. “We shouldn’t be catering to them [women], they should be following our lead and obeying our instruction. And that’s not coming from me –  I’m telling you what the Bible says.”

 “But elder,” I shot back. “More than 90 percent of the congregation is female. They’re paying tithes and offering faithfully to sustain the upkeep of this church and YOUR bank account. Do you really believe they’ll sit and listen to you demean them without resisting? They don’t need you or this church. YOU NEED THEM!”

All of a sudden the room got quiet and eerily still. I could feel everyone staring. Their eyes flickered with contempt. It was as if I cursed God’s name and poured Vodka in the baptismal pool. Tension spread like wildfire, and it was aimed at one person – me. 

 black chhurdh - womenz-in-church

“Young brother,” the elder fired back. “You need to man up. We put money in their purses. They fill the collection plate with OUR money. God put men in charge. And I’ll drop dead before a woman takes the lead in this church. If they won’t fall in line, it’s our job to break them down.”

“That’s the problem,” he continued. “There are too many single women in the church giving birth to these boys and raising them to be sissies and yes-men. I know a few young ministers who I’ve had to pull aside and set right because they were allowing women to run the show. That’s not what God ordained – he appointed men to lead and women to follow.”

While I prepared my rebuttal, every man in the room nodded in agreement. There was even cheering. Their behavior underscores the ego-driven, testosterone-fueled bravado that aggravates modern women. I sat and witnessed grade-A sexism unfold as if we had all gathered at a stripclub. 

“What about the young women who aren’t married and earn their own living?” I responded. “What about the ones who have advanced degrees and can’t be manipulated into supporting the misogynistic orthodoxy of the Christian Church? How do you plan to keep them around? More importantly, how will you replace them and their donations if they choose to leave?”

“So what are you saying brother,” the elder quickly answered. “Are we supposed to look away while God’s house is transformed into ‘The View?’ This isn’t a stage for women to flex their muscles and independence. If they can’t submit to the authority of their spouses and the clergy of this church, they can leave.”

In recent years, more women have stepped into roles of leadership within the Black church. There are more women pastors across all denominations than ever before. And one day soon (if not already) there may even be a woman serving as a Bishop for the church. 

However, despite these advancements, many orthodox Christians (male and female) share a strong prejudice toward notions of women calling the shots on Sunday. 

It’s simply out of the question, especially if you ask the baby boomer crowd (individuals who range in age from 60 to 80 years old). 

“If you hear a hen crow – kill it,” advises Los Angeles resident and veteran evangelist Margie Houston, 78. 

Black Church - black women

With her cohorts in 2005, she co-founded The Missionaries Ablaze, an organization dedicated to promoting the use of women’s gifts and ministry in the church. 

“That’s what my father in law would say whenever he was asked about sharing the pulpit with women. He was a bishop in Tyler, Texas and oversaw four different churches.  He always used that analogy because a hen doesn’t crow, a rooster crows. Just like women aren’t called to be pastors and decision makers in the church. These duties traditionally belong to men.” 

Although for several generations the black church has been controlled by men, Houston says that women are no less capable of teaching the gospel or “leading their own flock.”  

“I don’t see any reason why there can’t be male and female pastors,” she mused. “It’s 2017 – women are smarter and more assertive than we were. Some things will have to be adjusted – and soon – to accommodate the changing times.”

She continued, “There are plenty of women in the Bible who were called by God to do incredible things. They fought in wars, they worked miracles, and a few of them held positions in government. I’ve tried to explain that to my husband who is a pastor. But he’s from the old guard. It’s like talking to a wall.” 

In response to efforts by modernists to redefine outdated gender roles, a coalition of 34,000 churches (The National Black Church Initiative) released recently the following statement:

“The reason why The Church speaking out now is because many white intellectuals and institutions will be creating policies in the notion of protecting women by deemphasizing male masculinity (neutering men) but, it will have a negative ramification on women’s relationships with men.

The Church wants to warn both the feminist movement and the gay movement that this is not an opportunity for them to try to pose their radical sexual agenda on this society. Men will then view women as a liability and not the opposite sex, therefore trying to undermine the concept of the Christian family. If these new rules are written and customs are adopted, they will run counter to the Biblical teachings of the role of women in a Christian marriage and the role of children in a Christian home. This conflict will cause many not to marry because they will see women as the enemy.”

In smaller, traditional Black churches throughout the US, particularly in the south, men in leadership promote ideals of marriage and womanhood that clash disastrously with the core values of modern feminism. If this continues, the church may begin to experience a sharp decline in women’s attendance, especially among the under-30 crowd.

Cicely Tyson and Kimberly Elise

Cicely Tyson (as Myrtle) and Kimberly Elise (as Helen) in Diary of a Mad Black Woman.

The U.S. gap in church attendance has been narrowing in recent decades as the share of women attending weekly has declined. 

Indeed, a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the General Social Survey (GSS) finds that between 1972 and 1974, an average of 36 percent of women and 26 percent of men reported attending religious services at least once a week – a 10-percentage-point gap. After initially widening to 13 points in the mid-1980s, the gap began to shrink in the late 1980s through the 1990s.

During this period, weekly attendance at religious services declined among all Americans, but it declined more among women than men. As a result, by the early 2010s, the gender gap in attendance had narrowed to just 6 points, with 28 percent of women and 22 percent of men saying they attend religious services at least weekly.

So what does that mean for the misogynistic orthodoxy of the Black Christian Church?   

There’s a power struggle simmering between men and women in the US, and it’s spilling into the sanctuary. The latter group has taken massive steps forward in academia and in the professional world. Sitting on the sideline, or in biblical terms, serving as helpmeets in the church rather than exploring their own gifts and potential as leaders, no longer suffices for women of today.     

I watched in astonishment recently as the assistant pastor of my grandfather’s church broke a cardinal sin by lecturing a room full of bible-toting, black women. 

 “Ladies I want you reach deep down into your purse and pull out a little something for the church offering. You aren’t giving it to me, you’re giving it to God, and you can’t beat God’s giving. Besides, most of ya’ll spend your husband’s money on shoes and makeup and a bunch of crap that won’t get you anywhere near Heaven. You oughta give that money to the Lord.”

The elder’s ill-advised remarks – which he later apologized for – caused an immediate ripple effect.

 “He ain’t talking to me,” muttered a woman under her breath, visibly annoyed.

“Me either,” snapped another.

 “Why would he go there?” howled a third woman angrily. 

These reactions are a sign of changing times. In the not-too-distant past, an elder or preacher could badmouth or chastise women during a sermon without suffering much, if any, blowback. But society is moving toward an era of women’s empowerment, and now the slightest hint of sexism is capable of sparking an uproar.

According to recent studies, more than 80 percent of all African American church-goers are female, and unlike women from previous decades, the current generation consists of business owners, CEO’s, entrepreneurs and college graduates. 

In other words, on Sunday afternoon, the collection plate is being filled with the hard-earned cash of independent, self-contained women. 

With that in mind, should there be adjustments made to the patriarchal atmosphere present within most Black churches today? More importantly, should men in leadership expect to retain the incontestable power they’ve held (and abused) for centuries? 

 If you ask civil engineer and homeowner Chelci Burroughs, 21, her six-figure salary is off-limits to any church that doesn’t fully embrace gender equality. 

“I earn a comfortable living,” she declared proudly, “The gains I’ve made in life haven’t been easy, and no man can take credit for what I’ve achieved other than my father who paid a portion of my college tuition. 

“In my opinion, the church promotes sexism. I’m not  supporting any religious body that condones the marginalization and subjugation of women. I would rather stay in my comfortable home on a Sunday morning.” 

She continued, “Yes, I’m a Christian woman … and I value tradition. But I won’t commit to a church unless the ministry speaks to my convictions.” 

cory haywood - screenshot

Cory Haywood

The Black Hat is written by  Southern California based  Cory A. Haywood, a freelance writer and expert on Negro foolishness. Contact him via: [email protected] and/or visit his blog: www.enterthehat.com, or send him a message on Twitter: @coryahaywood