What Keeps Southern Baptist Women from Leaving?

Logic isn't the driving force that keeps many women in the SBC with their heads in the sand, my husband often reminds me. It's emotion. The need to stay where they are comfortable--that old "at home" feeling. Even now, when the prime leaders for decades have been making excuses for why they cannot stand up to behaviors of their buddies who have clearly committed the most insidious form of malpractice a clergyman can commit by abusing congregants or their own wives and then blaming the women.

Ron's right, I know so in my head. Yet my heart wants to believe otherwise. I still want to think that educated women are led first by logic. They follow what they know more than what feels good, I tell myself, even while knowing that I'm in the 25% of women, according to the Meyers-Briggs who have a preference for thinking over feeling.

I still want to believe, as I did in childhood, that women stand in solidarity against abuse. Why do I cling to such rationale, even when my adult experience tells me otherwise?

Assuming that one out of four SBC women prefer thinking over feeling, doesn't it stand to reason in the light of what's been recently revealed about collusion with abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention that thousands of women would consider fleeing? This is not about reason, I hear the voice of my beloved husband saying. It is about tradition that clings to a mind-set that has always been extremely slow to change. A denomination born for the purpose of fighting for the preservation of slavery, with the precipitating incident for withdrawing from its northern sisters and brothers being the insistence on appointing a slaveholder to be a missionary to Africa!

With such a tradition, which was once mine, I suppose it's no wonder that women stay, electing to remain in subjugation, even embracing the concept as God-ordained in a day when women have earned the majority of master's degrees in the U. S. since 1981, according to a Bloomberg report. Yet, I refuse to believe this trend will continue for decades. Younger women are simply too wise to stand for such nonsense.

What History Teaches

By 1967, the first big round in the Civil Rights movement was well on its way to being lost--at least in legislation and definitely with Southern Baptists.

It was time for a new cause. So, that year Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson, the now infamous organizers of the "conservative resurgence" in the SBC, sat down to draw up a plan. Just the two of them, mind you! Those who eventually left or were kicked out have often referred to their plan as a grand conspiracy. 

Should this not cause a few million women to pick up their skirts and run? Or at least sit down together and cry for several days before doing their own reorganization?

Neither of these actions would be considered logical by the average SBC woman, however. For facing enormous change, grieving over what was lost for many long before birth, was still unfathomable to the vast majority. Life-shattering, in fact. I know from experience.

Having lived past the battles fought and lost by a thread, most moderate women still stayed and tried to adjust. How long they will continue to stay is the big question now, after a second attempt that is brewing, even using the same tactics like planning to bus in kids to be used as pawns at this years annual meeting perhaps. That's what I've been told. 

For even kids can vote as elected messengers from their local churches. Not in mainline congregations, often considered way too liberal for the SBC mainstream. 

In fact, "kids" even in their teens can be ordained to preach! It all depends on the local church deciding to ordain them--no educational requirements. From that point, with enough charisma, they can easily move into good positions as a youth pastor. And many do even in college. It doesn't take long for a lot of these "kids" to let the power go to their heads. Once that happens, especially with limited supervision, some of his flock of younger kids, can easily be sexually abused by the guy who they've looked up to as a role model. 

Even with the misogyny that keeps women from being ordained since the resurgence, the super-glue that holds otherwise very intelligent, gifted, and even well-educated staying is more about family tradition and the strong sisterhood so steeped in culture. Women who are SBC lifers cannot imagine doing what Beth Moore recently did in finally leaving. For many, it's worse than leaving family. Impossible, they think, to leave this all behind and find an abundant life outside the massive denomination. 

Most disturbing, it was conservative evangelicals who have succeeded in "leading the nation back to God," exactly as Pressler and Patterson vowed they would in 1967, accomplishing this by putting extremely misogynous and racist individuals in the White House in the last administration. Now, vowing to do it again in another four years. 

Can you guess who is helping to reorganize things again? The same two knuckleheads--Pressler and Patterson, of course. 

OK, ladies. If there is any logic or virtue left, I invite you to "think on these things as you contemplate the upcoming #SBC21.  


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