Rachel Held Evans On Sexual Abuse & Patriarchy In The Church

January 11, 2018 Midweek Sermon
Old Man Talking

Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) went on a Twitter rant in response to the standing ovation a Memphis megachurch pastor received after admitting he had sexually assaulted a teenager.

Let's be very clear from the beginning that I don't know Rachel Held Evans. I know she has authored three books: Searching For Sunday, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, and Faith Unraveled. She's married, has a baby boy, and her online presence is carefully managed by her publisher. Honestly, she strikes me as the type of overly zealous "I came back to Jesus so you should too" type of millennial who is attempting to re-work Christianity so that it fits more comfortably with the worldview common to her age group. That's not a criticism, necessarily, but an acknowledgment that, like most millennials, she has difficulty accepting the status quo and chooses to re-fashion the existing structure rather than chucking it and starting over. People her age are doing similar things in fashion, retail, beer brewing, banking, advertising, and even politics. So be it.

Until this morning, I had no reason to be interested in Ms. Evans or her books. I seem to vaguely recall seeing a publisher's blurb for Searching For Sunday (or maybe a reference from John Pavlovitz?) but her story is her story, not something an old apple like me is going to find inspirational. I do best just letting those things be. I've no reason to comment. 

Then, I open Twitter this morning (@ThOldManTalking) and find Ms. Evans has responded to a news item in the way that is now most likely to have a wide-spread affect: Twitter Rant. The rant comes in response to news reports (I'm looking at the story in the NY Times) that members of the Memphis megachurch Highpoint gave pastor Andy Savage a standing ovation after he admitted to having sexually assaulted a teenaged member of his congregation 20 years ago.  No, I'm not kidding. They actually stood an applauded his admission of sexual assault. There's video to which I won't like because, frankly, it's disgusting.

Obviously, and with good reason, the Internet did its collective spit take when the news came out and every pastor worth their salt, all four of them, condemned what happened, recognizing that the action is symptomatic of a Church that is woefully out of touch with Christianity, let alone the society it purports to serve. Ms. Evans' tweet storm, though, goes a step further in addressing one of the root causes of many of the Church's failings: patriarchy. We mention patriarchy as one of the sources of unwarranted privilege just last week. She hones in specifically on its role in maintaining an acceptance of abuse that the rest of society sees as untenable.

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Here are Ms. Evans' tweets, hopefully in the order they appeared:

Hold on, she's not really done quite yet.

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Rethinking 'Merica

Rethinking 'Merica

Wow. I fully agree with everything Ms. Evans says in that rant and more. Patriarchy is a significant part of what makes religious privilege so very dangerous to a fair and equitable society. As long as the prevailing thought is that women need to "stay in their lane and do what they're told," we're not going to see any progress within that portion of society. Even evangelical women are supporting this abusive nonsense, which is symptomatic of long-term abuse.

Ms. Evans makes a couple of references in her rant that probably need some clarification for anyone not glued to multiple news feeds.

Re. James Dobson (sorry, I just threw up a little): The founder of the ultra-rightwing group "Focus on the Family," Dobson said in a conference call, " I’m calling for a nationwide movement to pray for him [the president]. I’m calling for a day of fasting and prayer. I hope that Christian people from coast to coast will join in that time. The date is your choosing, but we do need to be praying for our president.” Dobson is afraid that the president is impeachable which would result in a loss of power for religious-based hate groups such as his. [source: Newsweek]

Re. Roy Moore: According to the Washington Examiner, "the family home of Tina Johnson, one of the several women who recently accused the failed U.S. Senate candidate of sexual misconduct in the 1990s, was destroyed in a blaze." The fire has prompted an arson investigation. One has to admit it looks highly suspicious.

Re. Kay Warren: The wife of Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback megachurch, tweeted:

While the words are nice to the ears of some, she still bows to the patriarchy defended by her husband.

Re. Beth Moore. Ms. Moore is the founder of Living Proof Ministries, one of those organizations directed specifically toward evangelical women. Some claim the purpose of these organizations is to keep evangelical women in line, but I'm not familiar enough with this one to comment further. I'm not seeing any tweet from Ms. Moore that directly references matters of abuse and/or patriarchy but she did post this:

I'll be honest, that tweet makes me very uncomfortable and I'm not sure it's the one to which Ms. Evans refers. If it's not, I apologize. Something tells me Ms.Moore and I don't see eye-to-eye on many issues, though.

I'm going to restrain myself from commenting further and let all this information stand on its own merit or lack thereof. Arguing belief systems with people is a pointless waste of time and misses the greater issue that both religion and patriarchy establish and maintain a level of privilege that is unjust, unfair, and unequal on a grand scale. So long as such a system of privilege exists people are going to suffer in more ways than can be enumerated.

Consider this a sidebar to the greater conversation regarding a doctrine of fairness. More on that particular issue is coming soon. I hope. Depending on the weather (quite literally).

Abide in Peace,
-The Old Man

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