The Twitterverse had a good balk at a General Baptist pastor, Stewart-Allen Clark’s sermon where he goes on and on shaming married women for gaining weight, letting themselves go, looking brut and stinking, not being trophy wives (hey, he says not everyone can look like Melania Trump but at least go for the participation trophy), and blames them for their husband’s wandering eyes. His marriage counseling advice is: women, lose weight. He extols his friend’s “divorce weight” that he holds over his wife.
But let me commend the General Baptists for this: immediately, Clark resigned as moderator for a General Baptist Council of Associations, and it was announced that he is taking a leave of absence from pastoring his church, 1st General Baptist, and seeking professional counseling.
Thank you. That’s what needs to happen. These clearly weren’t whoops, I stuck my foot in my mouth and said something I regret kind of comments. In listening, it is clear how pervasive his views are, how he’s conditioned his congregation, and how far from an actual sermon that dehumanizing screed was. I hope that he resigns as a preacher of the word and leader of the sheep and seeks shepherding himself. I hope he repents and sincerely apologizes to his congregation.
But it all makes me think of the contrast. Pastors in my own denomination are also preaching and teaching abhorrent things about women. But it’s still out there. It’s not being challenged.
A charge was filed against OPC pastor Michael Spangler for his sermon on Perfect Hatred, where he preaches that “perfect love for God requires perfect hatred for God’s enemies.” And as I’ve written, his immediate application is God’s perfect hatred of feminism. This is a charge which he has named me as the “first in prominence” as a “general of today’s feminist army” in the OPC in his 5 part series. The message is loud and clear. God hates Aimee Byrd, and the other generals in the “army” named: Rachel Miller and Valerie Hobbs. And if you love God, you should hate them too, or God hates you (and Spangler hates you, as his minister). That charge, of Spangler hating his neighbor, was thrown out for being too vague.
I haven’t listened to a lot of Spangler’s sermons, but he did dedicate one to me, Rachel Miller, and Valerie Hobbs on Facebook. It was called “A Quarrelsome and Fretful Woman.” So I went ahead and listened to that. In this sermon, he refers to men as superiors and women as inferiors, or even subject, to their husbands. He speaks of God’s “curse” on the woman, “one of the most bitter elements of womanly life in this age: that God allows in the heart the sinful desire of a woman to live contrary to her husband.” He blames “the nagging wife” for the “sad reality behind most adultery.” On the other hand, “there is no such thing as a nagging husband” because he is supposed to “correct” his wife, as her superior. “In your household, the husband’s word is law.” This sermon, and the public dedication of it to three women, has not been rebuked or challenged in our denomination. People sit under this kind of preaching. Spangler is currently suspended, not for his preaching, but for disparaging his Presbytery.
It would be great to just move on. But the teaching behind the harassment of women by officers in the OPC has not been addressed. So the harassment will continue. But that isn’t even my main motivation to write. I’m thinking about the men and women sitting under the teaching that depersonalizes half the people in their congregation and takes away their agency as people. Since I’ve fought back against spiritual abuse, more are coming to me with their own stories of abuse in my denomination and others. This is a serious problem. The whole reason the vitriol started coming towards me, Rachel, and Valerie is because we began addressing the theology behind it. It is still being taught. It is still enabled in our denomination and others. In fact, pastors are even learning it in seminaries. Congregants are learning it in the books we read. You see it enacted in presbytery trials. This isn’t fringe, it’s infiltrating.
And so preachers are getting more bold. Reverend Bennie Castle can write boldly about God, Man, and the Hierarchy, blaming “the evils of today” on equality. This “neuters men.” Men are “above” women. He appeals to the fall, showing Satan went after the woman, she usurped male authority to also usurp God’s authority. And this is the whole foundation of sin—usurping male hierarchy:
The sinful method employed by a sinful society to accomplish this goal is to undercut and overthrow the hierarchy among men. Drag Queen story hour appeals to children by dodging their fathers. Preachers with pathos and no substance appeal to weak minded women who then press their husbands to take some action (2 Timpthy 3:6). The Philistines appealed to Delilah when they couldn’t conquer Samson. Abuse narratives appeal to emotion based upon shocking tales of woe instead of presenting evidence to the rational judgement. Journalists foment the wrath of the mob rather than presenting a case to the magistrates to adjudicate. The public-school attempts to gain control of all the children undermining parental authority over their children.
Using archaic language to invoke masculine duty, he then appeals to “the need of the hour”:
What is needed now is men who will stand in the hierarchy and order their lives according to their place within it.
He then connects this dire sin of equality with community health concerns:
The Revolution will not stop at masks. It will not stop at vaccines. It will not stop at telling churches if they can meet. It will not stop until God Himself is taken from the throne.
So, if a church “submits” to their government’s mandate to stop the spread of a pandemic virus, they are part of the worldly impulse to dethrone God? Masks are part of the conspiracy? This sounds like the language that led to the Capitol riot.
What is Rev. Castle inciting here? Is this our message as a church? As a denomination? Why is it taught in the seminary? Why is it enabled in the pulpit? Why are pastors writing this stuff so boldly on the Internet?
Women are nothing but a threat to be managed. They are not to be trusted. They are out to neuter the men. Might as well manage their weight too, cause what good are we but to please our men, as Spangler put it, not only spiritually, “but physically: in cooking, cleaning, and in the marriage bed.” This teaching completely rejects the true feminine gift and the personhood of woman. I don’t want to end with ugliness though. And the aim in my books is to show the beauty. I will keep saying, how we treat our women reveals our eschatological expectation of joy in which Christ received the eternal gift from the Father of his bride, the church. Women represent the typology of where we are headed, the spice-laden mountains of Zion where we will behold the incarnate Christ and commune with the triune God and one another. That’s the message we need so desperately to hear.
16 thoughts on “Is This Our Message?”
“People sit under this kind of preaching.”
Aimee, I heard you say something about “sitting under the sermon” (or preaching) when you were talking to Michael Bird, and it jumped out at me as a phrase I’ve never heard in church, or from my parents or friends or anyone else, really. (I confess I was mostly listening to Mr. Bird’s darling little accent, though.)
Do you know anything about the origin of that phrasing, “sit under,” or why it is used in some subsets of Christianity but not in others?
Hi Cynthia, the language of sitting under refers to a posture of worship really, in line with the view that the preached word is a sacrament in which we receive Christ and his blessings. And so, if instead of a sermon we are getting the agenda of the man preaching it rather than the word of God expounded to his people, I would not sit under that. Hope that is helpful.
Okay, thanks. That’s reasonable.
Could some people in the same church service be “sitting under” the sermon, accepting it as God’s word, while others might consider the message to be not the word of God, and thus not be “sitting under” the same sermon?
(I hope I don’t sound like I have an agenda about your views or anything. I’m just trying to understand a slightly different version of English … though it’s not as different as Australian!)
Aussie here: Is it perhaps to do with the expressions used in rabbinic teaching – Paul ‘sitting under’, or sitting at the feet of’ Gamaliel, for eg? (which would imply learning to become a teacher – showing just how skewed it has been made by many). I’m not sure, just wondering.
That’s an interesting connection, Sharon. It might have something to do with the origin of the phrase. Thanks!
Excuse me, but the serpent and the ground were cursed, not women or men. We were redeemed from the curse OF THE LAW, in Christ. So when men want to preach falsely about women being cursed. Tell them to read the text again!
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Jo, this is the curse on women:
To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to[f] your husband,
but he shall rule over you.”
The curse of Adam (also representative as mankind) follows after in verse 17.
Men and Women are indeed cursed as a result of the Fall. It’s the reason why we can’t earn Heaven of our own accord. The message of the Gospel is that elect men and women are redeemed by Christ. This doesn’t cure the effects of the curse, but allows us to act contrary to it viz regeneration (God’s special grace) as well as his common grace (in the unregenerate).
It would be a lie to say that women (and men) are not cursed.
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God specifically “cursed” satan and the land (Gen. 3:14 & 17).
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God specifically does not curse Adam.and Eve, but predicts and announces the consequences. Also both are warned of “sorrowful toil.” Childbearing was not a curse, and her conception was increased because death would now be a problem. Check out the Eden podcast/Gen 3:16 project by a husband and wife missionary team who did their doctoral dissertations on this issue. They know of women who have died in Africa because of false teaching that women are cursed.
Aimee are you suggesting that Gen 3:16 is somehow not applicable?
No, the consequences of the fall are certainly applicable. I am just confirming that the words “cursed” are only used towards Satan and the ground. And regarding Spangler’s interpretation of Gen. 3:16 of the woman being cursed in a desire to live contrary to her husband, usurping his authority.
Aimee, thanks for the clarification.
As I understand it, there are two kinds of curses referenced in Gen 3. The first is the eschatological curse threatened by God should Adam and Eve disobey His command to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This curse was pronounced on the serpent and was symbolic of the eschatological curse executed against Satan, but postponed until Christ (the second Adam). In this way, humanity is not cursed eschatologically until Final Judgement (if one is not in Christ).
But there is a common, provisional curse on mankind (men and women) in which both endure pain/sweat in their “multiplying.” By childbearing for the woman, and cultivating the earth/goods production for humanity generally. I don’t hold Susan Foh’s view of the woman’s desire in Gen 3:16; I don’t believe a woman’s desire for her husband to be evil. None the less, women suffer a provisional curse in childbearing, which was my point.
I don’t recall exactly how Spangler uses the curse here, but I was reacting to the claim that women aren’t cursed (at all) and to reread the text. There is clearly a provisional curse under which women are included.
Hi Aimee, I’ve been so impressed by the fact that even through all the senseless abuse you’ve been getting, your blog is still dominated by the joy of the gospel and the wonder of Christ’s love for us. Your worse opponents usually sound fearful, bitter, and weighed down by the burden they gave themselves of smoking out the feminist heretic from every house in order to save the Kingdom of God. I hope some of them start to notice that difference and wonder if there might be more joy on offer to them if they ditch their current message for the one in Scripture. I’m really looking forward to reading your book on the Song, and hope that they might read it and enjoy Christ’s love for them too.
So Jesus says “”I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.””
John 13:34-35 CEB
And this pastor says, “The best way to love God is to hate each other”.
Like…where’s the discussion here? What is there to unpack? Do we not understand words anymore? This was a direct contradiction of red letter Christ’s words in Scripture from the pulpit of a church claiming to follow Christ. If that went over unchallenged there is no baby in that bath water.
It doesn’t matter what your opinion of feminism or the named parties is.
Passing judgment on her first who had sinned first, but cursing neither her nor her husband, as “being candidates for restoration” (Tertullian)
~from Biblehub pulpit commentary on Genesis 3:16
I like the way Tertullian keeps blessings in view when discussing the curses, otherwise I would probably want to curl up into a fatalistic ball.
It seems that some men want to live out the description of Genesis 3:16 as if it were prescriptive and while they accuse us of having an over-realized eschatology, do they realize that they have an under-realized eschatology that is moving backward into patriarchal rule? Aren’t we supposed to be moving forward not backward?
Human inequality began to decrease when Jesus turned all of that on it’s head. If we are truly, “always reforming”, shouldn’t we be working on restoring the equality that we were given as human beings in the beginning while understanding that he will restore full equality in it’s perfection when he returns?