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.