Conservative Christianity would like us to believe that God wants faithful Christians to repress and demean women’s self-expression and sexuality “for their own good.”
One example comes from the now disgraced Evangelical pastor, Mark Driscoll, who blamed women for their husbands’ infidelity because they weren’t sexy enough and had “let themselves go.”
This is bullying and it sounds awfully familiar.
Presidential candidate Donald Trump engages in repeated, unrepentant attacks on women. It is surprising, therefore, that four-fifths of white evangelicals support Trump. This exposes the negative attitudes toward women behind the Right’s claim to family values and moral authority.
As a woman of faith and seminary student, I recognize that demeaning women is not unique to the Right. Many on the Left attacked and humiliated Melania Trump for plagiarizing portions of her RNC speech. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton made troubling comments about women implicated in her husband’s infidelity.
Yet, as Chris Hedges, former investigative reporter and seminary trained cultural critic, explains, the hypermasculinity of the Christian right “crushes the independence and self-expression of women” so that men can counteract their own loss of independence to the absolute rule of church leadership.
Popular culture’s word for this kind of behavior is “slut-shaming.” It is a unique, culturally-approved form of bullying and a pernicious theme throughout the presidential race. NoBullying.Org defines slut-shaming as, “the act of making a girl or a woman feel guilty about certain sexual behaviors that deviate from societal norms.”
Popular culture also engages in slut-shaming. The film Easy A (2010) is a Scarlett Letter for the modern age. Emma Stone plays Olive, a high school student who pretends to have had sex with multiple guys to boost their reputations, exchanging her “virtue” for personal gain. She endures relentless slut-shaming, especially from classmate Marianne, who embodies the Christian Right:
Marianne calls Olive a “trollop” who is “going to hell.”
As a Christian chaplain-in-training, I want to highlight how this specific bullying of females is embedded in conservative Christian theology. It is sometimes hard to see because it is masked behind “modesty,” which weaponizes the bible and oppresses women from birth.
This biblically based bullying of women is offensive because it runs completely contrary to the ministry and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, seeing God as “bully-in-chief.”
Compare these statements:
Jesus told the woman living a sinful life, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:36-50)
Jesus healed women on the margins of society, praising them for their faith. (ex. Mark 5:21-43)
Trump said, (of candidate Carly Fiorina), “Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”
Jesus chose women to follow him (Luke 8:1-3) and as the first to witness his resurrection. (John 20:10-18)
The Christian Right pretends that bullying women is biblical and God-sanctioned.
As a woman of faith and seminarian, I’ll stick with Jesus.