The Southern Baptist Convention called in 1971 for banning abortions except in cases of rape, incest, severe fetal deformity and to protect the woman’s health. But, five years later, Sarah Posner noted in The Nation, the SBC declared that the only exception was to save the woman’s life, followed later by a demand for an out-
right ban against “a national sin.” In 2015, it deemed abortion “genocide” and, in 2019, “the greatest moral crisis of our generation.”
Meanwhile, the SBC, umbrella organization for millions of Christians, adopted a resolution in 1987 praising stay-at-home women for “unwavering commitment to their families and to the Lord who has ordained the home as a workplace.” Such women “had
pleased God by honoring His purposes in their lives each day.” Not so much, though, those who worked outside the home.
In 1998, the SBC amended its Baptist Faith and Message” statement – the first time in 35 years – to include what Posner deemed “a provision on wifely submission.” Dorothy Patterson, wife of Paige Patterson, president of Criswell College in Dallas,
wrote the revised version proclaiming that a wife should “submit herself graciously” to her husband.” Patterson himself said that women abused by their husbands should not seek a divorce but, rather, “be submissive in every way that you can.”
One SBC faction that includes Tom Ascol, senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, began advocating for a more “masculine, muscular Christianity,” Brian Kaylor, a minister and the editor of the World and Way newsletter, told Posner. At the SBC’s 2019 annual meeting in Birmingham, this group hosted a session titled “Mature Manhood in an Immature Age.” Owen Strachan, a professor at Grace Bible Theological Seminary in Arkansas, called for training men “in the image of the Warrior King Christ Jesus” and, “ideally,” to “train your daughter in submission.” The gathering, Posner reported, “featured some of the most openly misogynistic commentary I’ve witnessed in nearly two decades of covering the religious right.”
And it smacks of the attitude found in, for example, Iran, where, recently, a young woman arrested by the “morality police” for not wearing her head covering in the prescribed fashion, died while in custody.
Of course, not all male members of the SBC are misogynists but those who are seemed to be very influential, according to reports. When did this start? Most likely after a college student informed Bill Pressler, a Southern Baptist layman and retired Texas state appellate court judge, that his religion textbook claimed the Book of Daniel contained errors – at least as Pressler recounted to Bill Moyers in 1987. “After investigating this supposed transgression, Pressler said, he resolved to ensure that no one at the helm of any Southern Baptist institution would ever again allow any suggestion that the Bible was not 100 percent true,” Posner reported.
Pressler went on a nationwide campaign which resulted in the purge of moderates from the SBC leadership, the litmus test being total commitment to “biblical inerrancy.” That, of course, was not a novel proposition. The opening words in Islam’s holy text, Al Qur’an, instructs Muslims: “In this book, there is no doubt.”
But even as the SBC was relegating women to an inferior status and demanding ﬁdelity to Biblical infallibility, an independent investigation by Guidepost Solutions, which the SBC hired in response to press reports, “implicated some of the most powerful Southern Baptist religious and political leaders, either for engaging in sexual assault themselves, covering up abuse by others, or vilifying survivors and their advocates as perpetrators of, as one put it, ‘a satanic scheme to completely distract us from evangelism’,” Posner reported.
Male chauvinism thrived during the presidency of Donald Trump, whose popularity rests partly on the solid support of devout Christians. It is no surprise that Trump, himself accused of sexual misconduct even before he became president, appointed three of the ﬁve Supreme Court justices who overturned the 49year-old right to an abortion: Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. No surprise either that four are men, including Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. Also, an almost allmale Senate judiciary committee conﬁrmed two of them who were accused in the conﬁrmation hearings of sexual abuse or impropriety: Kavanaugh and Thomas.
Trump, leader of both the Republican Party and his Make American Great Again (MAGA) movement, demands absolute allegiance, especially to his discredited stolen election claim, and cultural war issues such as abortion. Those are his litmus test and hundreds of politicians eagerly bow to their earthly “savior,” as some deem him. They include The Washington Post reported, 299 candidates in next month’s mid-term elections – 53 percent of the overall total. If enough are elected, there will be “major “implications,” The Post’s Amy Gardner wrote, including, of course, for issues related to women and the LGBTQ community and voting rights.
Herschel Walker’s candidacy for the Senate from Georgia is of special signiﬁcance. He was picked to run by Trump and is a foe of abortions in all cases, but a woman has stated that Walker paid her to have an abortion and tried to persuade her to do it again. He denies it, while, curiously, preaching the virtues of redemption. Walker’s opponent, the incumbent Raphael Warnock, is senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. preached. The contrast could not be more stark but polls indicate Walker remains competitive and Republican leaders are rushing to shore up his campaign.
“The Senate race in Georgia has become an explicit matchup of two increasingly divergent versions of American Christianity,” The New York Times’ Elizabeth Dias wrote on Monday. “Mr. Walker reflects the way conservative Christianity continues to be deﬁned by its fusion with right-wing politics and tolerance for candidates who, whatever their personal failings or flaws, advance its power and cause.”
As to “power and cause,” Amy Littleﬁeld reported in The Nation on the rapid spread of Christian conservatism in Kansas through a vigorous anti-abortion campaign ﬁnanced mostly by big businesses such as Koch Enterprises Ltd. It was, Littleﬁeld wrote, “a pattern [that] was repeated across the country in the years and decades to come, as the religious right surged to power in states, wrapping an economic agenda that favored wealthy corporations in anti-abortion rhetoric to rile up a dedicated swath of the voting base.” So, while the faithful pursued their goal of going to heaven, the wealthy were already living in paradise.