A while back I posted about the Southern Baptist Conference’s sexual harassment problems on Facebook. A guy I know took issue, complaining that I’d singled out the SBC when the same harassment occurs in every other group. I pointed out that harassment and assault are even more toxic when backed up by religious authority; he hand-waved that away (he’s unfriended because I count “well you didn’t bring up some other group that’s just as bad” as a rape apologist defense).
First off, I have written about lots of secular assault and harassment cases, here and on FB (case in point). Even if I hadn’t, the “what about some other group that’s just as bad as the SBC” is still a rape apologist argument—the equivalent of the Boys Will Be Boys defense—so the dude is now blocked.
Second, I agree that sexual harassment is horrible in many institutions and situations. For example, New York doctor Kevin Cahill has been accused of assaulting a female patient years ago, manipulating her (he got her needed medical treatment but that meant she had to see him again) and constantly harassing her. And while Alabama Republican Mike Durant isn’t accused of abuse, he seems willing to cover up Durant’s father’s abuse of Durant’s sister.
We have the Ohio legislature passing a bill that requires any female athlete submit to a genital inspection if anyone accuses her of being transgender. I’m sure nobody’s going to abuse that. And we have Marjorie Taylor Green hiring Milo Yiannopoulos, who thinks pedophilia is fine if it’s with sexually mature 13-year-olds. In fairness, Yiannopoulos claims he’s changed his ways, but I don’t take anything he says in good faith, any more than Greene; she’s a narcissist 3rd-rate celebrity posing as a politician who’s now hired a fifth-rate celebrity to grab a little more attention.
All that said, the power and authority that comes with religious authority makes it more toxic, much as my commenter disagreed
Dr. Cahill couldn’t give his patient an argument such as “In our “fantasy talk,” you have affectionately spoken of being “my wife.” That is exactly what Christ desires for us. He wants to marry us + become eternal lovers!” as slimeball preacher Jack Schaap of the Independent Baptist Church (which has plenty of assault problems) did to a 16 year old girl he was counseling. This is how grooming happens in churches—the authority of a spiritual leader, quotes assuring his prey that God wants them to hook up, and no systems in place for blocking it. As the victim put it, “[Schaap] violated my trust. But when it was being violated, I didn’t even know it because he made me believe what we were doing was okay and right in the eyes of God.”
Then we have pastor David Walker, who started having sex with one girl when she was 14; he later claimed he’d mistaken her for his wife the first time. We have Hillsong Church. We have the multiple pastors who think rape or abuse is a husband’s right in marriage. And again, this has more punch when it supposedly has God’s authority behind it.
As always, you can find more on this topic in my book Undead Sexist Cliches, available as a Amazon paperback, an ebook and from several other retailers. Cover by Kemp Ward, all rights remain with current holder.