Paige Patterson’s decades-old assault on Baptist institutions and women in the name of biblical fidelity ended formally this week with revelation that he sought to isolate a female seminarian rape victim in order to “break her down.”
It would be easy to treat this horrific saga as simply a leader gone wrong. But it is the theological system installed and advanced by Patterson and other fundamentalists who seized leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention that provides the fertile ground for such abuse and the ease of cover.
Patterson and other conquerors of the SBC built their takeover on so-called “biblical inerrancy” that expresses itself most practically in the demeaning of women — whom they consider unqualified by gender to serve as even co-leaders in church, at home and in other societal roles.
Southern Baptists won’t fix the problem by removing a bad man while retaining bad doctrine that instills male power as a divine directive.
The misguided doctrine of male authority — based on highly-selective Bible verses and narrow interpretations — was made more palatable to this particular Baptist flock by claims of biblical truth along with a fading veneer of equality.
“Complementarianism” — the theological view now enshrined in Southern Baptist institutional life — claims to affirm gender equality while assigning different and “complementary” roles to women at home, in church and beyond.
But guess who gets to do all the assigning of roles? And guess where all the roles with power get assigned?
Bingo! Good ol’ authority-imbued men.
I’ve heard the quick push-back: Complementarianism doesn’t cause abuse. No, it doesn’t per se. However, any lack of abuse relies solely on the benevolence of a dominant male rather than with the intrinsic value, true equality, freedom and power of women.
And as Patterson has proved time and time again — in both public and in private settings — many powerful men are not benevolent toward women. And while this doctrinal mooring may not justify his and others’ misbehavior, it freely feeds it and often covers for it.
How horrific that a woman in her time of greatest crisis would meet with a so-called Christian leader who would seek to isolate her in order to “break her down” and protect the institution he was called to lead.
What needs to be broken down is the faulty doctrine of male dominance (intentionally misbranded as “equal but different”) that fosters and ferments this evil. Otherwise, those who keep pushing this bad biblical rendering as the basis for gender roles and relationships are knowing accomplices in this abuse and the many other episodes that have yet to surface or yet to occur in the name of biblical fidelity.
For the sake of your Christian witness and, more importantly, for the sake of your daughters and all other women created, gifted and called by God, break this false doctrine down now. It is the cesspool out of which that stench in Fort Worth has emerged.
Executive editor / publisher at Good Faith Media.