Evangelical Churches: “Teaches Women To Hate Their Bodies”, “Men Their Minds”

Friday I wrote a blog post that has remained the one most read all weekend. (Thank you) The gist of the post can be summed up in this one sentence. For decades I have faulted fundamentalist religions–wherever they may be preaching to the faithful–that failing to address humanity in realistic terms is a profound mistake.

Today The New York Times has a page one, above-the-fold must-read news article on the negative impact evangelical religion plays on men and women when it comes to sexuality. I argued this past week that Robert Aaron Long, the 21-year-old hate-filled killer in and near Atlanta is the latest example of what happens when sexuality is used as a tool by religion so to meet an organization’s own desired ends. 

The newspaper article underscores what many are talking about as of late given the news from Atlanta.

Dr. Onishi, who grew up in a strict evangelical community in Southern California that emphasized sexual purity led him to this conclusion. He said it “teaches women to hate their bodies, as the source of temptation, and it teaches men to hate their minds, which lead them into lust and sexual immorality.”

I had written about the way women are portrayed in fundamentalist houses of worship.

Let us not forget how these evangelical and pentecostal churches often use their attacks on the likes of the Delilahs, Jezebels, and other “temptresses” in the Bible to underscore how a “good man” can go bad.

The new story weighed into this topic, too.

“It presents a very demeaning view of manhood,” said Rachael Denhollander, an evangelical advocate for sexual abuse victims. “Every time you teach a woman in the presence of a young man that it’s her responsibility to keep a man from lusting and that she has the power to keep him from sexual perversion by what she wears and what she does, what he hears is that it’s her fault.”

Jeff Chu, a writer in Michigan, attended an evangelical junior high and high school that, like many similar schools, enforced strict rules for the lengths of girls’ skirts with the goal of encouraging modesty. “It was so rarely about the men controlling their own desires, and so often about women not being temptresses,” Mr. Chu recalled. 

“Purity culture teaches young men to view young women who do not try to maintain modesty as sinister forces,” Dr. Onishi said. “It’s hard not to think about the fact that Asian women have been sexualized and set up to be viewed through the lens of an exotic other who is sexually desirable.”

I wrote about the burdens placed on the people in the pews of these churches.

It should concern everyone to know that there are churches pumping the idea that it is a serious sin even to think about sex. Teenagers, especially, are being placed in a most troubling place about how not to think about sex. Add in the failure to do so means being captured by Satan.

The article begins with a young person from a strict evangelical community, that emphasized sexual purity, who had spent his teenage years tearing out any advertisements in surfing magazines that featured women in bikinis. So not to be pulled into the church’s definition of “sexual addiction” young people go to what most of us would consider extreme behavior.

Dr. Perry described a phenomenon in some parts of evangelical culture that he called “sexual exceptionalism,” in which sexual sins are implied to be more serious than other categories.

As I noted last week at the start of my post there is one reason for this power play by churches about sexuality.

If a religious organization can get a person to abide by a set of prescribed standards of behavior concerning the most personal aspect of life everything else can be easily attained.

And so it goes.