John W. Kinney is dean of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University and pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Beaver Dam, Va. Portions of this article were published in Baptists Against Racism.
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Stop Using God to Justify Abuse
I HAD AN EXPERIENCE with a young man who was having difficulty in seminary, having difficulty with his wife. His wife was a flight attendant, so they had limited time together. He came pounding on my door one morning.
“I’ve got to talk to you,” he said, “because I want you to hear it from me before you hear it from somebody else. I don’t want you to put me out of school. Me and my wife are through.”
“Well, come in. Tell me, what’s going on.”
“Last night, we had a fight and she got upset and she told me that, even when she was there, I wasn’t.”
“I had to show her,” he said. “I got my Bible and I showed her that I am about God’s work. God comes first and you, wife, come second.”
“What did she say?”
“She said, ‘You and your God can go to hell!’ You know I don’t need a woman like that in my life! I need somebody that’s going to support me in my ministry.”
The Slippery Slope of 'Snakeology'
RECENTLY, several highly publicized events of domestic violence have reminded us of the epidemic proportions of relational abuse. While the focus has been on athletes, abuse has taken place from the halls of Congress to the pulpits of churches. We have also experienced, particularly from church leaders, a vocal outcry against such abuse.
This outcry, however, remains superficial, shallow, and disingenuous if we are not willing to challenge some of our dominant theological assumptions that provide the conceptual framework for the maintenance of this abuse.
Many of the early church fathers affirmed the subservient and secondary status of women and even encouraged the “control” and “forceful instruction” of women in order to maintain conformance to what they saw as God’s “relational design.” Even today, some promise to affirm women only as long as they stay in their “God-ordained place.” In other words, women can expect “favor” only when they remain defined by and conformed to a “divinely” decreed order and hierarchy.
Tragically, this hierarchy is established by the curse and the culture—not the creation and certainly not the Christ. When the curse and the culture establish our doctrine, we embrace “snakeology,” not theology. This snakeology distorts the character of God, relationships, authentic manhood, and authentic womanhood.