As many powerful men are being called to account for their alleged abuse or degradation of women, God’s people are called to show a higher standard of respect for one another.
Recently revealed statements from a high-profile Christian leader have sparked calls for repentance and resignation for what many say is an unbiblical view of authority, womanhood, and sexuality.
Dr. Karen Swallow Prior is one of thousands of Christian women calling for Dr. Paige Patterson’s resignation from his position as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She says this incident is important, but not isolated.
“To me, this isn’t just about one man; I hate even singling him out – though he does need to be called to account. There’s a whole system and power structure that’s in play that has supported and propped him up and allowed this to go on for years. There are other leaders, men and women themselves, who have allowed and encouraged this and it’s a whole culture that needs to change.”
The whole world is caught up in false views of both men and women, and the church is not immune to these errors. Dr. Prior says it is our job to align our views with the heart of God.
“We don’t teach well how to both respect our differences as male and female, and also respect the common humanity, the common image of God that we each bear. We want to do one or the other: ignore the differences, or emphasize them so much that we can’t even treat each other as brothers and sisters in Christ who are equal in worth.”
“This is why we are a body. Every age, every generation has its own moral blind spot, whether it’s sexism or racism or slavery or abortion. We are products of our culture and it’s hard to see our own cultural and generational sin.”
“That’s why we are to listen to one another and take the sound wisdom of scripture and apply it to ourselves, especially when it’s pointed out to us from within the body…lovingly correcting one another and receiving correction.”
Dr. Patterson has since issued a formal apology, reading (in part):
“I wish to apologize to every woman who has been wounded by anything I have said that was inappropriate or that lacked clarity. We live in a world of hurt and sorrow, and the last thing that I need to do is add to anyone’s heartache. Please forgive the failure to be as thoughtful and careful in my extemporaneous expression as I should have been.”
He has also called for a special meeting of the seminary’s trustees later this month. Meanwhile, this case provides us all with the opportunity to take an honest look at how we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ. Are we truly reflecting the depth of Christ’s love for her? Are we sincerely respecting the way that he or she is uniquely created to show God’s glory? And are we humble enough to admit when we’ve fallen short in this area, and correct our own thoughts and actions?
“So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” Luke 17:3-4
Dr. Karen Swallow Prior is professor of English at Liberty University. She is an author and contributing writer at Christianity Today, The Atlantic, and Think Christian, and has been published in numerous other print and online magazines and scholarly journals. Prior also serves as a research fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, on the Faith Advisory Council of the Humane Society of the United States, and on the Board of Trustees of Faith and Action in Washington D.C.Abuse, Accountability, and the Church- Karen Swallow Prior