Southern Baptist beliefs about sex and gender provide context for spa suspect’s ‘motive’

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Even before a member of a Southern Baptist church was accused of Georgia Spa MassacreMotivated, he told police, by guilt of “sex addiction,” the Southern Baptist Convention was under scrutiny for its teachings on gender and sexuality.

Just two weeks ago, a prominent professor of the Evangelical Bible Beth moore announced that she had quit the Southern Baptists, mainly because of what she described as denominational leaders misogyny as evidenced by their support for Donald Trump.

And then came the March 16 attack which left eight people dead, including six Asian women. The suspect’s church has since expelled Robert Aaron Long, the 21-year-old man indicted in the murders, and condemned the actions following a “sinful heart. “

No one is suggesting that the denomination was responsible for what happened.

But as gender and religion specialist and someone who grew up in the Southern Baptist, I realize that holding girls and women accountable for men’s sexual urges is not uncommon in a denomination that expects women to submit to men. This expectation of submission was a theme that came up several times in interviews I conducted with 159 Southern Baptist women, current and former for my book “God Speaks to Us, Too: Southern Baptist Women on Church, Home, and Society”.

Common beliefs, not beliefs

Southern Baptists, the largest branch of evangelism in the United States, are not believers. This means that Southern Baptists do not have a requisite dogma, although the denomination’s confessional statement, “The Baptist Faith and Message, states common beliefs. So not all Southern Baptists believe in the same things.

But since the 1990s, fundamentalists who adhere to a strict set of beliefs to have controlled the denomination. Their approach to interpreting the Bible and their gender beliefs predominate in Southern Baptist churches. They are taught in Southern Baptist seminaries, practiced in hiring missionaries and agency workers, and reflected in educational materials for churches.

Belief in Biblical literalism – a method of interpreting the Bible based on the belief that the text is literally true. Biblical literalists believe, for example, that God created the universe in six days, that a worldwide flood destroyed everything but Noah’s family and the pairs of animals on the ark, and that the Red Sea s’ is separated so that the Israelites can cross on dry ground.

Literalism goes hand in hand with inerrancy – the belief that the Bible is without error, not only in doctrine but also in history and science.

This method of interpreting the Bible play an important role in the way Southern Baptists come to many of their gender beliefs.

The fall of Eve

Many Southern Baptists believe that the story of Adam and Eve in the Bible literally unfolded as described. That is, God created a man and a woman, put them in the Garden of Eden, and forbade them to eat the fruit of one tree.

Because Eve was the first of humans to fall from the grace of God by eating the forbidden fruit, she became subject to man. And this subjugation fell on all women, according to the Southern Baptist teaching.

Further, some Baptists maintain that the hierarchy of the sexes was God’s original intention.

This interpretation of Eve as “the first in the Edenic fall” was cited by the Southern Baptists in a 1984 resolution calling for the exclusion of women from ordained ministry.

This corresponds to the Southern Baptist principle of complementarism who maintains that although God created men and women to be equal, they fulfill separate but complementary roles: that men are to be leaders in the home, church, and society, and women are to be submissive helpers, mainly responsible for looking after the house and raising the children.

In this way, women are expected to submit to men at home and at church. Southern Baptist leaders cite the writings of the Apostle Paul in the Bible (Ephesians 5:22) as proof of God’s expectation of the submission of women: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. .

This conception of submission also means that women should not lead men or teach men in the church, hence the decision to prevent women from being ordained.

Sexuality and Gender Identity

The denomination’s teachings on sexuality are also rooted in traditional beliefs about women and men.

Humans were, according to the Southern Baptists, created heterosexual, and sexual activity is only acceptable between a man and a woman in a heterosexual marriage for life. While 54% of Christians support the acceptance of homosexuality, only 30% of southern Baptists believe that homosexuality must be accepted. In 1992, the Southern Baptist Convention changed its constitution exclude churches that implied acceptance of homosexuality.

The suspect in the spa murders attended the First Crabtree Baptist Church in Milton, Georgia.
Chris Aluka Berry for The Washington Post via Getty Images

The executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention recently overthrown two churches that welcome LGBTQ people into membership.

Most evangelicals believe that God created mankind as male and female only. According to the denomination, only these two biological sexes exist and the gender aligns with the sex.

In 2014, the Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution asserting that “the good design of God” is “that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by self-perception”.

These views on sexual activity and gender roles are reflected in the culture of purity which influences many Southern Baptists. The culture of purity focuses on abstinence outside of traditional heterosexual marriage and the dangers of girls’ and women’s sexuality. In particular, the culture of purity teaches that girls and women are responsible for the sexuality of boys and men and that they can cause boys and men to sin by expressing their own sexuality.

These teachings are supported by an entire industry of Purity Rings, Purity Balls, Purity Curriculum, and Purity Music. The culture of purity rarely talks about sexual violence or consent due to the assumption that controlling men’s sex drives is responsibility of women, and thus, while women will be completely asexual, men will not be overwhelmed by their sexual urges.

Taken together, these beliefs create a context in which men exercise authority and control. Women are expected to submit to men and limit men’s sexual urges and behaviors through their pure lifestyle. Women are seen as important but secondary, equal in value but submissive in reality.

None of this can excuse or explain the actions of the suspect who shot in Georgia. But the Southern Baptist beliefs about sex and gender give context to the suspect’s apparent belief that his sexual urges were bad and that the women he believed he encouraged were in some way responsible.

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