Southern Baptists, gender hierarchy and the road to Trump

Marie GriffithMarie Griffith, the John C. Danforth Distinguished Professor in the Humanities and director of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics


It is no exaggeration to say that one of the most consequential political events of the 20th century was the conservative/fundamentalist resurgence/takeover in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Whether you think it was a good thing (in which case it was a conservative resurgence) or a bad thing (thence a fundamentalist takeover), time is showing its broader import and influence to be vast, including the misogyny now increasingly exposed by the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements and the sway of its political influence up through the highest levels of the federal government.

That the leaders of a tradition long known for touting its tolerance of independent thought within the wide bounds of the Bible became so thoroughly intolerant, not only of difference of opinion but of mere questioning and debate, has been a painful pill for many cradle Baptists to swallow. Untold numbers of people in the pews who have been perturbed by the machinations of denominational leaders and dismayed by the church’s patriarchal entrenchment have left the church for more democratic, egalitarian climes, even as many of those remaining have apparently grown comfortable with its top-down dogmatism.

As one Baptist, removed as a trustee from the International Mission Board in 2006 for trying to prevent other trustees from removing some women from leadership there, put it recently: “Southern Baptist pastors are infatuated with and captivated by authoritarianism.”

Read the full piece in Religion & Politics.

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