Why Do Pastors Preach One Sided Sexist Sermons?

I was raised Christian. I grew up attending church and attending night vigils. Some of my earliest memories involve reciting memory verses and learning during Sunday School.

My education outside the church was also a bit Christian. My first secondary school was a religious school and my university was a Christian Adventist school.

Now, while at university, there are some memories of my church attendance that have refused to leave my mind’s memory. For one, even though my university had compulsory Adventist church attendance, I actually went to another church outside school in addition to the one I was required by school to attend.

I remember coming into my understanding as a seventeen year old feminist when I was attending the outside school church. I remember a sermon where the pastor’s wife actually told boys and everyone to “tell the young lady next to you to keep her dignity”. 

The dignity here being virginity and the boys did this with the utmost glee. This was the same church where the pastor never passed up an opportunity to say that his wife was a virgin. 

It was the same church where the pastor blamed rape victims who used to club. It was the same church where cooking was framed as something women had to do in order to be seen as “wife material”.

But by Nigerian Christian standards, that church is not unusual in its preachings towards women. 

In every church I have been in for prolonged periods of time, it seems to be that almost all the preaching on what constitutes good behaviour and how to be a better spouse are one sided and directed at women.

If women are not been told to be virgins by pastors who in another breath are regaling the audience with their sexcapades from university, women are being told that we must keep pregnancies from rape because “God hates abortion”. On a personal level, I don’t even believe that sexual purity should be taught to men to “balance the equation”, for the simple reason that I believe teaching people that their bodies belong to other people is a breeding ground for entitlement and rape culture.

However, it still has to be adequately documented and questioned that preachings on what stands as good is only directed towards women. Why is it that there’s so much effort put into ensuring that women and girls are good cooks and all for a man? Then we wonder why these boys who sat in the same congregation grow to become men who kill women for not boiling rice for them?

Why do we hardly have female pastors do the same thing male pastors do which is constantly reminding everyone that God blessed them with a “sexually pure” husband as a reward for repenting from being sexually active in university? Even writing this now, I can imagine how outrageous that would be.

Furthermore, why do churches continually preach against women divorcing but do not preach to men on how to be better husbands and fathers? Is it because the people preaching this know that at the core, women’s silence and servitude to men is what ensures that the average marriage continues?

When would we have female preachers in Nigeria who would reach into Scripture, reinterprete and encourage women to be bold and courageous using even the lives of often shamed Biblical women. When would women’s preachings extend beyond being wives and mothers?

To better understand the far reaching effects of one sided sexist sermons, I spoke to two women.

For Wunmi, a feminist, it is as simple as understanding that it happens because “religion is a major upholder of patriarchy”.

In her words: “Well, I feel it’s another way of subduing women and upholding the patriarchy. Religion is like a major upholder of patriarchy and that’s why there are more women centered programs than men’s. Why churches focus on telling women how to perform, to be the perfect Prov 31 women. Lol.

IMO, I feel these people know just how much women can do but hatred and bad belle no go gree.”

She went on to say: “The church I attended for the most part of my life does this thing a lot. Organize women program and be yarning okoto. They’d pick a random Sunday and call it family Sunday or an “interactive Sunday” and it’s the pastors and pastors’ wives focusing on women and what they should do to be chosen or to be the ‘perfect wife’. I remember a particular Sunday when the pastor’s wife said something along the lines of “if your husband makes a mistake by impregnating another woman, you don’t leave him. You take that child as your own”. I guffawed so loud. I was surprised they didn’t hear. I think that was the day I clocked out from there because it became a regular occurrence. Having these sessions and saying the same things but with different flavors. 

Mind you, there are barely programs for men and it’s often on leadership qualities but not on how to be good people and good husbands and fathers to their wives and children because a lot of them are very bad and wicked family men who are just very superficial.

It’s why there are always single sisters meetings, married women gatherings more than anything for men.”

Speaking with Oreoluwa, a law student and feminist, she says she stopped going to church because of the misogyny she witnessed.

To quote her: “I don’t go to church anymore and one of the reasons was misogyny. The Christian community believes women are to submit to their husbands yet they do the leadership work.

Pastors will pontificate ways a wife should have reacted to her husband’s excesses before they think to talk to the husband. And there’s this laxity and non condescending way they use to address men’s excesses that is not present in women’s talk.”

The reality is that the church is a reflection of society. The reality is also that the state of women in the church has the power to affect how even non-religious women are viewed and treated.

It is therefore of utmost importance that we speak on the misogyny in the church and ensure that in and out of religious spaces, women’s rights are fully protected and respected.

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