The Southern Baptist Convention's Gospel of Rape and Redemption.

Author:Hutchinson, Sikivu
Position:UP FRONT
 
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"Wont people get mad if mama we criticize religion in our presentation?" my student asked. She was referring to the prevalence of sexual abuse allegations against religious leaders and my recommendation that we talk about them in our Women's Leadership Project trainings at her high school. When it comes to reckoning with sexual violence in the #MeToo era, the veil of silence around the faith community remains a toxic deterrent that destroys lives. In February the Houston Chronicle reported on decades of abuse in Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches in a three-part series (the SBC is the largest Baptist denomination in the country). The report was an important first step toward holding the evangelical Christian community accountable for the same kind of institutionalized sexual abuse that has rocked the Catholic Church.

The unseen, everyday atrocity of sexual violence is amplified in the insular culture of American evangelical churches. For this reason, it's important to reiterate what invisible Christian privilege and supremacy look like.

All Christian religious institutions enjoy tax-exempt status in the United States, granting them fundraising clout and political influence held tenuously in check by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and by the Johnson Amendment to the US Tax Code. These institutions are bolstered by a hyper-religious culture where it's still considered dangerous for a politician (especially one of color) in national office to identify as an atheist. They are automatically granted the presumption of innocence in matters of morality relative to atheists and humanists. Despite the Bible's endorsement of rape, murder, misogyny, and other acts of violence, Christian religious institutions are routinely allowed to explain away duplicitous acts by their leaders as not representative of "true" christlike principles. They benefit from a culture where virtually anyone can throw up a shingle or set up on a sidewalk, deem themselves a Christian house of worship, and enjoy some measure of social respectability. They are given the unquestioned license to act as arbiters policing the bodies, sexuality, and reproductive rights of women and girls. And they wield outsized influence in school curricula and school policy, meddling in science, health education, US history, and the treatment of LGBTQ+ students across the nation through coordinated policy campaigns like "Project Blitz." Thus, although the United States was...

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