Slut-Shaming Unmarried Pregnant Baptist Women

sexual sin

It is commonly believed by most Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church members that unmarried members are virgins and that they do not masturbate or have lustful thoughts. Listening to preaching multiple times a week, daily reading the Bible and praying — along with cold showers — are sure antidotes for sexual sin. When the preacher’s daughter someday marries the deacon’s son, everyone will think that both of them are pure as the driven snow, with thoughts of only serving Jesus. This is the myth that is promoted in Baptist sermons, books, and on websites. It has no basis in reality, but people sure do believe it. After all, if getting saved turns sinners into new creations and gives them a desire to love and follow Jesus, why, any thought of hormone-raging Fundamentalist young adults engaging in any sort of promiscuity is preposterous. As is often the case, reality paints a far different picture.

In recent years, a plethora of Fundamentalist ministries have begun ministering to those with addiction problems. Based on the number of ministries geared towards helping Christians addicted to porn, one can easily conclude that Evangelicalism has a huge porn problem — easily the size of John Holmes, AKA Johnny Wadd. If Jesus is the cure, the solution, and the answer for what ails the human race, why are there so many Christians committing what Evangelicals consider sexual sins? Why are there so many IFB preachers and church leaders who can’t keep their pants zipped up or have Google search histories that would make Hugh Hefner blush? Why are the biggest hypocrites on Sunday the men standing behind the pulpits of Evangelical and Baptist churches?

No matter how many moral scandals rock Evangelicalism and the IFB church movement, their pastors, church leaders, Sunday school teachers, evangelists, bloggers, and culture warriors continue to present Christianity as some sort of superior way of living. Never mind studies and anecdotal stories that suggest otherwise, these purveyors of Evangelical truth continue to say that Jesus is the only way to keep unmarried young adults from committing fornication. Just say YES to Jesus and NO to physically and emotionally satisfying romps in the hay.

fornicationSo what happens when church teenagers and young adults ignore the moral standard or, in a moment of understandable passion, give way to sexual desire and fulfillment? Most of the time, as long as the keepers of the chastity belts do not find out, these fornicators and pleasurers will continue to engage in behaviors that — according to their parents, churches, and pastors — will land them in hell. As one aged preacher tried to impress on us young preachers: a stiff prick has no conscience. Once aroused, sexual desire usually wins the battle. On those Sundays when pastors rage against immorality, frothing at the mouth and pounding the pulpit as they wage war against normal, healthy sexual behavior, those who have given into their desires will be drowned in seas of guilt, shame, and fear. Sometimes these fornicators will make their way down to the front of the church, and kneeling at an old-fashioned altar, they will promise God that they will never, ever spank the monkey or engage in any behavior remotely considered sexual. If need be, they will pluck out their eyes. Yet, come Saturday night they will be tempted to break their vow. While some will hold out, most will engage in the very “sins” they confessed the week before. Why? Not because they are in any way morally inferior or weak. Much like drinking and eating, desiring sexual fulfillment is every bit a part of what makes us human. It is these preachers of abnormality who are the problem. Instead of teaching sexually aware young adults how to handle their sexuality and how to engage in thoughtful, satisfying sex, these deniers of human nature do everything possible to shame and guilt people into obedience.

Since no one in Evangelical churches is committing fornication and everyone is waiting to have sex until they are married, there is really no need for church young adults to be taught about birth control. As a result, it is not uncommon for church girls to get pregnant or for young adults to come down with sexually-transmitted diseases. How do pastors and churches respond when such things occur? Often, not very well.

I want to conclude this post with several stories that I think will illustrate how some Evangelical churches handle sexual indiscretions.

One of the teenage girls in the first church I worked in became pregnant. Here is how the pastor handled it. He told the girl that she must immediately marry the father. She was also told that because she was no longer a virgin she forfeited her right to a church wedding. Only her family would be permitted to attend the wedding. No announcement would be made to the church about it. And if these prohibitions were not bad enough, the pastor informed the pregnant teen that she would not be permitted to wear a white dress. She had sullied the name of Jesus and as a result she would be required to wear an off-white dress. Much like wearing a red A, it would be clear to everyone that this girl had violated the holiness of God. Marked forever as one who could not wait, she would carry shame the rest of her adult life. Perhaps, in time, her fellow church members would forget her scandalous behavior, but, for now, she had to bear the weight of her indiscretion. The severity of the punishment was meant to be a deterrent. Church girls, seeing how severely _______ was punished would think twice before letting some boy have his way with them.

One church I know of required exposed fornicators and pregnant unmarrieds to stand before the church and confess their sins. I remember one young woman weeping uncontrollably as she admitted having the sex that led to her pregnancy. Sadly, this kind of slut shaming still goes on today. Described as church discipline, it is really an attempt — through fear, shame, and guilt — to make sure that any other prospective fornicators toe the line. Who wants to stand before the church and have her — it is almost always teen girls and young women — secrets exposed for all to see?

As many former pregnant out-of-wedlock Evangelical women will attest, some churches subscribe to the out of sight, out of mind way of handling fornication. Unmarried young women who find fornicationthemselves in the family way are often shipped off to Christian boarding schools or homes for unwed mothers. Since their pregnancies are viewed as acts of rebellion against God, the Bible, and Evangelical morality, it is hoped that intensive authoritarian indoctrination and control will force slutty Baptist women to see the error of their way and recommit to following the Evangelical moral code. While they can never regain their virginity — unlike salvation, once virginity is lost it can never be regained — these fornicators can have their sexual indiscretions washed in the blood of Jesus. Once washed in his blood, their lives will once again be pure.

While I may have been a card-carrying Evangelical and a subscriber to narrow moral strictures, I never heaped shame, guilt, or fear upon the heads of those who failed to measure up. Part of the reason was that I knew about the moral failings of more than a few Evangelical preachers. I also knew that I was not without sin. I readily admit that my preaching — at times — was quite hypocritical. As with many Evangelical preachers, I sometimes used the pulpit as a way to confess my sins and atone for them. What better way to assuage one’s guilt and shame over a perceived moral failure than to admit before the church — in a generic, nonspecific way — that I understood their moral struggles and failures. More than a few church members were upset by my honesty concerning lust. These faux pillars of moral virtue wanted a preacher who could be inches away from a hot naked woman and not be tempted to touch. They wanted a man who was above the fray, a man so holy and righteous that having a front row seat for a wet T-shirt contest would not cause arousal or heightened sexual desire. After admitting that I knew what it was like to lust after a woman, the super saints moved on to other churches, oblivious to the fact that their new pastors were no different from me. Now I am in no way suggesting that I cheated on my wife. I didn’t. But I am saying that I always understood what it was to be a normal, healthy heterosexual man. One time, my child-molesting Evangelical grandfather publicly objected to a sermon I preached on the sin of mixed bathing. He told me that he could go down to the beach and look at women wearing bikinis and never have a lustful thought. I looked at him and told him that I did not believe him and that perhaps he needed to be examined by a doctor. I do not believe for a moment that a man — in particular an Evangelical man — can watch a Sports Illustrated swimsuit photo shoot and not have sexual thoughts. Thinking otherwise is a denial of human nature and abnormal. I knew then, as I do now, that it is normal and healthy to have sexual thoughts, and that having these thoughts does not make someone a bad person.

As an Evangelical pastor I frequently dealt with members who had some sort of moral failing. While I certainly held to the Evangelical interpretation of the Bible’s moral teachings, I understood that no one was perfect. People are going to make mistakes — including having sex before marriage and getting pregnant. When one of the unmarried women of the church found herself pregnant, I did not berate or heap shame upon her head (though I am sure my preaching likely had this effect). Once the deed is done, there is no way to undo it. The only question that mattered was now what? Instead of publicly shaming unmarried women — again, men are almost always given a free pass — I did what I could to help them make the most of a bad situation. What possible good could ever come out of publicly humiliating someone because of some sort of moral failure? Surely it is better to help them pick up the pieces and move on with their lives.

Of course, I now understand that the real solution is to distance oneself from religious moralizing and puritanical sexual beliefs. These Bible thumping liars help no one. Guilt, shame, and fear only lead to more of the same. The solution is to get away from those whose goal in life is to destroy human nature and self-worth. The 1960s birthed a sexual revolution that continues to this day. There is no going back, and the sooner Evangelical churches and pastors understand this the better.

Having lost the battle against heterosexual immorality, Evangelicals are now focused on LGBTQ people and their “sins” against God. Preaching with all their might about those evil queers, Sodomites, and reprobates, these keepers of moral purity fail to see that they are driving scores of millennials and thoughtful older people away from their churches. To these preachers of puritanical morality I say, keep up the good work.

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12 Comments

  1. archaeopteryx

    We men were born with two heads – but unfortunately, with not enough blood to operate both at the same time.

    Reply
    1. Brian

      I remember being in grade 8, (the last grade of public school in Canada) and having to sit through Miss Ellingham’s history lesson with an unannounced visitor hard-on rammed down my thigh and thumping almost painfully. I have forgotten everything from that history lesson; in fact, it might have been some kind of mathematics or English maybe. I have no idea…. Hard ON below…. Lights out upstairs.

      Reply
  2. J.D. Matthews

    If you can control the most basic urge of somebody, you can control them entirely.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Theology-related quote for the day | Civil Commotion

  4. Mary Ellen

    I often wonder how the sign wavers and insult screamers who haunt Gay Pride events expect anyone to darken the doors of their churches, after all the verbal abuse they shovel over their barricades at people…when I see them, what comes to mind is men like Schaap, and all the other kinds of abuse they are hiding…certainly doesn’t make me want to be one of them or have anything at all to do with them.

    Reply
  5. Charles

    Of course, I have no statistics to offer, but I am the kind of person you can tell anything to—such as “my penis only got half erect last night”—and I fully accept such communication from other people because such things are just a regular part of life. In other words, because I am so affable, people talk to me about things—not by the thousands—but they do talk. Unmarried Southern Baptist women (young and old) have no compunction at all about telling me their current sexual status with their boyfriends. A whole lot of unmarried Baptist banging is going on out there across the American South. A whole lot of teenage Baptist banging is going on across the American South. Sweet Melissa is often anything else but sweet Melissa. The ones that do discuss it with me always have a moral theory they are operating on that is quite different from what their preachers, churches, and doctrines tell them. It usually has something to do with bear-assed Jews who lived 4,000 years ago, and how the anti-fornication requirements of ancient Bible times do not apply now because we are living in a 21st century American culture that is radically different from ancient Jewish culture. The upshot summary is always that the ancient Jews had unique, difficult problems that could only be solved in their cultural time and place by laws against fornication. Our American culture today really does not have those same problems—not really—so banging unmarried is okay as long as you love and are committed to the person you bang. They can bring up two other points in support of their position as well:

    1) Brides were property and owned workhorses in ancient times (like slaves and farm animals), and a lot of the fornication ordinances were about “banging unmarried” creating difficult-to-solve legal problems with male property rights—problems that could end in fighting, personal bankruptcy, and death.

    2) Ancient Judea was and still is an arid environment—meaning the land has a naturally low carrying capacity. Out-of-wedlock children were not only a legal and property rights problem, too many of them popping out of uncontrolled vaginas could make the population quickly reach a tipping point where the arid land could no longer provide sufficient food and water to keep the population alive. So throw black hajibs on them women, create fornication laws, demean women to effect better control over them, and lock those vaginas down tight because our very lives may depend on it!!!

    I learned a lot from my 80-year-old Southern Baptist mother-in-law (God rest her soul), who was married to a church deacon and was one of the most faithful persons I have ever known. One of the things she taught me is that head Southern Baptist preachers are unrealistic and full of shit about a lot of things they preach—and that a really good Southern Baptist learns how to tune out and turn off the dissonance flooding the pews on Sunday morning—and just ignore part of what the preacher is saying.

    I got news for most of you Baptist preachers out there. Just look out from the pulpit next Sunday morning, cast your eyes across the congregation members, and know this. Certain things that you preach are considered to be ancient bullshit by more than just a few of your congregation members—and they tune you out on purpose—not because their soul is heavy with the pressing weight of sin and their soul that can no longer bear to hear the word of God—but because they just feel like you and what you have to say are totally messed up—and many of you really are totally messed up—just sayin.

    I am not arguing fornication one way or the other here myself—just stating a few things I believe are facts in the minds of many church people who bang their boyfriend and girlfriend out of wedlock. And why is it called “wedlock”? Notice how it is made to sound like a prison cell.

    Reply
  6. Charles

    Hey Bruce. I know you are not a DJ at a radio station—and maybe you do not play personal requests—but in your role as a former fundie pastor—I would like to kindly request that you write a main post on the recent passage of the Trumpcare Act in the U.S. House of Representatives.

    While such legislation still must pass the U.S. Senate and be signed by that “thing” in the White House, many people out here on the American landscape (both Christians and nonChristians) are marveling (not to mention angry) that a political party could take away the health insurance of 26,000,000 Americans and expose another 78 million Americans with pre-existing conditions to impossible, bankrupting healthcare costs they cannot afford. EVEN MORE SO THAN THIS, they do not understand why Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals are supporting the politicians who are doing this. To those of us who did not grow up in fundie churches, we do not understand how such cold-hearted disregard for our fellow human beings and the words of Jesus about caring for and loving others can be so easily flushed down the toilet like a brown piece of TP. Can you please peel back the layers of the fundie onion and mindset in a main post and therein explain how your former fundie cohorts and their political friends can be so callous and guilt free about it? Thanks!!!

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I shall do so soon. I want to do some writing about the American Health Care Act, but honestly I’ve been so upset about the matter that I can’t see straight.

      Reply
      1. Becky Wiren

        I think it’s the fact that SO MANY GOP reps had no issues whatsoever with throwing millions off healthcare. And then to throw a kegger? If the Dems can’t use these optics to run many of these reps out of office, they are totally useless. (And I’m a Democrat.)

        Reply
      2. Charles

        Thanks Bruce. When you do, I will link it to my blog so my readers can look at it too, and I will also link it to the John Pavlovitz blog where many thousands of his readers will see it and read it.

        I know about your own healthcare situation that you often write about here at your blog. Yours truly lost his job in 2014 at age 61. I am an Environmental Scientist, Professional Archaeologist, Technical Editor, and Science Writer, who had a long career in those fields—mostly working on federal projects. The powers that be hate us now, and my kind of work is poorly funded—so new job openings pretty much open up only when someone dies, has a baby, or moves to another part of the country. I looked for a job across three years, and had only one interview for a real job. They did not want me because my Microsoft Word skills were less than those of a professional secretary with 30-40 years of highly complex Word experience. It turned out in the interview that they wanted a Glorified Secretary more than a Technical Editor with real scientific experience. So, here I sit with no work after a little over three years. Moving away is a bit out of the question because our son goes to the local high school and wants to graduate with his friends.

        They say when it rains it pours. About 7 months after I lost my job some painful and serious health problems were diagnosed—in addition to the others I already had. I walk with a cane now and have limited mobility—fall easily and cannot stand for more than a few minutes without extreme pain and blood buildup in my lower legs, which predisposes me to low blood pressure and fainting.

        I signed myself, my wife, and two kids up for Obamacare, and they took us. My health insurance at work cost my employer and me a lot for monthly premiums. I guess the total was about $2,000+ per month in 2014 because my part alone was more than $600 per month. However, our later Obamacare insurance was great and very economical. My monthly premiums started out at around $400 per month for our entire family the first year and eventually fell down to only $109 per month this year. We were on the Humana Silver plan. The only drawbacks were the high deductibles and a few M.D. specialists who refused to take our insurance—said it paid doctors so little that they would go out of business if large numbers of Obamacare patients were treated in their offices. However, as an overall matter, my Obamacare insurance was working well, paid my high prescription drug costs almost entirely, and I must say that we were very satisfied Obamacare customers—very satisfied.

        Sorry to say, Humana is the last Obamacare provider left in Tennessee, and they are voluntarily pulling out of Tennessee at the end of this year. So, Trumpcare or not, Obamacare will be gone from Tennessee on December 31. Tennessee is a super red state where our state legislature refused to expand Medicaid for poor Tennesseans as part of Obamacare. Most of these legislative bastards and Bastardettes claim to be evangelical Christians doing their part for Jesus—but the bills they introduce are often just plain nutty—the kinds of things you, I, and Jesus would kick them in the butt for doing and hang a “stupid” sign on their backs. I am just making this one up, but it is stuff like a bill to require zoo monkeys to use condoms—but only on Tuesdays.

        Fortunately, for me at least, I will be 65 this year and sign up for Medicare in September. That is good because I am the oldest and least healthy person in our house. My spouse is healthy, and our two children are young—ages 23 and 15. The kids will probably not need any insurance for a while.

        On another blog, one of the fundie conservatives who hates me jumped all over me for not having a job and accused me of being a lazy welfare freeloader who is putting my family in jeopardy by not having a job. His final retort was: “Get a job!!!” He reminds me of a young, Christian, conservative Libertarian man I met on-line. His perspective went something like this:

        “Here is how I feel about it. If a man has a severe stroke, remains alive, and is paralyzed all over his body except for some very minor nerve endings that twitch in his right thumb and index finger, he BY GOD had better be using that twitch to earn a living because I am not going to subsidize his sorry ass with my taxes.”

        Trouble is, I have probably paid in more money in taxes over my lifetime than these guys have ever made at their jobs—plus all the Medicare and Social Security deductions from all my past paychecks. So far, over the past 3 years, I have taken far less than I have paid in, so I feel little guilt—and given my mobility problems, peripheral neuropathy, and the poor circulation in my lower legs that may eventually result in amputations, I can no longer do a job that requires standing all day or doing fieldwork on sloped or uneven ground because I fall easily. So, if I ever do get another job, it will have to be some sort of sit-down job in an office. That is if they will hire an old buzzard like me.

        Well Bruce. That is my healthcare and Obamacare story. All I can say is this—and I would bet my last dime on it because…well…I am a smart person like you. The 26,000,000+ people who are on Obamacare now are looking at out-of-pocket monthly premiums of at least $2,000 per month under Trumpcare, and the so-called tax adjustment will probably save them only $60 per month or a similarly small figure. Red states will reinstitute pre-existing conditions limitations and allow insurers to charge enormous sums for pre-existing conditions, and monthly premiums will continue to skyrocket.

        The thing the American people do not seem to understand—because their boss pays for their insurance at work—is that monthly premiums for health insurance have been skyrocketing for decades. Private insurance holders claim Obamacare raised their monthly premiums—and maybe so—but they are too foolish to understand that those premiums were going to rise regardless. Many are so foolish now that they think Trumpcare will stop the premium increases from skyrocketing. No siree!!! The doctors, hospital corporations, health insurance companies, and especially the pharmaceutical companies are out to make a killing. They have waited for decades for the Baby Boomer generation to get old and sick—the largest generation of old people in American history—a veritable gold mine ripe to tap—and now that tapping time has come. They have been licking their chops for decades to raid sick Baby Boomer wallets. There is no way Trumpcare is going to bring down monthly premiums. They are going to increase every year, continue to skyrocket, and eventually fly all the way to the Andromeda galaxy. Trumpcare is going to be a total disaster for the American people—and especially for those who Jesus called “the least of these.” I thought the day would never come, but Bruce, I think you and I are countable among “the least of these” right now.

        I know you and I come at issues like this from different directions—me from the progressive Christian perspective—and you from the Humanistic perspective. But seriously, what the Hell difference does it make when people are suffering and in need these days. We all just want to help our neighbors, alleviate suffering, and make our country a safer and saner place to live—and under the Trump regime—sane is a cliff to climb.

        I have one final thing to say. I have a friend in the healthcare industry who at one time worked with these issues in detail. One day when I was concerned about it all, he puled me aside and said:

        “Look. I know all about these healthcare issues and what is going on behind closed doors in conference rooms. Secretly, the medical doctors, hospital corporations, health insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies are all quietly and openly admitting to each other that the only answer to the American healthcare puzzle that will ever truly work is socialized medicine—a U.S. Government, single-payer health system like Medicare for every American. They are all secretly resigned to the inevitability of it. What they are secretly telling the politicians is ‘Please find ways to buy us a just a little more time—only a few more years—so we can make as much money as possible off the American people and build up our cash reserves—and then we are all in on a U.S. Government single-payer health system.”

        Translation: We have waited for this Baby Boomer pot of gold at the end of our healthcare rainbow for decades. Please do not take it away from us now at its most exquisite and profitable moment.

        Reply
        1. Geoff

          Charles, I think I’ve learned more about American healthcare from just this one post than from everything else I’ve read. Being in the UK it’s easy to take our ‘free’ healthcare for granted. I say it’s free but of course it is costing us all a great in taxes, and it’s also steadily crumbling under the pressure of expectation put upon it. We have it taken for granted that pretty well any ailment will be treated, regardless of cost. At some point we will have to put limits on what is available, and probably require contributions from recipients.

          I still find it astounding that the US does not have a single payer system, and I am puzzled by the mentality that resists it. It’s all very well your conservative critics telling you to get a job, and celebrating their own good health, but there are no guarantees in that respect. Suppose they have an accident, or take seriously ill unexpectedly? It’s all very well that some have health insurance, but many genuine people clearly don’t. Healthcare is a basic right that should be available on the basis of need, regardless of ability to pay, or employment.

          Reply
  7. Brian

    Putting money into healthcare does not mesh with American freedom, the freedom to exploit and harm those ‘have-nots’ who threaten to reduce profits. It is easy to take the comment about socialized medicine and apply it to education as well!
    If I was Trump of the world, I would put the soldiers to work building hospitals and schools as they learn useful, healing trades and give up killing for a living.
    Give me a country with free healthcare and education and then watch me fight to the death to preserve it. Just have a look at Canadians who crush any politician who suggests we move closer to an American private healthcare system. Never! even with big brother USA right next door and trying like hell to feed on us for profit.
    Healthcare and education are both rights that should be freely available. This is possible, just not good American business so the profit pigs prevent it.

    Reply

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