There are men who preach that women are made by God to be subordinate to men in all matters – home or church, work or play. Some of these men run seminaries where they teach other men the same, and any women who might be allowed to attend the seminary are taught likewise. This is how Paige Patterson runs the Southern Baptist Convention’s seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
A Seminary President’s Subjugation of Woman and Elevation of Men
According to a Washington Post article by Sarah Pulliam Bailey (a widely respected Christian journalist on religion and society), Mr. Patterson repeatedly looks upon women as mere supports for men and at times appears to elevate their looks over their abilities.
In 2014, Patterson used a story in one of his sermons about an interaction he witnessed. In the story, a 16-year-old girl walked by and, Patterson said, “she was nice.” One young man commented, “Man, is she built.” A woman nearby slapped her hand over the young man’s mouth and scolded him. Patterson said he responded to the woman, “Ma’am, leave him alone. He’s just being biblical.” The audience laughed. (Southern Baptist leader who advised abused women not to divorce doubles down, says he has nothing to apologize for, Washington Post, May 4, 2018.)
In looking at that scenario it’s clear the one upholding God’s ways was the woman, not Mr. Patterson or the young man. The underage girl objectified for her looks is a victim of misogyny. So is the older woman.
That Mr. Patterson considers himself the arbiter of what is biblical and yet gets it completely backwards reveals much about his warped priorities. This next scenario is even more telling.
And in 2010, Patterson called out female seminary students for not doing enough to make themselves pretty, saying, “It shouldn’t be any wonder why some of you don’t get a second look.” (Id.)
Is Mr. Patterson a matchmaker, charged with making sure the women who attend his seminary can find a man and who is therefore free to criticize women for not being attractive by his standards? Apparently this is an avowed purpose of the seminary as it tells women they are welcome to achieve a degree in homemaking, also known as “Family and Consumer Sciences.” (SWBTS Women’s Programs.)
When Mr. Patterson shows so much concern for a woman’s looks and chastises an older woman for not allowing a young man to express out loud his appreciation for an underage teenager’s body, he is setting himself up as the arbiter of how women are valued in view of their relation to men.
He reminds me of a harem master.
Seminarian Harem Building
In ancient Persia, Queen Vashti came under King Xerxes’ ire when she refused to give in to his drunken desires. He banished her and started looking for a younger and more compliant version to act as his consort, holding auditions by ordering all the attractive virgins to be brought to his palace to have sex with him until he found the one who met his approval.
A young Israelite named Esther was among the young women subjected to the king’s scrutiny.
Esther also was taken to the king’s palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem. She pleased him and won his favor. Immediately he provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven female attendants selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her attendants into the best place in the harem. (Esther 2:8-9.)
Esther had her turn with King Xerxes, was chosen to be his next wife, and eventually acted to save her people from annihilation. This last part is a good thing. But Hegai’s role should not be taken as God’s approval for what he did, nor the king’s establishment of a harem in the first place as a model for God’s people to follow.
God used them. He didn’t approve them.
Yet here is a modern seminary president encouraging his students to adopt the oppressive patriarchal values of Hegai and Xerxes.
- Women are viewed as adjuncts to men.
- Women should make the most of their looks in order to please men.
- Women should welcome a man’s appraisal of their looks: if the man appreciates that a teenager is “built” the older woman should encourage him in his assessment; if the man finds a woman’s appearance does not meet his standards, that woman should welcome the appraisal and strive to please him.
In setting women up to be appraised in regards to how they relate to men (offering a homemaking degree, chastising them for not taking steps to be more appealing in their physical appearance) Mr. Patterson is the modern embodiment of Hegai and Xerxes rolled into one. And in embodying their values – a woman’s worth is judged by her ability to attract a man – he rejects God’s ways.
The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7.)
Mr. Patterson turns this around completely. Women are told to look good for a man, and if a man thinks they look good they should applaud the man for “being biblical.” Yet the only way this is biblical is if what you mean is that Hegai and Xerxes are two men found in the Bible and this is the way they acted. But merely being in the Bible’s narrative is not an indication that God’s people should emulate them. (Sodom and Gomorrah are in the biblical narrative too but no one thinks people should follow their example.)
The emphasis on a woman’s looks and their worth as they relate to men – taught repeatedly and used as sermon illustrations by a seminary president – is nothing short of harem building. It might be done in one on one relationships but it follows the same practices found in Esther’s life.
It’s up to those who worship God to reject Mr. Patterson’s worldly teaching and instead follow the Lord’s ways.