“I just came for the convo credit,” a student said as she walked into a packed classroom in the Wedgewood Academic Center Monday night, unaware she would travel back in time, to an arid land where men pluck chaste women as wives from the field and save them from their inherent helplessness.
I need convocation credit too, but not nearly as badly as I need intelligent discussions on the ways women can maintain their independence, a need left unfulfilled by my first-and probably last-experience with “Sex and the Soul” week.
With the cutesy title of “Relationship Goals” and the young, attractive couple– college pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church elder Brian Bradshaw and his wife Tanesha– leading the discussion, the Monday night convocation excited with the potential for progressive thought and relevancy.
One of the first convocations in Belmont’s “Sex and the Soul” series, the lecture by the Bradshaws attracted three times more students than the speakers expected, a turnout undoubtedly attributed to the topic advertised: sex.
Students occupied every seat, spilled over onto carpeted steps and slouched against walls and the two doors to listen to Brian and Tanesha Bradshaw discuss relationships within the context of Christianity.
The couple shared the duty of paraphrasing the biblical story of Ruth and the way her loyalty and purity rewarded her with a second husband. From there, the Bradshaws plucked relationship lessons from the story, and this is where it got good. Or, bad, for women.
Encouraged by snaps, claps and the occasional “amen,” from men in the room, the dynamic lecture managed to land on some favorable ears in the at-capacity classroom. But, as a street performer fluffs his guitar case with dollars and cents to bolster his attractiveness, the room seemed dotted with sure bets and pre-indoctrinated voices eager to jump in with gospel-like appreciation.
The message Elder Brian chose to share with a room full of at least 50 college students: how Ruth minded her own business, as every trophy wife should.
Her absolute submission to “The Bachelor” contestant Boaz and her ability to work among countless men without engaging in intercourse is apparently an admirable message to 18-22-year-old people looking for convo credit.
Ruth, after all, got a ring by spring and actualized the female dream, since as expressed by Brian in the Monday night convocation, “women want security.”
Brian, as a woman, I agree.
We women do want security. I like to wear my seat belt snugly in cars and roller coasters. I keep a reservoir of money in my account in case of bad luck. I buy travel insurance on my flights. I eat my steak medium-well. These things make me feel secure.
What does not make me feel secure: outdated, misogynistic interpretations of scripture and married men who treat their spouses like vines – nurturing, watering and controlling them. Helping these vines which can do nothing cut off from their husbandly branch.
If this view of helpless women and godly men seems disturbingly misogynistic and angering, the woman sharing the stage did not agree and acted as an accomplice to this outdated attack on dominant women, at one point even side-hugging her husband. A side-hug necessitated, of course, by the black leather King James Bible in Brian’s left hand.
To her credit, Tanesha did refresh the message with an interjection at one point.
“Let me be clear,” she said. “Submit does not mean obey.”
Ah, OK. Great. Thank you.
“But men, your presence and leadership sets the tone in the household,” Brian said.
Cue a spattering of “amens.”
Ah, no. Not great. No thank you.
To assume women with jobs and sports and hopes and failures and papers to write and careers to start are also waiting for a man to lead them is both comically erroneous and deeply insulting.
While some present undoubtedly agreed with the outdated, sexist and cowardly statements of Brian and Tanesha, women and men who believe in the inequality and frailty of women serve as outliers, not the norm or the goal for gender relations.
To suggest, as Brian and Tanesha so unfortunately did, the value in a painfully traditional reading of Ruth’s story is a roadmap for a Christian relationship is completely unnecessary, unsupported by modern interpretations of the Bible, and, frankly, is an outdated facade of a theophany enforced by men to keep women in their place.
This interpretation reinforces male supremacy and puts both unnecessary and unfair value on chastity, depicting women as precious jewels tarnished with every touch.
Disappointedly endorsed by an institution which touts itself as a place of learning, Monday’s convocation shames rather than empowers young women and presents them as nothing more than patient homemakers waiting on their Boaz.
This article was written by Jessica King.