I know some of you are shaking your heads already... "She's always ragging on the church!" you're probably thinking.
And yep. Y'all gonna call my mama again... I already know it.
Listen. I am the woman I am, in large part, because of the church. Remember, I spent 30 years of my life being actively involved in the church and church activities, so I attribute a lot of the better qualities I have to lessons learned in and because of church.
But sometimes, the church ain't shit... and I gotta speak on it. But first, story time. Because I ALWAYS have a story.
When I was a 19 year old sophomore at Hampton University, I got pregnant with Michael. The pregnancy itself was a huge deal for both our families; both his AND my parents were officers at their respective churches. After we'd told our parents and everybody had a chance to deal with the news, life pretty much went on as normal. At the time, I attended Antioch Baptist Church in Hampton, VA, which happened to be the church my son's father and his entire family attended. I sang in the Youth and Young Adult Choir, and Michael's dad was the church's drummer.
I sang. He played the drums. Everybody knew that Mike and I were together; it was only because of him that I ended up at Antioch. Keep this in mind.
When I was about 3 months pregnant, the pastor called me into a meeting in his study after service. I sat down across from him and his wife, and he looked at me and said, "We think it would be a good idea for you to step down from the choir until after you have your baby. We lead by example here, and it just isn't appropriate for you, an unwed pregnant woman, to be singing in the choir."
I sat silently for a second, and then said, "Okay. I don't like your suggestion, but I can understand where you're coming from. I expect you'll be having this same meeting with Mike, right?"
They looked confused, so I went on, "I mean, it's just as inappropriate for him to be on the drums, considering he's the one who got me pregnant, right?"
The pastor looked stuck for a minute, and then responded, "Mike is a salaried musician on our church staff. He will be allowed to continue playing with the music ministry."
"So let me make sure I understand you," I said slowly. "You want to sit me down from my ministry because I'm pregnant, but the father of this child won't share the same consequences?"
"No," the pastor said. "The act of formication was the sin, not the baby. But sins have consequences. Now, you're clearly pregnant, and it's just not a good example to set to our congregation, especially not the other young women who might look up to you."
I was quiet. Then, I responded, "Until you sit Mike down from playing the drums, I will continue singing in the choir. I didn't get pregnant by myself."
The conversation went back and forth for several minutes, but I was adamant, and refused to acquiesce. They insisted that they had no reason to sit Mike down, because HE wasn't the pregnant one. I told them that if sin had consequences, and he and I committed the same sin TOGETHER, we should have the same consequence. I refused to allow them to shame me into hiding when Mike could boldly play his drum set every Sunday.
So. I sang in that choir, in that black and red choir robe, until the very day I went into labor. I was fat, hot, uncomfortable, could hardly breathe, always hungry, and swollen. I would've loved to sit my pregnant ass in the congregation instead of being up there singing. But I refused to sit down out of principle. I'm proud of myself, even at 19, for sticking to my convictions. Had the pastor called both of us into that meeting and sat both of us down, I would've accepted the consequences of my actions. But my pregnancy was no immaculate conception, and the father of the baby had just as much responsibility for my growing belly as did I, so I sang until the baby came. Literally. I went into labor on a Sunday night. I sang that morning.
Fast forward to today... I'm driving Lyft this morning when I hear Russ Parr and his morning crew talking about the unmarried female pastor who is pregnant and refusing to step down from the pulpit. You can read her story here. In summary, she got pregnant, and her initial reaction was dread. She knew that she would be judged harshly for her pregnancy because of her position in the church--- and she was. People were calling for her resignation, saying that she should be ashamed of herself. People love to claim that pastors and church officers lead by example, and should not do anything to distract others from their ministry or the work of the church.
I call bullshit. Listen to me closely.
Everybody. Your pastor sins. Yop. So does your super-saved, extra anointed, speaking-in-tongues grandma. So does the usher who rolls her eyes at every short skirt that walks into the sanctuary. So does Deacon so-and-so, who seems to live at the church because he's there every single time you are. That lady who gets to church before the doors are even unlocked and sits in the front row and wears the doily on her head and always has them strawberry candies in her purse? Yep. She sins, too. You reading this... You, my love, are a sinner.
Let's not even get me started on MY sinner status. Tuh.
Everybody sins. NOBODY IS PERFECT. And, according to the Bible y'all saints know so well, God doesn't esteem any sin higher than the other. So that little white lie you told that creditor that keeps calling your phone ("I'll send the money to you on the first of the month" when you KNOW you just said that to get them to stop calling) is no bigger or smaller sin than, say, a pastor having sex outside of marriage.
The reality is, male pastors do shady shit all the time. I've seen it with my own eyes. They have affairs outside of their marriage. They misappropriate church funds. Their eyes linger a little too long at legs walking around for offering. Their hugs are a bit too tight sometimes. But they're men... so they're allowed to continue in their shenanigans as long as they preach fire and brimstone and make the people shout and lay prostrate. I can name names of prominent pastors right here in the DMV that have approached me on some shady shit, right there in the sanctuary. PROMINENT PASTORS. And none of it would be hearsay, because I lived it.
Also, Jamal Bryant. If you don't know him, Google him. That man is a hot ass mess in his personal life, but he's a skilled orator with a huge following. And when I say his life is a hot ass mess... Man, listen. And he has quite the flock at his Baltimore church.
A well-known pastor out of Roanoke, VA, was having an affair with a woman at his church, which resulted in the woman and his wife getting into an actual fist fight during service. FISTICUFFS, y'all. Two women scrapping like they were in the streets somewhere over a raggedy old pastor WHO IS STILL LEADING HIS CONGREGATION.
But because this woman actually shows the evidence of her sin in her growing belly, she needs to resign?
Pregnancy is a very public indication of a private act. She's being condemned simply because one can LOOK at her and see that she committed a sin. When you sin and nobody knows about it, it's nothing, right? Don't ask, don't tell, right? But we can't assume they don't sin. They're human. People know of pastors who have affairs, who do drugs, who steal from church funds, who drink and do drugs, and they pretend it's not happening. So how dare the public have such an outcry against this woman when they don't have similarly visceral reactions about the sins committed by male preachers?
This hypocrisy in the church is just too much for me sometimes.
This woman asked for forgiveness from her congregation. She stood up in front of them, admitted she had committed a sin, and told them she was an unwed mother-to-be. They rallied around her and supported her, and she continues to pastor her church. But Russ Parr's callers this morning got all the way under my skin. They were misogynistic and hypocritical and demanded that she be punished for her pregnancy.
Ain't a nere one of them perfect. Because the Bible says we ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. *wait... I felt a quickening...*
This isn't an article about church leadership being allowed to do whatever the hell they want. This is an article about how differently we regard men and women in church leadership when it comes to sin. Reverend Lassiter in Hampton, Virginia made that very clear to me when he and his wife asked me to stop singing but didn't dare remove their drummer (because who else would play the damn drums?). The public response against this pastor and her unborn baby prove it, too. Misogyny in the church is REAL. Men have forever been allowed to do whatever their tickles their raggedy ass fancies, but when women do it, they're slut-shamed, condemned, and shunned, and expected to go into hiding until their bellies go back to normal. And it's ridiculous.
And I'm calling it out.
Women do not get pregnant alone. Well, Mary did. But that's different. Women are as human, as imperfect, and as susceptible to temptation and sin as men are. Stop holding them to standards you don't hold men to, especially in the church.
If you're not a sinner, and everything you do is perfect, why are you attending church anyway? You wouldn't go to a hospital if you weren't sick, would you? You don't go out to eat when you're not hungry. If your life is perfect, then feel free to judge the actions of others, because you're clearly Jesus Christ himself. Also, stay home. Church is for the imperfect... the people who are striving to do a little better every day but know they need help getting there.
But since your life ain't perfect, stop pointing out the speck in someone else's eye and ignoring the log in your own.
That's Biblical, too.
Pastor Desiree Allen, you have my full support. Preach until your ankles are too swollen to stand, and then sit on a stool and preach. And as that baby grows, and pushes your organs up, and your diaphragm doesn't expand the way it used to, and you're winded, and tired, and hot, keep preaching anyway. You've asked for forgiveness for your sin. God forgives as far as the East is from the West. (Yep... in the Bible.) You've asked for forgiveness from your congregation.
Everybody else can mind their business... and/or go to hell.
That's it. Y'all be easy.