On Backpage, Paige Patterson, and the Problem Christian Men Must Stop Ignoring

On Backpage, Paige Patterson, and the Problem Christian Men Must Stop Ignoring May 1, 2018

Last month, Backpage was shut down. Similar to Craig’s List, the classifieds website was accused of allowing posts related to prostitution and sex trafficking. Believe it not, some people are complaining about the FBI seizure of this website.  This is despite the numerous cases of women being seriously injured or murdered after connecting with someone through Backpage. And then there’s the whole issue of sex trafficking.

Sex trafficking, along with other forms of human trafficking, make up the third largest criminal activity in the world. It generates more than 150 BILLION dollars a year. And it exists because there are people  -mostly men – wanting and willing to buy. Women and girls are far more likely to be victims of sex trafficking than males.

In what seems to be unrelated news, there has been controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention (and beyond) related to a 2000 interview of Paige Patterson, the president of the Southwestern Theological Baptist Seminary. In this brief recording, you can hear Dr. Patterson speak to his beliefs on domestic violence. In doing so, he recounts the story of a woman he once counseled to pray for her husband who did not attend church and wanted her to stop attending. In the recording, Dr. Patterson states he warned the woman that her husband might become “a little more violent” in response to her prayers. Soon after, she came to church with two black eyes, and walked up to him to facetiously ask if he was happy. Seeing her husband in the back of the church, he said he was happy. At the conclusion of the service, the husband came forward, repented, and made a public profession of faith. Dr. Patterson concluded the story by saying that the man “is a great husband today.”  He also said that wives “should be submissive in every way that you can.” He believed the wife’s prayers got her husband to church. Of course, that was only after she got beaten up.

I don’t know how this recording resurfaced, but these things always find a way. As a result, Dr. Patterson has rightfully received some heat. Since then, he has released a statement clarifying his position on this situation and domestic violence in general. He stated, in part, that while he would never council someone to seek a divorce, he has helped women get to safety and would never suggest a woman “stay and pray” rather than get away from the abuse. Unfortunately, his words from 18 years ago sure sound like he is suggesting that…except “in the most serious of cases,” as he states in the recording.

There is much I have respected about Dr. Patterson, and his current statement soundly rejecting all forms of domestic violence may be sincere. I certainly hope so. Yet, I fear it is too little too late. Words matter, and the words he spoke in that interview may have had serious consequences for women questioning whether or not to seek safety or stay in abusive situations. Women in domestic violence situations need assistance and support, not shallow and dangerous advice.

There is a tough-to-swallow but undeniable truth that connects domestic violence and sex trafficking: the devaluation and disrespect of women.

While men are also abused by women, it’s more common for women to be severely abused. Sadly, 1 in 4 women experience this at some point in their life. For far too long, women have been subjugated to a lower rung on the societal ladder than men. Sometimes they don’t make the ladder at all. The men have the power, and they use it. To buy women. To sell women. To abuse women. To assault women. To kill women. 

Whether stranger, neighbor, wife or daughter, women are being used as if they are worthless property and thrown away like trash. How can we tolerate this?

You might think that you  are not a part of the problem, and would never engage in domestic violence or sex trafficking. But what about the alarming rate of pornography addiction among Christians? It’s all related, folks. And you may unknowingly be a part of the problem. Or maybe you know it all too well. After all, like pornography use, Christians also make up some of the Johns paying for sex and some of the husbands abusing their wives.

The issue isn’t just about whether you are personally engaged in pornography, sex trafficking, or domestic violence, but also what you are doing to stop it. What you are doing to prevent it from happening to begin with. What communication and meta communication you are sending about the worth of women. Whether you are willing to confront the status quo and get into what used to be considered “private family matters” in an effort to protect women. And whether you’re willing to stand up to other powerful men in order to do so.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written on the mistreatment of women and it won’t be the last. I am going to continue stand up for women as I strive to follow in the footsteps of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Make no mistake, He most certainly stood up for women. I pray you’ll stand up for women too.

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  • Carlos Santiago

    We do hope for the greatest good. Patterson never for a second said women need to take a beating or put in danger. I’m sure he welcomed the government seizure of backpage probably much more than you; these ministries have been fighting slavery and human trafficking for many years. Divorce though it may end the violence in that specific household if not helped it only transfers to another chain of victims by the man. Patterson’s satisfaction came at the ending of domestic violence by this man as we should all do.

  • alwayspuzzled

    Being the devoted follower of Jesus that he is, perhaps Patterson should have offered to take the woman’s place and let the husband give him two black eyes.

  • Carlos Santiago

    You need to understand how this works. Usually “spiritual guidance” is provided behind the scenes by helpful and athletic church elders who tell the husband if there is even one more hint of abuse by the husband, after the elders finish with him; the husbands best friends would not recognise him. File that under church discipline.

  • Doug Gamble

    Thank you, Dr. Shaler for your article. I am discouraged by how few men have entered to comment. This may be explained by the fact that the topic makes too many of us men uncomfortable, or perhaps because they just don’t care–the topic isn’t important enough to them. Shame on us. The #metoo movement is something that should also serve as a wake-up call for all believers, to make sure that we address these issues in the church, and then in the broader culture. Thank you for discussing sex trafficking and pornography; the church is too quiet about these as well. Our Lord showed immense respect for women, but so often we get bogged down in passages and positions which are, at best, difficult to understand and apply, while the clear exhortation for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church, giving himself up for her, goes ignored. I cannot believe it is right to “submit” to abuse in a marriage. Is it right to provide booze to an alcoholic out of submission and love? Submitting to abuse is nothing more than enabling sin. Real love, strong love, stands against this. But standing against it is something the community of faith must do as a body, supporting those caught in the web of violence and abuse such that they can find safety and a place from which the abuse can be properly confronted.

  • it’s me

    Religion at this point has nothing to offer to humanity..it just needs to die out,.,.,and it will.

  • ctroop

    Whatever Patterson said 15, 18, or 20 years ago matters only if he stands by those words today. IF he has either clarified what he previously said, or today his views are different, then all you need to do is accept what he says today, and forgive whaterver it is he said years ago. My husband and I used to be liberal democrats. Since Ronald Reagan we have been republican conservatives. Also, 44 years ago we were not Christians and we had many attitudes and behaviors that have long since been changed. We have learned that only the devil (and his servants) enjoys bringing up our pre-Christian past behaviors. Without forgiveness all theology is meaningless.

  • kyuss

    you’re a scum sucking moron.

  • And YOU, kyuss, are a smegma licking idiot with your head up someone else’s rectal cavity. You absolutely must be a stuped liberal because conservative people can usually have a rational argument when they disagree with something. Liberals can only say stupid and dum-bass insults (probably learned from their mothers) and infecting all their generations.

  • kyuss

    dum-bass. LOL. You sure are!