Hi and welcome back! Recently, the Christ-o-sphere was roiled with yet another scandal. This time, a Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) pastor made a shockingly tasteless comment to his congregation about marital rape. In this case, his denomination took his outburst seriously — this time. But as we’ll see today, comments like his represent just a bit of overflow from a fountain of misogyny. As the great Maya Angelou said: When people tell us who they are, we should believe them.
Everyone, Meet Grand Concourse Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
Grand Concourse Seventh-Day Adventist Church is situated just a few blocks north of Yankee Stadium in New York City. From the look of it, this is a very large, comfortable church in the middle of a vibrantly diverse neighborhood.
This church has some competition. Along E 169th St. on the same block, I counted at least two more churches right up against this one. One is Pentecostal, one Baptist. Along E 168th St. on this same block, I notice an Islamic place of worship. A hair salon next door to the church on Grand Concourse proudly posted a Bible verse (Philippians 4:13) on its main sign. So this is a really religious area, it seems to me.
As you might guess from this church’s name, they are part of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church denomination. Their name derives from one of their key beliefs: that Christians should do church on Saturdays instead of Sundays. They aren’t the only denomination out there subscribing to this belief, but they’re probably the best-known.
In the Deep South, I heard this belief called “Saturday Sabbath” — and it was one of the biggest argument-starters around. It is hilariously divisive.
Burnett Robinson led Grand Concourse Seventh-Day Adventist Church as its senior pastor since September 2013. In fact, he just lost his job there.
Complementarianism Enters the Chat.
The pastor at the heart of today’s story, Burnett Robinson, was until very recently the senior pastor of this large, comfortable concrete fortress of a church.
During his sermon on November 13 (a Saturday, natch), Robinson got onto the subject of female submission to men. He clearly loves this topic, because he had a lot of things to say about it.
What he said is just standard-issue complementarianism: the notion that Jesus wants men to rule over women, and women to obey those men without backtalk or questions. Meanwhile, these Christian leaders teach women that setting any boundaries with men will send them to Hell. When men with raging narcissistic tendencies get into complementarian groups, the results are painful, long-lasting, and completely predictable.
There just isn’t a way for “separate but equal” to work. That’s why civilized countries don’t even try to do it anymore. But dang, evangelicals just keep trying to achieve complementarianism, just without the abuse and scandals.
Evangelical men desperately want to return to the days when they think men held unilateral and absolute control over women.
So they invented complementarianism as a gender-based “separate but equal” — and then declared that Jesus himself wanted everyone to live according to these regressive and obviously-unworkable rules.
What Happens When Complementarianism Infests Churches.
Evangelical investigator Julie Roys offered up that November 13 sermon on one of her recent stories. In the video clip on that link, Burnett Robinson declares:
“In this matter of submission, I want you to know up front, ladies, that once you get married, you are no longer your own. You are your husband’s! [. . .] And I emphasize that because I saw in court the other day on TV where a lady sued her husband for rape. And I would say to you gentlemen: the best person to rape is your wife!” [Transcript of video]
I’d already seen most of this statement from Washington Post, but I wanted to get the whole thing from the clip. It was worth the doing, too. I actually felt shocked by this guy’s look of gobsmacked what-clown-world-is-this-even amazement, and the disbelieving, outraged what’s-even-happened-to-women-these-days lilt in his voice as he describes this criminal charge. Even by evangelical standards, he served forth some serious gaslighting.
At some point, another (unnamed) pastor grabbed the clip of the sermon. That pastor sent it along to Sarah McDugal. She’s a writer, speaker, and “Recovery Coach” specializing in helping women who’ve been hurt in religious contexts. (Often, people call this spiritual abuse.) She grew up Seventh-Day Adventist, too.
I can’t vouch for how good her therapy is, but she was at least wise enough to post this clip to the public. She also started a petition to call for Robinson’s firing.
At first, the denomination’s leaders put Robinson on leave. But then, he resigned. According to Washington Post, his superiors issued a statement on his behalf. They said that Robinson regretted what he’d said and apologized for it. Interestingly, I know of no direct statements he’s made himself on this topic.
Out of the Fullness of His Heart, His Mouth Spoke.
So. The senior pastor of a big flagship-looking church in New York City described, with wide-eyed wonderment, how shocked he was about the very notion of women suing their husbands for rape. Then, he advised any husbands harboring rapey inclinations to go after their wives — since that’s not really rape in his opinion. Marital rape is street-legal rape, to him. Why oh why would any husband get in trouble for simply using a possession of his?
That’s why he felt so angry at this news of a woman using the law to get justice for marital rape. It was like his one escape from rape charges had been closed off. If marital rape becomes illegal, then men lose their only street-legal rape targets — their own wives.
No way, no how did Burnett Robinson come by his opinion recently.
No way, no how did Burnett Robinson get any significant pushback for his views from anyone he counted as important — until now, at least.
Instead, he was telling us exactly who he was, and exactly who he’s been for a long time.
But he also told us a lot of other important stuff.
Marital Rape as an Indicator Belief.
Burnett Robinson’s opinion about marital rape isn’t isolated from his other views. It can’t be.
Just as we discussed last time about abortion encompassing a number of human-rights issues, this particular opinion regarding marital rape encompasses a whole bunch of sordid, toxic beliefs about sex, relationships, and misogynists’ sense of entitlement to women’s bodies.
So when we find out that someone thinks marital rape is a husband’s due expectation and not a crime, we can form a lot of other educated guesses about the rest of that person’s opinions.
We can also form some solid guesses about the group that allowed such a person to rise to power.
The Seventh-Day Adventist Church doesn’t get a lot of attention, but they sure deserve it. They’ve been just as riddled with scandals as the rest of their right-wing Christian brethren. From the denomination’s president resigning in 1999 over a financial scam to their ongoing scandals involving child rape and breathtaking physical abuse, they face the same exact problems we’ve seen everywhere else in the Christ-o-sphere. So I can easily see why Burnett Robinson and his misogyny flew under his leaders’ radar for so long.
Do I need to say this next part, even, anymore? Yes, I think so:
As usual, Jesus never tips off all these denominational leaders to the creeps and predators in their ranks. Nor does he ever rescue any of the victims of these creeps and predators. Nor does he care about the damage these creeps and predators do to the credibility of his religion.
Really! It’s just the strangest thing… (/s)
NEXT UP: LSP! (Then, we’ll probably check out a strategy for dealing with all those No True Scotsmen evangelicals trying to retaliate against those who’ve left their ranks.)
Please Support What I Do!
Publishing schedule: M/LSP, W, F, Su. If Disqus comments hit about 450 and there’s a full day to go before the next post, I’ll do my best to get us an overflow off-topic post written and up so we can move our discussions there.
Also please check out our Graceful Atheist podcast interview!
If you like what you see, I gratefully welcome your support. Please consider becoming one of my monthly patrons via Patreon with Roll to Disbelieve for as little as $1/month! My PayPal is email@example.com (that’s an underscore in there) for one-time tips.
You can also support this blog at no extra cost to yourself by beginning your Amazon shopping trips with my affiliate link — and, of course, by liking and sharing my posts on social media!
This blog exists because of readers’ support, and I appreciate every single bit of it.