“When you kiss your little baby, You kiss the face of God.” From song: Mary, Did You Know?
The pain that Paige Patterson caused Megan Lively and other women.
Over the last few days, I have contemplated an article in the Washington Post by Michelle Boorstein titled A rape survivor’s careful activism in a place where #MeToo feels taboo. This story is about Megan Lively, who was raped while a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She was told by Paige Patterson, the President of SEBTS, not to report this crime to the police. She didn’t, and the rapist student was expelled. I have wondered wonder about the rapist. Often, those who rape are predators and may continue to commit this sort of crime elsewhere. Is there another woman in pain due to this man? I wonder if Patterson ever considers this. Does he sleep better at night, knowing that the guy is out there somewhere? Does he even care?
In 2018, Lively told The Washington Post about her 2003 rape at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and the response of the seminary’s then-president, Paige Patterson. As a sexual assault survivor, she was not identified in the story at the time. She recounted how Patterson had her describe the incident in detail to him and to several male seminary students who were his proteges. Pattersontold her to forgive the male student, who was expelled, and encouraged her to not report the rape to police, Lively said. She was put on probation for two years because, she thinks, she had allowed the male student into her room.
I had the opportunity to speak with Megan a few years back. She is well-spoken and friendly. I am so sorry for all that she endured, and I admire her commitment to recovery from the pain of molestation and her mistreatment at the hands of Patterson. Sadly, some in her own family questioned her experience when she came forward with her story. So often, the family cannot accept what happened. It can be easier to deny it. Thankfully, other family members supported her.
Lively was receiving loads of critical messages on social media, and even members of her immediate family questioned her account of what happened in 2003.
…Her mother-in-law would tell her God doesn’t want her to hide anything and loves her just as she is. She saw mental health professionals and began using EMDR,
She is not an “angry feminist” and rejects the #Metoo movement.
Her path has led her to reject the #Metoo, which she characterizes as “angry feminists.” In 2019, she was featured by Yonat Shimron in The cost of coming forward: 1 survivor’s life after #MeToo
“Contrary to what some may believe, I’m not a fan of the principles of the #MeToo movement,” she told pastors assembled at the abuse crisis panel in Greensboro last week. “I wasn’t empowered or motivated by the #MeToo movement or by a hashtag. I don’t find power in women standing up and saying ‘I was sexually assaulted.’ I grieve when that happens.”
Lively is trying to walk a middle path. She does not want to come off as an angry feminist trying to pull down powerful men. She was raised to respect her elders and look up to authority.
Lively wishes to be known as being “sweeter” than the angry feminists who seek justice. She was sweet and kind in our conversation.
To her, the movement’s emblems are angry female faces — feisty, justice-seeking types that “I’m not,” she said. “I love to think I’m softer and sweeter, you know what I mean?”
This caused me to wonder. I know several abuse survivors. Many are justice warriors, as am I. Yet, quite a few are also kind, soft, and/or sweet. I think of my friend Jules Woodson whose sweet show of emotion caused many men in the SBC convention to come and pray for and with her. Can one be angry and sweet? Yes. Can one be a feminist and kind? Absolutely.
Also, I would be interested in what she believes about the #ChurchToo movement. That hashtag didn’t get much play in the articles and, in my opinion, should have been carefully explored.
A surprising revelation: Lively didn’t want Patterson fired.
Patterson was fired soon after she came forward. There were a number of reasons for this. Michelle Boorstein said:
In early 2018, clips began circulating of Patterson, years earlier, counseling physically abused women to stay with their husbands and pray, calling out female seminarians he said weren’t doing enough to look pretty, and describing himself ogling a 16-year-old girl’s body.
…She doesn’t like articles about what happened that seem to celebrate the fall of Patterson
I could add on his refusal to act in the Darrell Gilyard situation. I wrote Not Only Did Paige Patterson Rejoice When a Woman Was Physically Abused By Her Husband, He Refused to Believe 25 Reports of Sexual Abuse by Darrell Gilyard. This creep would go on to molest Tiffany Thigpen. So many actions by Patterson and so many victims finally led to his demise.
And I was glad. I wanted him fired in 2009 and wrote about it. I believe that the search for justice is kind because it cares for those who have been abused. We often view words like firing, assuming the action goes one way toward the one who was fired. Do we realize it goes in other directions? In this case, it could have prevented more abuse. It could have prevented poor theology that would influence seminary students in the SBC to behave similarly.
Would Mary celebrate the firing of Patterson? That may be why she isn’t discussed more in church.
The rarely studied Mary might agree that Patterson’s demise was also godly. I have often wondered why the SBC and other conservative churches rarely discuss Mary. Is it because she reflects Jesus by not being a tame lion? Luke 1:46-55 NIV:
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for He has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
hH has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
I think Mary got it right. She understood what was happening to her and told us that things were changing with the advent of this “Holy Embryo.” God cares about justice for those abused by the proud, the rulers, and the rich. Patterson (and others in the SBC) got away with ignoring sexual abuse and domestic violence while playing the “forgiveness game.”
Jesus would go on to care for the abused. He turned over the tables in the Temple. He called out some of the religious leaders by using nasty names like “snakes,” “vipers,” “whitewashed tombs,” “fools,” “blind guides,” and “hypocrites.” Was this kind of Jesus? On the surface, it might not seem so, but I contend that it was. We forget that other people needed to hear this. So many people suffered under the religious burdens placed on them by the leaders. Jesus gave hope to the lost, the letdown, and the looking. The faith wasn’t supposed to be this way, and the leaders screwed it up.
The removal of Patterson from his position was kind… to the women abused under his authority, amongst others.
Megan was correct. In Wilson, NC, a white married woman with children is far safer and accepted in the church setting than a person of color or a single mother.
And that is an indictment on the church.
In a tweet naming herself as the unidentified sexual assault survivor in the Post article, she included a photo of her family looking away from the camera, on a beach.
That image, she believed — of a blonde woman with a husband and two kids, all White, a stereotypical ideal Christian family — would be more likely to trigger emotion and action in her community of conservative evangelicals than an image of a non-White family or single mom.
“I knew if these men in Texas saw this ‘perfect’ family in their mind — I purposely did that,” she said. “It’s sad it worked.”
…“People listen to me. Not because I was sexually assaulted in a church and there is evidence, but unfortunately evangelical men will listen because I’m married; I’m whole in their minds.”
My jaw dropped when Rachel Denhollander was quoted saying she wears a low ponytail because it makes her look submissive.
(Rachel Denhollander) she is alsovery deliberate about how she presents herself in the church. Low ponytail. Pastel colors, not power colors. Shirt sleeves to the elbow. Neckline to the collarbone.
…All the steps we go through to be calm, submissive, meek women,
Thankfully, I live in Raleigh, NC, and women in my conservative church wear ponytails that are high, mid, and even have short hair. Some women have even worn sleeveless blouses. It’s hot here in the summer. I am so sorry that men in some churches are so thin-skinned. How hard it is for women.
What do we mean by words like kind, angry, and feminist?
We load those terms with pejoratives. For example, is an angry woman really a woman who was raped and is terribly hurt? Also, many people should be angry when they are raped. Is a feminist a woman who is tired of wearing low ponytails to prove she is a nice person that the pastor can trust? Is it kind not to fire men who will continue to abuse women? I cannot picture Jesus behaving as Patterson appeared to act.
Christa Brown tweeted the following.
Are survivors supposed to mold themselves into something more acceptable to the men in authority? Maybe men might feel more comfortable ignoring or making fun of “angry feminists.” Still, a suffering woman needs leaders who care less about the uncomfortable anger of abused women and more about caring for the abuse. It’s not about them, it is about the abused. Instead, they seem to seek “designated survivors” who make them feel comfortable.
I think Mary needs to be studied more by men and women. After all, she spent far more time with Jesus than the disciples. One of the last acts of Jesus while hanging in agony on the Cross was to care about His mother. John 19:26-27 NIV. He loved her very much. Maybe it’s time for us to pay more attention to her.
When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,[a here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
This is one of my top 3 Christmas songs. “With every beat of her beautiful heart….”