by Rev. John E. Jackson
Not all of the preachers and pastors who are part of the National Baptist Convention feel this way, but there were some who could not stomach a woman preaching to them, no matter how skillful, and powerful she was.
I open with this current episode to illustrate what Dr. Theron Williams examines in his important book “Black Church, White Theology,” and that is how the domination system impacts how we practice the faith in Jesus the Christ of Nazareth. The domination system that was first coined by the late theologian and scholar Walter Wink is an oppressive system that seeks to “other” and exclude certain people from positions of authority and to control them and control how and where resources are distributed.
The domination system seeks to maintain power at the expense of those it has relegated to a powerless position in society. The domination system labels, stereotypes, categorizes and marginalizes certain groups of people as less worthy of the benefits of the society. People who historically are targeted by the domination system in this nation are Black and brown people, women, immigrants from South and Central America, Asian people the LGBTQ community and disabled people.
What is fascinating and heart breaking is how the domination system can train and inculcate its standards of exclusion into the very people that it has already excluded and targeted to be dominated. This is called self-hate and acculturation.
Oftentimes many marginalized people can be hegemonic and jingoistic imitating their very oppressors and seek to marginalize others from their own community that they deem unworthy of sharing in the benefits of the society. And many males in targeted groups can be quite sexist (women can also co-sign to patriarchal systems of ranking).
There was a time in this nation, and not long ago, when a woman could not have a credit card unless her husband approved. Dr. Williams in his book recounts how his own father physically abused his mother just about every week of his life after frivolously spending the family’s income outside the home and would become violently angry when his mother would challenge his father about it.
There was a time, and again not long ago, when domestic violence against women in their homes by their husbands was not even seen as a crime but a family matter, which meant the “husband is getting his house in order.” This is the domination system.
We live in a patriarchal society that pays women less, much less for the same job and with the same qualifications as a man. In fact, many times for white men in particular they can receive higher pay, while paying less for cars and are offered more opportunities than a woman who has superior qualifications in this society. White men with less qualifications also happen to have greater access to opportunities than Black or brown men with superior qualifications and experience.
This is the domination system in full effect. Regrettably, and despite the fact that Jesus enlisted the talents of women to partner with him in his ministry and that women were the first to preach the resurrection, women in the church of Jesus Christ today in far too many instances are seen as second-class citizens. Women in far too many instances are reduced in importance to only give announcements from the lectern on the floor of the church and never in the pulpit.
When we ordain people to the diaconate in my church, the deacons in training must go through a rigorous deacon walk where they learn that Englishman John Smyth, who pastored the first Baptist church in Holland, ordained women as deacons. They also learn that Roger Williams, who organized the first Baptist church in North America, also ordained women as deacons.
They also learn about Junia in the New Testament who was an Apostle of Jesus before Paul was and several other women like Priscilla who were friends of Paul and who also pastored churches.
The Domination System – Part 1
Sadly, in the present-day church, many women who have completed seminary and have been prepared to minister to God’s people are looked over in the search for the position of pastor in a church for men who never darkened the door of a seminary. And what is truly sad is how if it wasn’t for the women, we would not even have a Black Church or any church for that matter.
Dr. Stewart preached with passion last week. She preached with power and spiritual authority, regardless of the men who either boycotted her preaching or “sat down” on her in protest.
Oppressed people can fall victim to and engage in domination system behavior because it not only suppresses people, but the domination system is seductive to people who long for a taste of power to control other people. Thank God for those male preachers who were in full support of Dr. Stewart, and we pray for many more to disrupt the destructive effects of the domination system.
Rev. John E. Jackson
Rev. Dr. John E. Jackson, Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ-Gary, 1276 W. 20th Ave. in Gary. “We are not just another church but we are a culturally conscious, Christ-centered church, committed to the community; we are unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian.”