Here’s how toxic male supremacy keeps on infecting the church, even in a supposed ‘apology’

This article originally appeared at Baptist News Global on April 10, 2024.

“So, that’s awesome, man,” megachurch pastor Josh Howerton concluded in what he claimed was an apology to his congregation on Sunday. “Can we move on now? Y’all good with that? We’re gonna do that. That’s what we’re going to do. OK?” Then he clapped his hands and started his sermon.

His apology was in reference to the uproar that arose over him telling women to crown dishonorable men as their kings and to “stand where he tells you to stand, wear what he tells you to wear, and do what he tells you to do” on “his” wedding night.

Of course, many of us would love to move on. But men who tell jokes that dismiss women’s sexuality and safety, center the sexual fantasies of misogynists, and promote rape culture to tens of thousands of people from a position of spiritual authority don’t get to tell us when it’s time to move on.

It’s not “awesome man.” It’s spiritual abuse. And pastors with that lack of awareness shouldn’t be given that large a platform and that level of control over the narrative. For the sake of the women in his reach, it’s important for us not only to examine the comments he made in the first place, but also the coverup.

Dismissing feelings

One common claim Howerton and his defenders continue making is that his comments were taken out of context. So rather than jumping right into Sunday’s apology, we need to examine an earlier conversation he had with his wife, Jana, on Facebook Live because it sets the context for their overall theology about feelings and Scripture.

Josh and Jana Howerton on Facebook Live

This conversation was responding to criticism over when Howerton said in a sermon: “You cannot disrespect a man into respectability. Here’s how it works. Give him a crown and then he becomes a king.”

Howerton explains he was basing these comments on the command in Ephesians 5 for women to respect their husbands. He adds, “Your feelings do not matter.” All that matters is Scripture.

His wife agrees. “If you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one who yelps is the one who gets hit. So think about why is there a response to that. It’s because it hit a nerve, right? You got hit,” she explains. “Our pride is getting in the way and we need to surrender that to the lordship of Jesus. … Our feelings, our circumstances, our personal opinions, that does not change the truth of the word of God. That’s where we find our truth. It’s not about what we personally feel or think or how it makes us feel. … Go to Scriptures. Don’t go to your feelings.”

Using wounds to sacralize submission

After Josh and Jana each dismiss women paying attention to their feelings, Josh transitions into telling people how to process their wounds.

“I just want to acknowledge that man, some people have that reaction out of past pain. And it’s like, dude, you experience somebody weaponizing a Bible verse to get one over on you, or a man in your life did something to you,” he acknowledges. “But Satan is the one that wants to take an old wound and then manipulate it in your life to block you from the blessing of God’s word entering into your heart.”

Notice how he brands current hurt as an “old” wound. It’s the typical, “It happened a long time ago” response that many men use who cheat on their wives or who sexually abuse women and children.

Then he gives an illustration. “Satan in the Bible is called Beelzebub, which means ‘lord of the flies,’” he says. “What do flies do? They infest wounds so that they get infected and then a wound becomes mortal unto death. So dude, everyone, not just women, but everyone has to watch out that, man, a wound doesn’t become infected in my life and become a root of bitterness, the book of Hebrews, that starts to block me from receiving the word of God.”

Discussing a wound becoming “mortal unto death” is code for: “You might burn in hell for eternity over going to your feelings about this wound.” That plays into every evangelical adult’s deepest childhood fears, not only about the wounds they experienced in this life, but of their fears about the afterlife.

Warning about being blocked from “receiving the word of God” is code for: “You need to stand there and submit to what I’m preaching to you.”

Centering the pastor’s authority

With women’s feelings dismissed and their wounds feared, Josh addresses pastors in a way that centers his own authority over women.

Continue reading at Baptist News Global.

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