Sexual Abuse of Power in the Black Church by Donald H. Matthews

This book was a short and decent read. I confess, I dawdled before I finished it, and my opinion stems more from reading the latter half than the first three chapters. Upon finishing it, I have mixed feelings stemming from the content and the quality of the actual writing. For the most part, the quality of the writing is splendid, but the chief failing of this book is that it needed an editor and I’m given the impression that the author isn’t familiar with digital books or how they function. Thus, if any readers are curious about obtaining a copy, then I’d have to recommend the physical edition because of my dislike of what they did with the Kindle version that I purchased. I’ll begin with what I felt were quality issues in the next paragraph and then go into the actual content of the book from the paragraph after that.

The author should have looked-up how to properly place the Table of Contents for .doc or .pdf files before making this into a Kindle book. I don’t understand why they placed the Table of Contents after the Appendix. When clicking for the Table of Contents, it didn’t show up on the user interface and it was what primarily forced me to take time off from the book. I can’t understand why the author wouldn’t at least put the Table of Contents in its proper place before the Chapters that he’d written and not after the Appendix all the way at the end of the book. Moreover, as I read through the chapters, severe sentence structure and grammar issues became apparent and worsened. It’s clear the author edited the first few chapters and slowly stopped giving it any degree of importance as the book went on. They half-assed the editing process on the Kindle version. Furthermore, when citing information, they didn’t insert any citations for their claims and the Appendix references were all moved to the back of the book with no ability to click on anything so readers could see the context of what he was talking about in the latter-half. Needless to say, all of this was incredibly annoying and it is primarily why I’ve rated this on such a low scale. Looking up this man’s information, it seems he has a PhD in Divinity scholarship, and while that’s fine and all, I do wish that he had taken some time to read how to format a Kindle book and y’know edit it before deciding to put his book on Kindle.

Moving onto the actual content of the book, despite his attempts to make it seem historical, social, and so on; he doesn’t use citations for any of his claims and thus, there is nothing for readers to use to double-check his claims. However, despite all of these drawbacks, when he speaks of his own experiences and the history of the Black Churches that he’s familiar with, he provides a wealth of information that I believe does a splendid job to categorize and diagnose the problems festering within Black Churches and the Black American communities. In that regard, I think this book is very useful and in the absence of statistical analysis using large sample sizes (which should be conducted to better understand these problems), this book remains important and relevant. Readers are given useful insights to the history, contemporary attitudes, and cultural issues that Black Churches still face. I do believe that this man is sincere in his attempts at reform so that Black Americans can maintain stronger bonds of trust with their Black Pastors. By the end of this informative book, I had two minds as to what I think should be done regarding these problems, and please be aware that my perspective is that of a Hindu Atheist and Indian-American who was born and raised in the US:

First, the failings that this author brings up seem to run afoul of the same specific issue endemic in many Christian communities across the world and I couldn’t help but notice that he repeatedly references it whilst attempting to be as cordial and compassionate to his Christian upbringing as possible. He’s not advocating for the removal of Christianity from Black American culture, but I certainly have no qualms with advocating for such. He repeatedly brought up traditional Christian norms regarding sex and the patriarchal and hierarchal aspects of pastors being seen as above their flock as the two prominent failings. I agree with him on those two crucial issues being the major problems, but my argument would be that this is a natural consequence of Christian teachings, per se. Jesus Christ arrogantly paraded himself as a god among men, so it should come as no surprise that a percentage of pastors who follow his hateful and narcissistic teachings would see themselves as above their flock in status. Furthermore, it should come as no surprise that the barbaric views of 1st century sexual and moral practices no longer fit with a modern American community that are more open to treating the LGBT as actual human beings and women as equals who should be given the same respect as men. Obviously, Modern Black America is already morally superior to the hateful, disgusting teachings of Jesus Christ. Thus, there is no need for reform. Let Christianity die the death that it deserves.

Second, from my own recollection, while some of the sexual abuse described in this book was truly heinous and definitely counts as rape, such as Pastor Long coercing Altar Boys into sex and getting away with it because the State of Georgia’s age of consent is age 16 and they didn’t want to go forward with the case due to fear of embarrassment from the news media; unfortunately, the other material that the author calls “sex abuse” doesn’t seem to mean rape. He rightly speaks of the horrible discrimination against the LGBT and that – from his perspective – it is unconscionable for pastors to take advantage of their positions to have sex with both married and unmarried women. Generally, the attitude is that so long as both parties are discreet and consenting adults, then it is fine. He brings up his own firsthand eyewitness account of pastors becoming perpetual homewreckers by not respecting the “Priest – Congregation” boundaries appropriately to the point that pastors challenged each other for sexual dominance by seeing who could have sex with the most ex-wives of each other priest’s former wives in the State of Georgia. Yet, these sexual dominance competitions were after the Priestly husband had divorced their then ex-wife. From the description he gave, it doesn’t seem to be the case that the priest’s tried to have sexual relations with women who didn’t want it; the vast majority of the cases seemed to be those of consenting adults throughout the book. In one case that he brings up, the women weren’t angry over a pastor having sex with an unmarried woman, but rather that he hadn’t been discreet about it from public view to avoid shaming the Church. The cases for LGBT relationships are described in the same manner up until recent changes; everyone was perfectly willing to tolerate LGBT relationships provided they were kept in the closet, some priests would live out their LGBT lives without consequence and then go to Church every Sunday to speak from the pulpit about how the LGBT were going to hell, and the social changes in the US seem to have helped ease any condemnation or contempt so that the younger generation of Black America has few, if any, issues against anyone who is part of the LGBT community. The only time there are failures in respecting consenting relationships is when Priests tell abused wives to stick with their husbands or that they’ve shamed themselves before the hateful god Jesus Christ somehow because they divorced their abusive husband. Other heinous behavior like that, the aforementioned Pastor Long and what he did to his Altar Boys, and cases in which Priests have consenting relationships but then shame the women regarding their unmarried pregnancy and deny they’re the father of the child are all truly heinous and rightfully deserve condemnation. Nonetheless, these other claims of “sex abuse” or “abuse of power” between consenting adults who privately agree to have sex . . . I’m sorry, why is that a big deal? Oh sure, it devastates Priest–Congregation relationships and devalues Christian institutions, but frankly the world is all the better for it. Unless there’s coercion, intimidation, violence, inducement, torture, or some other type of rape; consenting adults having sexual relations with each other behind closed doors is not a crime. While the author may find it hypocritical for Black Church communities to point fingers at predominately White Churches for their sexual abuse scandals, there honestly is no comparison. Sexual relations between consenting adults within Black Churches is not the same as safeguarding child rapists in so many of these predominately White Churches. Unless Black Churches reveal a hidden scandal of multiple years of widespread child rape, they come off smelling like roses compared to the Catholic Church’s notorious child rape scandals, the Southern Baptist Churches child rape scandals, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses notorious use of the Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to protect child rapists within their ranks. One breathes a breath of fresh air when learning all Black Churches have as an issue is that the Priest can’t keep it in his pants when a horny woman agrees to fuck him. The only other thing that struck me is that while I liked how he used Nietzschean concepts of Apollonian and Dionysian to explain the history of the Black Church’s attitude towards the sexual ethic, just like Chris Hedges before him, he unfortunately misspelled Friedrich Nietzsche’s name. Apart from that, I’m glad I read this because I’ve come to the understanding that Black Americans have become too smart for Christianity. Whereas, they seemed to have mostly avoided the disgusting and heinous levels of sexual abuse of minors that proliferate in the aforementioned predominately White Churches in the US and elsewhere, it seems that Black Americans aren’t just too moral for Christianity, but are now abandoning it because they’re too intelligent to follow the religion of the oppressors that enslaved their ancestors. In fact, the book made it a point early on to say that Black Americans felt that the torture and abuse as slaves was valuable because it brought them to Christianity; it failed to question why Jews and Hindus generally do better in the US than Native Americans and Black Americans even accounting for selective forms of immigration. Why has no one questioned the fact that Jews and Hindus stuck to their ancient traditions whereas Black Americans and Native Americans were tortured and raped until they gave up theirs due to violence? Even when Native Americans and Black Americans did well for themselves, it was met with devastation by White supremacists such as what happened to Black Wall Street. Yet, it seems all is not lost, as Black Americans are becoming too smart for the child rapist religion of Christianity.

Overall, I do find it valuable and I would recommend it as it is informative, but keep my criticisms in mind.

This book gets a solid 3 / 5. 3 out of 5. I wish I could give it a higher score, but seriously dude, edit your work next time. If you think I’m being “mean” then please click here and look at reviews I give when I decide to be as unbiased as possible.

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