Years ago I sat on a panel moderated by Pastor Jamal Bryant's mother, the great Rev. Cecilia Williams-Bryant, at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Boston. The panel was titled, "Sex: What's Love Got to Do With It?"
I was only 22 years old but have always remembered a profound statement that the Rev. Williams-Bryant made at one point when she said that we as women have to stop being co-conspirators in our own rape.
I was reminded of that statement (which was made in a completely different context at a completely different time) as I watched the video of women, as well as men, shouting and clapping in affirmation of the now infamous statement, "these hoes ain't loyal," in a recent sermon by Pastor Bryant. And I had a very similar thought of my own. Women have got to stop being co-conspirators in our own oppression, whether it comes from the street corner, a rap artist or the pulpit.
Amid the current media uproar about whether Bryant is justified in quoting the misogynistic song sung by the allegedly physically abusive and allegedly relationally disloyal Chris Brown, I can't help but wonder if the real issue here is not only what Bryant said from the pulpit, but why women, black women in particular, continue to be loyal to and support men who feel comfortable demeaning and demoralizing any women on any level with statements like this.
I wonder if these same people, in the congregation and on the radio and news shows, would have had the same reaction and come to similar conclusions if a white pastor leading a racially mixed church had preached a sermon with a number of good points, but felt the need to punctuate his sermon by quoting a well-known racist singer who said, "You know these n—gers ain't loyal."
Would we simply say that the white pastor was just trying to be relevant? Would the response be, "Well, you can't judge a 20-minute sermon by the fact that he just said, 'You n—gers ain't loyal.' " "You know how you n—gers are. You are so sensitive." "You're just overreacting because everyone knows how emotional n—gers are." "We white people are thinkers," or "He wasn't talking about you black people here in the congregation; you aren't n—gers. He was talking about those other n—gers." "You n—gers who are my followers are special and anointed."
Would that be OK? Probably not.
Yet, although most people in today's society would condemn racist comments like that, sexist, misogynistic, demeaning ways of referring to women are not only accepted, but fully embraced and repeated by far too many women.
Finally, one piece of actual Scripture does come to mind in this situation. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone …"
Before uttering his most controversial sound bite from his recent sermon, Bryant says earlier in this same sermon that it was his job as a pastor to be "biblically correct, not politically correct." And I would agree that this is so.
Nowhere in the Bible does it better exemplify Christ's attitude toward women and disloyalty than the moment when the townspeople are preparing to stone the woman caught in adultery, an act of actual disloyalty.
Jesus does not berate her or call her a bitch or a ho.
Jesus does not try to be popular, scintillating or relevant to the masses planning to assassinate her by saying, "You know these hoes ain't loyal." Instead, he lovingly speaks divine truth into a volatile situation by simply calling those who wish to judge this unnamed woman for her adultery and disloyalty to look at themselves before demeaning, demoralizing and killing this woman. Bryant, the commentators and all of us would do well to follow this example before throwing stones at women to get a quick amen, or an explosive, though hugely effective, media sound bite.
So, maybe the problem isn't that "these hoes ain't loyal." Maybe the problem is that black women have been too loyal for far too long to men who aren't truly loyal to them.
Frances Cudjoe Waters is a United Methodist pastor as well as a writer, blogger and frequent lecturer with a focus on issues of faith and justice, culture and family life. She has written for The Root and the Huffington Post and blogs at BTransformed.com. Follow her on Twitter.