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Pastor Mike Todd

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Gospel for the Culture is a column that takes the unique experiences of Black pop culture and discusses them from a progressive spiritual view.

Another day, another viral male preacher in the business of women that he was neither invited nor requested to be in.

Michael Todd, the lead pastor of Transformation Church, has been receiving backlash in the wake of his viral sermon clip, “Welcome To The Deep.” Taken from the full one-hour sermon, the minute-long hot take from Todd calls men to task to become anchors for their families while discouraging women from participating in the #SilhouetteChallenge as taking your clothes off, somehow, makes men not “even wanna know what’s in yo mind no more because you’ve shown them everything under your clothes.”

Let’s call a thing a thing, here. Todd may be the most recent voice admonishing women to not seek to be impressive with their bodies, but his words echo a generations-long tradition of the church’s repression of women’s bodies and sexuality.

In an attempt at equity, Todd does put the onus on other men in his sermon, asking them to “be a husband that is not trying to impress his college buddies, but be an anchor for your family that may not be as impressive on the ‘gram but you’re impacting the next generation to love and lead their families.” These words see the fullness of men’s humanity and speak to the height of their potential to hold families together and heal generational cycles of brokenness. Yet, Todd drops the ball when speaking to women, diminishing our worth to the sum of our body parts. It feels like stating the obvious here but if a man doesn’t want to get to know me after seeing the illusion of nudity, the problem is his intention, not my actions. Yet this sermonic moment lacked a challenge to men to consider their mindset while pushing performative modesty onto women in Jesus’s name.

Male pastors often choose to parade the bodies of women – who make up the majority of congregations – through their sermons. Todd’s use of the Silhouette Challenge, however, is strange and begs the question Jameelah Jones asks: “How do you know about the silhouette challenge and what women are showing under their clothes?” Given that Pastor has likely curated his timeline to like-minded people and that there are no accidents in the algorithm, to see so many of a very specific niche challenge means that one has attuned their algorithm to it through consistent engagement. Todd’s choice to shame a trend that he’s obviously been scrolling through is just the tipping point of hypocrisy in the pulpit.

His sermon engages a long history of men preaching about the bodies of women with themselves, their opinions, and desirability as it concerns us as the center. We are told we’re created in the image of God, but every conversation of our bodies is cloaked in shame and sin while naming everyone but ourselves as the owners of our personhood. From the time we are girls with no knowledge of our sexual selves, we are preached sermons of modesty and asked to bury any glimmer of our sensuality and then magically expected to sprout sexuality wings because y’all “chose” us and we said, “I do.”

These lectures demand that we constantly disassociate our sexuality from our intellectual capacity and force us to choose to exist in parts. It is these words, spoken from self-declared messengers of God, that both sexualizes and scandalizes everything women do. It is these misogynistic teachings, absent of any critical engagement, that feeds the beliefs and mindsets of people who attacked Chloe Bailey (to the point of tears) for choosing to be free this week.

It’s why even your “good Christian wives” can’t do the Silhouette Challenge privately for their husband’s pleasure because these teachings never allowed them to fully embrace their sexuality. To then have the audacity to preach about “being made whole” when all teachings to this point have painted an experience of God that’s only capable of loving my holiness which excludes my sexual expression in the name of modesty is a slap in the face disguised as godly teaching.

Modesty and brash sexuality as a personal choice is fine. Women deserve personal autonomy and to know that their bodies are not the extent of their impact or ability to impress. Perhaps Pastor Mike might do well to consider the words of Matthew 18:9 NRSV the next time he attempts to police the behaviors of women in lieu of doing due diligence to self-correct behavior: “And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire.”

Heavy emphasis on that go to hell part.

D. Danyelle Thomas is a Black Millennial Faith & Spirituality writer, speaker, and digital faith leader. Founder of Unfit Christian, her work and words have been featured in Essence, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, Rewire.News, Splinter, & NBC News. (Master of Public Policy, B.A. African American Studies). Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter via @UnfitChristian

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