I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe my boyfriend, a minister in training, was trying to convince me to sleep with him prior to marriage by using Bible characters.
When I persisted in saying no, he told me my desire to abstain was a “good goal,” but wasn’t realistic.
This man wasn’t the only “church player” I dated prior to meeting and marrying my husband. Another man warned me not to be “so heavenly minded that I was no earthly good.” I found out later that he was messing around with many sisters in the church. He actually told me after we broke up that he’d made a list of women he wanted to try to date. It was all a game to him!
Have you ever dated a church player? These are men who profess to be Christian, who may even be active in the church and are highly respected by people in the congregation, but they take advantage of the fact that women are taught to wait on the Lord to send them a man. They know that churches are made up of almost 80-90% of women. And they know that many of the single women haven’t been on a date in a long time and have been taught not to date men outside of the church.
These guys manipulate you with religious cliches like, “God said you’re my wife,” and “you’re my good thing.” They make you feel like they want to marry you, but have no intention of settling down with you. They’re after one thing, and once they get it, they’ll use more scriptures to justify why you need to break up!
Why does this happen in our churches which are supposed to be safe places for us?
Listen to the confession from this 40-year-old, divorced church player who came clean about his bad-boy behavior to author Sophia Nelson in her book, Black Woman Redefined:
“These women are like whores. I know it is wrong to use that term, but in my church, it is something like thirty-two to one, and the sisters let it all hang out. I am enjoying myself. I never knew such sexual freedom existed, but I would never marry one of these women. I know it is a double standard, but I am a man, and the world is not going to judge me as it does a woman. Worse, the pastor knows what goes on in here too, and he simply looks the other way.”
This self-proclaimed Christian man is manipulating the double-standard that exists in churches. Women are told to “act like a lady,” “stay out of the flesh,” and “keep your legs closed.” Then, when a man succeeds in melting her defenses and leaves her without the ring, she is shamed, blamed and humiliated.
The pain is so great for a woman who has been hurt by a church player that she tends to tighten up her belt of righteousness, build up walls around her heart, and focus solely on her faith. These women struggle with dating because they’re afraid of getting hurt again.
So what’s the solution? How can sisters protect themselves from church players without becoming so defensive that they shut all men out of their lives?
Honestly, we as a community need to have some real and raw conversations about this for the sake of healing our sisters and transforming our men.
To get started, here are four areas to consider:
1. We need to hold our church leaders accountable. The “boys will be boys” way of thinking needs to go, from the pews to the pulpit! Let’s expect our men to honor God, honor women and honor themselves. And let’s heal whatever it is that’s broken in these church players so that they can stop preying on others.
2. We need to rethink the ways we talk about sexuality in the church. Shaming women and holding them responsible for men’s bad behavior isn’t working, especially when you think about the centuries of abuse and trauma Black women have suffered at the hands of men they’ve loved.
God created sex and he created marriage, but if we continue with the “touch not, handle not” approach to teaching about sexuality, we’ll lose our sisters.
3. We need to heal ourselves. I spoke with a man who said that’s it’s a known fact that churches are filled with hurting women and guys will prey upon them. It’s time to disconnect from the pain of the past, sisters, so you don’t fall victim to the half-truths church players use to get what they want.
4. We need to teach the truth. If you’re constantly hearing things like, “online dating is a sin,” “women need to sit down somewhere and be found,” or “God’s will is for you to stay single but you’d better not have sex,” have the courage to think for yourself and search out the truth. God doesn’t use shame, blame or guilt to motivate us!
Find a life-giving church to attend that will teach you practical ways to date, court and get married that will honor God and keep you fulfilled. That way, when a church player comes with his one liners, you’ll see right through him!