Women make up the body of the church. Without us hallelujahin’ and amenin’ and fallin’ out in the aisles, Sunday mornings would be pretty sparse indeed. Membership would be on the decline because the few dudes left wouldn’t be pressed to get up early on a weekend and throw on slacks and hard-bottomed shoes just to sit next to each other. That’d be too much. With nothing pretty to look at, they’d lose interest real quick and find ways to get in touch with God from the comfort of their sweats and sofas. Thank the Lord for sisters.

Despite being the bulk of good Christian folks who regularly flock to somebody’s sanctuary, church culture doesn’t really do women any favors. Depending on their denomination and the conservativeness of their congregation, ladies are forbidden from wearing makeup, jewelry, even sleeveless shirts. Frowned at for rocking pants. Can’t even think about a stiletto. These archaic rules are neatly disguised in the “respect for God” package, but the Lord said come as we are. He loves the short skirt-wearing around-the-way girl as much as he loves the gals who wear the unassuming, ankle-grazing dresses. So that ain’t it.

Let’s be honest: acceptable church lady attire has much less to do with the Lord and much more to do with not tempting the men of the house. My bare legs should not distract anybody from receiving or delivering the Word. But try sitting on the front pew with a hem that hikes a measly inch and a half and see if a concerned usher doesn’t whisk a lap cloth over those offending knees with the quickness. Funny thing is, it’s not working. Because ministers are about neck and neck with professional athletes and actors when it comes to sex scandals.

I was reading an article about the unfortunate passing of Rev. Zachery Tims and shared it with my best friend, who is an ordained AME minister. We commented about the pressures that he, as a recovering drug addict even many years into his sobriety, must’ve endured, and that old, unreconciled behaviors may have come back to haunt him. Then I got to the part where he’d been embroiled in controversy after he stepped out on his wife of 15 years to have an affair with a stripper.  

It boggles my mind that guys never seem to learn from each other’s lessons when it comes to staying faithful to their spouses, particularly when they’re in positions of power. Being a man with a title comes with an almost guaranteed legion of groupies and with that, possible pitfalls. There are women willing to tackle senior citizens to greet the pastor and take the laying of hands a lot more literally than they should. It ain’t Jesus they’re trying to know nearer and dearer. And you can’t always make them out because of their makeup and their get em’ girl skirts, either. 

But it shouldn’t matter either way. Because when you take on the responsibility of being the moral and spiritual shepherd for eight — let alone 8,000 — people, you’re charged with being upstanding. Not perfect, but upstanding.

The traps are numerous for men with some clout behind their name. But good Lord, how many of them have to fall before they’re conscientious? The truth is, most of them don’t care. They’ve got a sense of entitlement that, because they’ve ascertained some authority, they think they can do whatever they want, from bullying a congregant into becoming a concubine to overtly flaunting a mistress.

There should be folks — more specifically, brothers — in place, holding their pastors and ministers accountable. But too often, they’re just as starry-eyed as the groupies they should be warding off. Humans make mistakes, true. But the same mistake repeated by the same kind of men in the same kind of leadership roles means somebody isn’t taking the consequences seriously. And just what are those, anyway? Come Sunday morning, there’ll still be a fleet of fawning members ready to fan, faint and boost their egos. Most of them will be sisters, lap clothes, respectable skirts and all. Just in case he gets distracted. Again.