Archuleta A. Chisolm
Body Shaming in the Church
Growing up in church, I heard sermons on just about every subject. But you could always be certain of what you were going to get on Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Christmas. There were the same sermons – just pulled out and dusted off.
As I became older, I started to pay more attention to what the pastor was really saying in regards to women and their roles. Single women had their own ministry, while married women had theirs as well. Some of the older saints would school the younger women about being a woman of God and the power that came with that.
Needless to say, I have always had a problem when pastors police women and chastise them about they are doing wrong and how they need to change. Men never receive this, because women are expected to do all the work. It’s the same issue I have with Steve Harvey.
So, when I saw Apostle Travis Jennings of Harvest Tabernacle Church in Lithonia, Georgia give his “critiques” of female congregants’ hair, weight, and sex lives in front of a crowd, I just had to speak on it.
The viral clip shows the pastor standing onstage during a group mentorship session. In his polo shirt and blazer, he asked for volunteers from the audience to receive a critique in front of the everyone about why they were single. The only volunteers shown in the clip are women.
“Alright so you need to lose weight. Find a good bra,” Jennings tells the first volunteer, suggesting she go to Intimates – the same store where he took his wife, who he says “knew nothing about anything” until he intervened. He then instructs her to wear stretchier clothes because, “if you keep wearing these big clothes with breasts down to your belly button, that’s not attractive.”
When someone in the audience reacted negatively, Jennings responded: “If you don't like what I’m saying you can leave now, baby. This is my church.”
The next volunteer, a woman with long, curly hair, gets told: Too much.” He tells her to “work on being sensitive and cute,” and adds: “When a man sees your hair he says, ‘OK that’s wild, and wild means sexual.’” When the volunteer looks surprised, he tells her it’s because she’s a “tease.”
What’s even more disturbing is that the audience responds with clapping, cheering and laughing along with what’s going on. Several of the women even smile and nod through the foolery. But when the clip began circulating online, it was a whole different story.
In disbelief, people began flooding Jennings’ Facebook page with comments. The page had to be shut down.
Jennings addressed the uproar in his sermon last Sunday, bringing the two women onstage with him to “clarify” the situation, which he insisted had been taken out of context. He asked the women to confirm that the church had not paid or coerced them to be there and that they had requested coaching on their appearance and did not feel humiliated by the situation.
The women said they value his coaching and believe it’s the prophetic word of God. Jennings apologized for streaming the coaching session but not for the things he said. “I apologize that the narrative got lost. I apologize for anything that was offense to anyone,” he said. “...Can I learn from my actions? Yes ma’am. But those who know me know that my intent is to love, but things can get exacerbated when people don’t know the full narrative and the full context.”
He also said that several men had been coached in front of the audience at the same event. When a phone interviewer asked him for that video, he hung up the phone. Of course, he did.
According to the church’s website, Jennings has coached and motivated people to walk in health, wholeness, deliverance, and purpose.
Hmm. Well, sir… I don’t recall God saying anything like that in the Bible. Jennings’ coaching is actually teaching women to be subservient to men. Believe that he is masking this foolishness by saying that his ministry is radical and revolutionary. This seems to be how people get away with spreading their mess.
Body shaming has been alive and well for quite some time, however, social media has been able to raise it to a level we never imagined. These platforms open the door for people to share unrealistic expectations of an ideal body. Now, it has crossed over into the church.
Even now, toxic leaders are a minority but they get away with their behavior for years because they often have a charismatic personality. This is the reason why women were agreeing and endorsing his behavior. Shame on them! You know this is not biblical, so why are you buying into the ignorance? Brainwash much?
We have to do better. You know why? Because there are false representations out here trying to reel us in and make us hate ourselves. They want to make us think we are not good enough and have to change who we are for men. This guy is a master at it.