It was about 12 a.m. when I realized that I was still at my friend’s house binge watching Insecure. It was good medicine for me after our quality time and a glass (read: glasses) of wine. She’d agreed to rewatch Season 1 with me. I was utterly enthralled by the story (and utterly irked by Lawrence’s character). It was evident that I’d be spending the night there when we got to the scene where Tasha (a character played by Dominique Perry) has had enough of Lawrence’s ways and says to him…
“You worse than a fuckboy. You a fuckboy who think he a good dude” (my paraphrasing)
In that moment, Tasha spilled the strategy, delusions, & illusions of churchy fuckbois.
There have been multiple status updates and conversations from my socials around what it can be like to date an “esteemed” man of the church: a minister, a musician, a deacon, and so on. Because before I settled into this beautifully queer synchretic spiritual life I have created… I was churched. That is, I grew up in the Black charismatic church and was taught that these men were the ‘grand prize’ – a sign of God’s pleasure about my actions.
And every time I posted something about dating churchy fuckboys there was a visceral and immediate response. There was a sense of ‘knowing’ shared in the threads and I think it’s important to disclose that the responders were, very many times, other Black churched women.
When I posted, in jest mostly, about launching an “I Dated a Church Musician Support Group” my inbox and threads suggested (in no uncertain terms) that I had identified a theme about churchy fuckboys (in general). It was a theme of disreputable conduct, control tactics, and the tricky nature of navigating these relationships in light of their statuses within the church. In using my lived experience as text and corroborating with the stories of other Black women & girls, I’m now clear that we can call it what it is. Churchy fuckboys have origin stories steeped in spiritualized misogyny masquerading as theology. This does deep personal damage to those they are in relationship with and adds to climates of spiritual abuse.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline explains that spiritual abuse includes (but is not limited to):
Ridiculing or insulting the other person’s religious or spiritual beliefs
Preventing the other partner from practicing their religious or spiritual beliefs (Jade’s addition: This piece also brings to mind all of the ways that women are systemically excluded and / or underrepresented in things like call to preach, church leadership, and the performance of religious rites)
Using their partner’s religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate or shame them (“Don’t you want to be a ‘Proverbs 31’ woman?”)
Forcing children to be raised in a faith that the other partner has not agreed toWhat Is Spiritual Abuse?, Nov. 12 2015, Emphasis mine and additions italicized.
To be clear, I am not a psychologist or trauma expert (outside of my personal lived traumas). My undergraduate degree was in Integrative Arts and my Masters degree was in Higher Education. The mission of my broader work is to encourage greater inclusion to sacred and secular spaces, especially for Black women, femmes, QPOC, and disabled POC.
Yet in this span of time, I have served on Domestic Violence / Assault hearings within the educational system. I have received specific training through Master’s program and ongoing professional development to assess and provide crisis referrals. I’ve spent 8+ years doing this for young adults. I have also had to do this through my coaching and intuitive wellness work. I have been in therapeutic relationship of my own volition since 2013. My collaborator and partner in the mysticism work that I do (Teresa P. Mateus) is a licensed psychotherapist and has written extensively about spiritual trauma. All this is in addition to my own depth of experience as a Black church(ed) woman who (formerly) dated churchy fuckbois. So, in that spirit, and in the spirit of our liberation, I reworked a popular diagram that we know as The Cycle of Abuse.
These additions are working thoughts around how this cycle (which folds in and around itself) manifests particularly in these cases. I present it here as a wish, hope, and prayer that by naming some of the particularities, we can be more equipped to notice them and to challenge them – especially if we are someone with power and privilege in sacred spaces.
It was a long time before I could recognize the profile of a churchy fuckboy because a strength of theirs is convincing others (and themselves, at times) that they are above this cycle. They are often fuckboys who believe that they are godly, righteous, and should rightfully become “the head” and “leader of the home.” Fuckboys whose behavior is all too often reinforced by codes of silence and unequal distributions of power. Fuckboys who gain credence as we cast them as a mythical Boaz: a man, sent by God, who sweep you off of your (virginal) feet, baptizes you in a whirlwind spiritual romance, serves “your covering”, and becomes your husband. Fuckboys that too often receive praise from elder pastors, mentors, and parishioners for how well they present as they are wreaking havoc in their personal relationships. So, may we notice these behaviors, these cycles, and this pattern. May we, from now on, call it what it is.
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