Back in the mid-eighties, I worked at The Christian Broadcasting Network. You know… Pat Robertson’s ministry.
I know, right?
I worked hard at my job there. I honed my skills and performed my duties with integrity but… I’m embarrassed to say I was a part of that ministry. It’s part of my history I don’t often share.
Quick disclaimer: I can only describe my experience as it was back then. Maybe things have improved these days? I doubt it, but I hope so.
Working at a Christian ministry is a very different experience than working for a regular business. There are rules that don’t apply to a ministry or church, things they can get away with that a regular business never could.
Lemme bullet point a few of them:
• Discrimination. It was the common practice at the time that women weren’t promoted passed a certain level of power, lest a woman have authority over a man. I saw this rule broken though, at the lower management level. Why it was okay at the bottom of the ladder was probably a simple matter of practicality. Not every woman can be a secretary for Christ’s sakes.
• Blatant sexism. A female co-worker and I were called into a meeting with our department head. He was seeking clarification on a situation with a male manager. We discussed the issues, laying out the problems we were facing when he heaved a big sigh, leaned back in his chair and said, “Well, clearly your manager has an issue with submitting to authority. But you two would know all about submission, wouldn’t you?”
That manager in question LOVED making female submission jokes. It was an almost daily occurrence. He’d say things like, “My wife LOVES me. She loves submitting to my authority.” Then he’d get a Cheshire Cat grin across his face. He clearly made a sport of rubbing the word, “submission” in every female face he could find.
• Alcohol prohibition. To even get hired at CBN, you had to sign a form that stated you would not drink alcohol out in public or even in your own home. Not a glass of wine with dinner at a swanky restaurant, not a celebratory beer at a ball game, not a single snort in your own living room.
• Chapel attendance. Every day there was a 30 minute prayer/worship gathering before lunch. Attendance at chapel was not voluntary. It was mandatory. It was easy to skip a few but if you got noticed, it could put your job in jeopardy.
Pat Robertson was nuts back then, but not quite as crazy as he is now. Yes, he was always painfully conservative and a big, fat misogynist and homophobe, but he didn’t prattle on nonsensically to the extreme degree that he does these days.
The overall pervasive misogyny was humiliating and frustrating. It was hard to accept and even harder to protect myself from. After all, they had a biblical leg to stand on.