The digital streets have been talking since “relationship expert” Derrick Jaxn announced his divorce from his wife of four years, Da’Naia Jackson. The news came days after photos of Jaxn boo’d up with a mystery woman surfaced online. And all of it comes a few weeks after Da’Naia took to social media and went straight Old Testament, calling down fire and brimstone on critics of her marriage.
Da’Naia publicly prayed that her detractors’ “children become fatherless” and our “seeds become vagabonds on the earth.” What does she gain from making herself a spectacle to remain publicly aligned with someone who no longer wants to be attached to her?
This is not the first time the couple has been the subject of conversation. In 2021, a woman came forward to detail an affair with Derrick, leading him—with Da’Naia by his side—to confess to infidelity, remind us he isn’t perfect and detail his path back to restoration. And while we’ve seen the role of supportive wife played a thousand times before, Da’Naia’s attire made her “helmet of salvation” a trending topic (and a popular Halloween costume).
With news of the divorce coming on the heels of Da’Naia’s viral rebuke, her name trended once again.
Jaxn and Jackson always identified as Christians and said their faith was at the center of their marriage. While Christians get divorced daily, Jackson’s actions—couched in her faith—left much to be desired. From her boot camp for women who have experienced infidelity to her “Holy Girl Summer” attire and everything in between, it’s been…a lot. But it’s not uncommon. For many women like Da’Naia, being wives recognized as righteous is the ultimate stamp of approval. They are willing to do whatever it takes to maintain it. More times than not, it is to their detriment.
In recent years, hyper-religiosity has become a more focused topic of discussion. The truth is, for many, faith isn’t just faith. It gets skewed into these wild and intensely dogmatic beliefs that untether people from reality. It goes beyond just believing in God and what God can do. It can get bizarre and unhealthy. Many of us are taught to ground our faith there. The more grandiose, the better. How else will God know just how faithful we are? This level of loyalty, we’re told, yields God’s biggest blessings. After all, God gives his most brutal battles to his strongest soldiers, right?
When you believe God ordained your dehumanizing marriage and things are going left, what else are you going to do other than log online and curse your haters on Instagram? When you are convinced that you have to endure a man’s worst in order to receive God’s best, who can assure you otherwise? For too many sisters, Christianity has become a suffocating force rather than a liberating one.
And it’s not entirely their fault. For as much as I wince every time Da’Naia goes viral for posting something, I know she’s living into what she believes is the holiest and most righteous way. Decades of indoctrination have impacted many of us to the point that even those who walked away still bear fresh bruises and scars. While it is possible to unlearn toxic theologies and harmful doctrines, it is not easy. And where grace is often needed, it sometimes can’t be found.
Comment sections are filled with sisters who have no desire to extend sympathy or empathize with Jackson. It’s hard to have compassion for someone who publicly prayed that your husband would die because theirs is a serial cheater. For many, Jackson represents the type of Christian woman who passes judgment on sisters considered less holy. I get it; I do.
Yet, a part of me painfully recognizes how strong the hold of religion can be. Our desire to be counted as good and right in God’s eyes can keep us from being good and right to people. A couple of us got hurt by some mean church girls and a few hateful church mothers. And when they fell on hard times, we found some consolation in their pain. As women, this keeps us divided.
The church has created toxic sisterhoods on both sides of the theological spectrum, but we are not each other’s enemies. The system that taught us we can’t be our authentic selves and pits us against each other in service of men is solely to blame.
I’m not a wife; I don’t know what it means to “unsuccessfully” fight for a marriage you believe God purposed for you. At the same time, I know what it feels like to think you failed at something God charged to your hands. I’ve felt the weight of navigating private guilt and shame while publicly trying to present something else. I know what it is like for my belief system not to make me whole but to leave me unwell.
Journeying to a place of wholeness within myself required real accountability, truth-telling, and an abundance of grace. And while it may not be every sister’s role in our lives, I hope we all have someone who will help us face the mirror when we need to take long and hard looks at ourselves.
Faith is a tool; it should not be a terror. For many Black women, the most enduring relationship we will ever have is the one we have with God, which will impact all the others. We must do all we can to ensure it’s as healthy as possible because the people in our lives deserve that, and we deserve it for ourselves, too.
When we see Black women of faith acting in a way that contradicts this fundamental relationship, maybe the first thing we should remember is all the years they spent being formed by others about what a relationship with God should look like. And while that does not fully excuse their behavior, it will provide necessary context and shed light on just how hard it may be to let go. Faith-filled sisters did not get “here” on their own and will not arrive at healthier understandings of God and themselves alone.
Some of us should be here when they are ready, willing to journey alongside them.