Monthly Archives: March 2012

Is Feminism Our Enemy? Part Two

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This is a continuation of my last post, in which I responded to an article on the CBMW website.  The article in entitled, “Confessions of a Recovering Feminist” by Courtney Tarter.

I’ll begin with the second sentence of paragraph five.  I also want to make a disclaimer here…there is much more in this essay that I can’t touch on in one post, or it would end up being ten pages long.  There are issues in it that I plan to talk about more in later posts. For example, in paragraph five, the author touches on the subject of women pastors and stay-at-home dads, and I think these subjects require entries of their own.

Here we go…

“Our problem lies in the fact that there is no one righteous and we are all opposed to God-we are all feminists at heart.  And we can’t wake up one day and decide to be a Proverbs 31 woman any more than a man can decide to lead like Christ.”

~ It’s true that no one is righteous and we are all opposed to God, until He regenerates us and makes us alive in Him.  But here is where the author’s ignorance about what feminism is comes shining through.  It’s wrong to speak about our sinful nature as being on equal footing with feminism without qualifying what type of feminism you’re referring to.  When the Bible talks about our sin nature, it doesn’t have anything to do with male/female roles or equality between the sexes.  I also find it ironic that complementarians use Proverbs 31 to show that women should be homemakers, when Prov. 31 actually disproves that notion(Prov. 31:15-18,).

“Many times we are so busy looking for the woman with the hyphenated name that we miss the woman who scoffs at a man for opening the door for her.  Both of these actions are products of our feminist heart.”

~ There is absolutely NOTHING Biblical about a woman taking her husband’s name when she gets married.  There is NOTHING sinful in hyphenating your name when you get married.   The Bible simply doesn’t command a woman to take her husbands’ name at marriage, period.

If a woman scoffs at a man for opening a door for her, she is rude, whether she’s a feminist or not.  If a man scoffs at a woman for opening a door for her, he is rude, whether he is a feminist or not.  The other day, I was going into a store and there was a man directly behind me, so I held the door open for him.  He said, “Thanks”.  It’s really not complicated. Rude is rude, and that doesn’t have anything to do with feminism.

“My ‘recovery’ from feminism is not about learning how to bake pies or a decision to be more feminine(though these are important and helpful things), it is about repentance.  Repentance of my desire to be in control and to raise my fist against God’s created order.”

~ Okay, I’ll state the obvious here: there’s nothing wrong with wanting to bake pies. There’s also nothing wrong with NOT wanting to bake pies.  But my questions are as follows:  Is the act of baking pies feminine(no!) and where in the Bible does God ever tell women to “be more feminine” or to “pursue Biblical womanhood”?  The answer:  nowhere. There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that men or women should pursue masculinity or femininity; we are to pursue Godliness.

~ The last sentence here is the final one I’m going to comment on, because I think it really sums up what the author believes about women and their relationship to men.  From what I can tell from this essay, the author believes that feminism started in the Garden of Eden, when Eve decided not to follow her husband’s divinely given leadership, which would explain how we have all inherited this sinful “feminist” tendency.  She believes in the theology of “The Created Order”.  This statement by Marg at Newlife sums up this misinterpretation of the creation narrative nicely~

~ “Complementarians have completely missed the point of the Creation of Eve narrative and instead, they have read hierarchical authority into it.  They believe that because Adam was created first, he was to be the leader; and because Eve was made second, she was to be the submissive follower and helper.”

In the creation narrative, God never tells Adam to be Eve’s leader, and never tells Eve to be submissive to Adam.  There is no hierarchy in the creation of Adam and Eve; in order to read hierarchy in this passage, you already have to believe it before you read it.  But it simply isn’t there.  In fact, in verses 24 and 25, we see how delighted Adam is to have a partner, someone who is so much like him, with whom he will have the most intimate relationship.  There is no mention of Adam “leading” or possessing any type of authority over Eve, or of her “following” him in this passage.

Eve was not the first feminist.  She was a sinner, just like Adam.  They both sinned because they wanted to be like God(Gen. 1:5-6).  There is absolutely no shred of evidence that Eve was sinning because she did not submit to Adam, or that Adam’s job was to lead his wife.

“Early advocates for gender equality, so many of them devoutly Christian advocates, swam boldly against the tide of public opinion, sacrificing much in securing rights that no sane contemporary woman would relinquish if given the choice to do so – ‘rights’ which anti-feminist authors Mary Kassian, Barbara Hughes, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, and Beverly LaHaye gladly avail themselves of on a daily basis.” ~ Jocelyn Andersen, “Woman, This is War!”( page 50)

Many Christians, both men and women, seem to be completely ignorant and unappreciative of what women’s rights advocates accomplished.  A brief and honest look at women like Sarah and Angelina Grimke, Harriet Tubman, and Margaret Fell(just to name a few) would show that early women’s rights activists were not man-hating, Bible-bashing heretics.  These women were all Bible-believing Christians with legitimate concerns about slavery and women’s rights.  Another brief and honest look at world history would make this clear: men have dominated women in horrific ways since the beginning, and something desperately needed to be done about it.  Yet Christians today are still under the impression(deception) that women’s rights/feminism are evil and bad for society.  The fruits of these women’s(and sometimes men’s) labors speak for themselves.  As Christians, we have nothing to fear when someone starts talking about feminism, in terms of women’s equality(justice) in their ability and *right to serve along side men.

* “…the word ‘rights’ is not a curse word.  The United States of America was founded by a war fought to win what are readily acknowledged as inherent, inalienable (God-given), human rights.  What many women are unaware of is that the inalienable rights referred to in the United States Declaration of Independence were directed, at that time, towards white males only.  Other than their right to live in this country, petition their government, and pass their citizenship along to their naturally born children, women possessed few rights of citizenship in the United States either before the Revolutionary War or after.” ~ Jocelyn Andersen, Woman, This is War!  (pages 35-36)

Is Feminism Our Enemy? Part One

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This post will focus on the essay, “Confessions of a Recovering Feminist“, by Courtney Tarter, which can be found on the The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s website.

I would like to go through the main points of the article, my purpose being to clear up some misconceptions about feminism that are rampant in the Christian community.  It is my observation that there is some confusion among Christians about what feminism is and how it started.  When feminism in mentioned among Christians, the reaction is often indifference, ignorance, or disdain.  It is clear that the concept of feminism is greatly misunderstood in some Christian communities.

The word “feminism” does not appear in the Bible(obviously!), but the type of feminism that some evangelical Christians support can be defended Biblically, because it focuses on equality for women and men to serve in the kingdom of God according to their gifts. It is not about power, but about service.  The Bible supports the idea that we should treat everyone with justice and equality, for there is no partiality with God.  There is no Biblical mandate from God telling men to rule over women, to prevent them from voting or from being educated, or that women’s minds are inferior to men’s(this idea was taught by philosophers prior to Jesus’ time on earth).  These beliefs permeated the world until very recently, so the feminist movement was a necessary step in refuting these beliefs, and putting an end to the oppression of women.

The article represents one woman’s experience with being a feminist prior to her conversion to Christianity, and how she came to renounce the idea of feminism after her conversion.  I will begin with these sentences from the first paragraph.  You can find the entire article here.

“Prior to conversion I was the stereotypical Generation Y feminist-anti-marriage, anti-child rearing, and corporate ladder hopeful.  After conversion I sang a slightly different tune, although held onto many of my previous ideals regarding marriage and settling down.”

~ I would like to point out that there is nothing “typical” about the kind of feminism the author is referring to.  There are many different types of feminism.  If one espouses the type that is man-hating and abortion-defending, then as Christians we would not be able to support it.  However, many Christians(in my experience) don’t seem to be aware, or are indifferent to the fact that there are different types of feminism, and many of them are not the man/marriage-hating type.  Also, I would like her to back up, with Bible verses, what exactly is immoral about a woman choosing not to get married, choosing not to have children, or desiring to excel in her career.  But she wouldn’t be able to do that, because there are no Bible verses to support her view.

“What we must understand about feminism is that it did not originate in the wake of the women’s liberation movement of the 1970’s.”

~ This is true.  The feminist movement didn’t originate in the 1970’s; it originated in the 1800’s, when women began to receive more education than ever before.  Prior to this time, women were largely uneducated, and may not have had the resources to express what they desired in terms of equality with men.  Some women of the First Wave of feminism were Bible-believing Christians, and were quiet conservative and moderate in their views.  The focus was on women’s suffrage and political equality.  Susan B. Anthony held the view that wives should have the right to refuse sex with their husbands, because at the time, there was no legal protection to keep wives from getting raped by their husbands.

For more information on the roots of the feminist movement, look here(specifically page 6 of this article.)

“Feminism is at the very heart of our fallen nature, and manifests itself in different forms.”

~  I would like her to explain her Biblical reason for saying this.  There is nothing in the Bible saying that it is wrong for women to be treated like equals with men.  Feminism is not the reason for our fallen nature, pride is, specifically thinking we can be like God (Genesis 3:5).

“Recovering from feminism must first start with an embracing of the Gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Only then will we see the roots severed because we will be clothed in the humility of Christ, who willingly submitted himself to the Father on our behalf.  For older women it will mean embracing and modeling femininity, motherhood, and marriage in a Titus 2 way.  For younger women it will mean knowing the godly women in our congregations better than we know the celebrities on late night television.”

~ So she is saying that a person who embraces equality for women is prideful and needs to be humbled.  According to the author, in order for this to happen, we need to embrace the gospel and “recover” from the following ideas:

– women should be paid the same as a men when they perform the same job

– women should be allowed to attend universities

– women should be allowed to vote

– women should be legally protected from rape

This shows that the author is completely ignorant of history in general, and of the very feminism she is talking about.  When a person embraces the gospel, they should be a champion of justice for all people, including women.  And of course, motherhood and marriage are wonderful gifts from God, but she is “proof texting” when she uses one verse(Titus 2:5) from the Bible to prove that women should only want to get married, have babies, and be homemakers.  We could make a similar case that God wants us to remain single by using 1 Corinthians 7:1 ~ “Now for the matters I wrote to you about: it is good for a man not to marry.”

The Bible consistently mentions women in reference to jobs that do not involve staying home and looking after their children(Prov. 31:16, Acts 18:2-3, Acts 16:14, Gen.29:9, Romans 16:1-2).  Jesus himself said that Mary was doing a “good thing”, when she sat at his feet to learn(women in that day were not permitted to learn from a rabbi, but Jesus permitted it. Luke 10:29)  The Bible does not teach that marriage, raising children, or homemaking are the “highest callings” for women.

In addition, I would like to know what this last sentence means.  Is there some widespread problem with feminists watching late night television and being interested in celebrities?  What does this have to do with the feminist movement?

The feminist movements accomplished great things for women.  Feminism in not necessarily anti-Biblical or anti-Christian.  Like any other idea supported by our culture, we need to be educated and informed about feminism before supporting it or completely dismissing it.  There are ideas in our culture that we support, even if they are not specifically “Christian” ideas.  For example, our culture views slavery as wrong in all contexts, and we embrace this view.  In this sense, we are conforming to our culture, because our culture’s view on slavery is correct.

This concludes Part One.  I’ll continue with this topic in my next post.

A Wife’s Submission

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I’ll begin here with studying the passage in Ephesians 5:21-33, which inspired the name of this blog.

*All quotes(except from the Bible) come from “Paul, Women & Wives” by Craig S. Keener.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any blemish, but holy and blameless.  In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it,  just as Christ does the church – for we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’  This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” – Ephesians 5:21-33, NIV

Is submission uniquely a wife’s responsibility?

Let me be clear and say that I do believe a wife should submit to her husband.  As believers, we are to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ(Eph 5:21), and this includes a wife submitting to her husband.

“When Paul calls on wives to submit, his words, even taken in their strongest possible sense, do not call wives to further subjugation.  At their strongest, his words merely fail to challenge the prevailing structures of authority in society, perhaps because challenging authority structures was not his purpose in this letter and would have accomplished little in his situation except to increase the persecution of Christians…”[p.159, emphasis mine.]

In other words, “The submission of wives was standard in ancient culture.  Roman law gave men binding authority over their wives and unmarried daughters.”[p.165]  Telling wives to submit to their husbands would not have stood out to anyone in Paul’s day; it was standard practice, assumed by everyone.  Wives’ submission to their husbands is not a Christian idea.  It was a reality in the culture in which Ephesians was written.  Fortunately,  we no longer live in a culture that requires wives to submit to their husbands by law.  We should be grateful to live in a time period in which women are not the property of their husbands, and are protected by the law equally to men.  As women, we have personal freedom that women in Paul’s day couldn’t imagine, and this is a very good thing.

What is unique is that Paul says a wife must to submit as unto the Lord(as a believer, without bitterness against her husband, and with a greater purpose) and that husbands need to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  Considering verse 21, how are husbands somehow released from submitting in marriage?  This part of the passage is not taught to husbands, because submission is seen as the wife’s responsibility in marriage.  Yet we see in verse 21 that submission is for all believers, including husbands.

What does it mean for the husband to be the “head” of his wife?

It is taught that since this passage says that the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the church, then the husband is the boss, because Christ is the boss.  Now I’m not arguing against Christ’s Lordship, He is Lord over all.  But in the context of this passage, Paul is not talking about “who’s the boss”.  “Indeed, Christ’s love is explicitly defined in this passage in terms of self-sacrificial service, not in terms of his authority(Eph.5:25-27).” [p.167]

What is the husband’s position as “head” of his wife?  He is to love her, give himself up for her, and love her as his own body.

There is nothing in this passage about husbands leading and making decisions for their wives.  This is not a passage about “who’s in charge”.  It’s about oneness.  Not only are the words “leadership” and “decision-making” not there, the very concept of having the husband make the decisions in marriage doesn’t make sense.  Can we really have “oneness” in marriage when one partner has to obey the other, or when one person has the final say in all the decisions?  It is unjust and unfair that in the name of Christ, who spoke against the concept of worldly authority(Matt.20:25-28),  complementarians have turned the beautiful concept of the marriage covenant into a hierarchy.

Paul is talking about a profound mystery, in which husband and wife come together as one flesh.  And as believers, we are called the Bride of Christ, and one day our engagement to him will be realized, and we will be with him forever in eternity.  When a man and woman come together in marriage, they become one and are to reflect this relationship between Christ and the Church as we live our lives together in “one flesh” unity.

Highlighting submission as uniquely a wife’s role can become idolatry.  It constantly relates her life as a believer with how successful she is at being submissive.  Then when her idol comes crumbling down,  the woman is a failure because she wasn’t submissive enough.

It is my conclusion that overemphasizing a wife’s submission to her husband’s leadership is a misunderstanding of Ephesians 5:21-33.  The beauty of “one flesh” imagery is compromised when complementarians attempt to define roles in marriage that are not Biblical.