Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Prosperous Woman’s Responsibility

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Harriet Tubman photo

Harriet Tubman ~ A courageous woman who took action:  she escaped slavery, returned to the South 19 times(putting herself in mortal danger) to lead an estimated 300 slaves to their freedom.

 

 

In our egalitarian society, some in the Church are still teaching women to submit to their husbands’ authority, and that women cannot be leaders, especially of men.

Across the globe, in a modern patriarchal society, a teenager who is gang-raped is told she should marry one of her attackers.  She then committed suicide.  Did this precious female soul need to hear a complementarian rendering of the Gospel, in which she would be taught that not only did Jesus die for her sins, but that female submission to male authority is a key tenet of that “gospel”?  Is that really what millions of women and girls suffering at the hands of male authority need to hear right now?  While some(not all!) prosperous, privileged American Christians go on about how wives should submit to their husband’s authority, that women are naturally followers of men, that our very faith will crumble to pieces if we don’t adhere to this teaching, atrocities against women and girls reign in the developing world.  What is really being accomplished by making the submission of women and exclusive male leadership a “gospel” priority??  It’s like we’re going backwards…women are finally able to work up to their full personhood in our society and some complementarians want to bring us back to “traditional values”.  Who knows how much untapped potential is wasted by trying to fit all women in the same mold?

It frustrates me to know that there are Christian women who have been taught that their highest calling is being a mother and wife.  Don’t get me wrong, being a wife and mother are invaluable, extremely important relationships.  I stay home so I can homeschool my children and I take it very seriously.  I also love doing it and I think I’m pretty good at it; but I know some women who have no desire to stay home with their children or homeschool.  Why oh why are young Christian women and girls being taught that their highest calling is being a wife and mother?  The Bible doesn’t teach it.  Men aren’t taught that being a husband and father are their highest calling, despite the fact that it’s no less important for men to be good husbands and fathers.  They’re taught to find their gifts and use them to serve God out in the wide world.  Women are told that their gifts are all to be used in being a housewives and mothers.  I believe women’s talents are being buried in this teaching, and as Carolyn Custis James says in her book, half the church is taught to hold back, be dependent, and are therefore unable to discover their strengths.  All of this is in the name of biblical womanhood, a teaching based on a few proof-texts.

I think we’re called to more.  Yes, I am a wife and mother.  I homeschool my children.  But I’m not a housewife(not married to a house), and I’m not a homemaker.  I don’t stay home so my husband and children can have a cleaning lady.  My purpose is to homeschool and I will do it until my kids graduate or homeschooling doesn’t work for us anymore, whichever comes first.  As for my free time, I am determined to use what God has given me, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with my family.  I feel no guilt about this.  It isn’t selfish.  Actually, I think it would be selfish NOT to pursue “non-family” interests, as I would be denying God’s call on my life.

All of this comes together as a challenge for us prosperous women.  There are women in the world, in our communities, country and across the globe who don’t have the choices we have.  People are abusing them, using them.  They don’t have the luxury to decide if they’re going to work or stay home with the kids.  These are the problems of the privileged, or as someone I know and love calls them, “first world problems”.  We are aware of what’s going on in our communities and in the world, and we have the resources to do something about it.  It’s our responsibility to act, even if it goes against what some are saying is right.  I’m certainly glad that Mary(Jesus’ mother) went against tradition and decided to obey God(without consulting her soon-to-be-husband first, by the way) and ended up pregnant before marriage, which was absolutely shameful at the time(Luke 1:26-38).  She had a part in bringing the living God to earth as a man.  We can have a part in God’s work, too, if we have the courage to take action.

Notable Quotes

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This is the first in a series of quotes relating to women and the Church that I hope to share in the future…

In her book, Half the Church, Carolyn Custis James points out some uncomfortable truths about the American Church and it’s treatment of women:

Instead of addressing the wide range of questions and situations women are facing today, we focus mainly on marriage and motherhood, and that within a two-parent, single-income family.  We overlook all the other seasons of a woman’s life-which impacts every girl and adult woman and excludes entirely women whose lives follow a different path.  Our message has taken on a negative, defensive tone and doesn’t capitalize on the positive, life-affirming, kingdom nature of God’s message for women.”

~Half the Church, Carolyn Custis James

Evangelicals and Abuse

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It appears the issue of abuse against women is getting some attention from Christians lately…

I think it’s great that some complementarian leaders are addressing this issue and want to do something about it.  On that note, I thought it would be interesting to look at how two complementarian pastors* view the issue of abuse, particularly the scenario of husband as the abuser and wife as the victim.

What follows are two very different views on abuse:

~Here is a video of John Piper telling women how to “submit to abuse”.  Many readers may have seen this video; it’s been around for a few years.  I just want to qualify that I believe John Piper is my brother in Christ and does not want women to be abused.  However, he is a public figure who purposely makes strong statements that may have negative consequences.  I don’t wish ill on him at all; what I do wish is that he would see the error in what he says on this video.  He appears to be ignorant on the issue of abuse.  (At least, I hope what he says in this video is out of ignorance.)

Abuse is so much more than the physical.  It can go on for years and years as emotional and verbal(“verbal unkindness” as Piper states), as it slowly chips away at a woman’s core self.  The damage can last a lifetime.  As abused women have told me, the bruises fade, but the emotional scars never go away.  John Piper doesn’t seem to realize that a woman living with an abusive man will have to endure the destruction of her inner self, her very soul, sometimes for years before her abuser lays a hand on her….Piper calls this “simply hurting her“.  (How is hurting someone simple??)  By the time her hypothetical abuser hits/punches/pushes her it may already be too late.  The truth is, the more a woman submits to abuse, the worse the abuse gets.  Therefore, if submission encourages the abusive behavior(which it does), then a woman should NEVER submit to abuse.  Ever.  I’m going to assume Piper simply doesn’t realize this.

~In contrast to Piper’s attitude, consider this letter written by Jeff Crippen, a pastor who recognized the abuse of women in his church, and humbly took action to do something about it.  This man saw the destruction being done and took steps to learn about the causes and consequences of abuse.  He read books about abuse and confronted his attitude toward women in general.  In his letter he states:

I had to ask myself, “Jeff, just exactly what is it that is going on in your head when a woman walks into your office and asks for help?”  The answer I ultimately saw was “I see her as an inferior being and I talk down to her.”  Really, and with ruthless honesty – “What does Pastor _________ think about a woman who walks into his office?”  “What does he think about his wife?”  Don’t rush to answers.  The first responses we give are usually wrong.”

I find Pastor Crippen’s letter to be humble, kind,  and repentant; this man knows that he failed the women in his church. How admirable, how encouraging it is to know that there are men out there who are willing to be honest with themselves and the rest of us, who will face their prejudices head on and acknowledge what is really going on in their hearts….and then repent and make changes!  If only we could see this kind of honesty from more leaders.

*It appears Jeff Crippen may hold to complementarian beliefs…if I’m wrong, please correct me:)