Monthly Archives: February 2013

Why I Write This Blog

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I know I am misunderstood by some.  I know that some things I write and share might make some people wonder what in the world is going on with me, my husband, and my relationship with God.  I never wanted this blog to have a lot of personal things in it, like things about my family, but I think the time has come for me to open up a little bit.  I realize I am someone who thinks differently than many people around me.  I am grateful for my close friends who, despite perhaps not “getting” where I’m coming from all the time, have stood by me, loved me, and have even tried to learn along with me.

When I got married, I held to complementarian views, although quite loosely.  I was suspicious of the concept of submission, but was willing to at least attempt submitting to my husband’s leadership since this is what I was taught.  Through about the first five years of our marriage, I became a bit confused because our relationship wasn’t the “complementarian” ideal I thought it would be.  My husband is very easy-going and wasn’t “leading” me in all the ways I had been taught he would from books and at marriage conferences.  It’s not that he’s a bad husband(far from it), it just turns out that the submission/leadership model didn’t seem necessary for us.  Our relationship was shaping into a partnership.  We made decisions together, shared childcare and housework equally(when he wasn’t at work), encouraged each other to go out with friends and pursue interests without restraint or any emphasis on his “calling” over mine(we still function this way).  I began to question if the ideas of female submission to male leadership and the calling of motherhood and homemaking were really as biblically clear as I had been led to believe.

So I began to read, study, and ask questions.  I started to find that not all Christians adhere to these teachings, but they are still Bible-believing Christians.  I found out that the Bible has been translated and interpreted almost exclusively by men throughout history, and that the Church’s view of women was very bleak for a very long time.  I found out about the first wave of feminism, which was started by Christian women.  I began to wonder if what I had learned about women and men from a biblical perspective was as clear as some claim.  I also saw  how judgmental I had become of anyone who didn’t agree with my understanding of gender roles.

I have tried in the past to ignore my questions, to ignore the voice in me that says, “this isn’t right, this isn’t working for me”.  I’ve tried to ignore the pain I see other women enduring as a result of the doctrine of submission to their husbands, no matter what character flaws their husbands display.  But I cannot ignore these things anymore.  At some point I made a choice…I will ask questions and seek the truth.  I will pray, read, and study.  I decided to write about it so others who may be struggling with the same questions can see there is another view.  I chose to be vocal and put myself “out there” for all to see.

My motives are to seek the knowledge and wisdom of God, and to help women who are struggling with the effects of these teachings.   I want to know more, to dig deeper into the Word and find answers to my questions.

That’s where I’m coming from.  I’m not “losing my religion”.  I’m a concerned, loving person who wants all women and men to be free to be who they are in Christ.

I also welcome folks to ask me directly about what I think and believe.   You can contact me on facebook.  My only condition is that you are respectful and kind.  We might learn something from one another.

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The Women in Combat Issue

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Joan of Arc, nicknamed "The Maid of Orléans" (French: Jeanne d'Arc,[2] IPA: [ʒan daʁk]; ca. 1412[3] – 30 May 1431), is a folk heroine of France and a Roman Catholic saint. A peasant girl born in what is now eastern France who claimed divine guidance, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years' War, which paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII of France.

Joan of Arc, nicknamed “The Maid of Orléans” (French: Jeanne d’Arc,[2] IPA: [ʒan daʁk]; ca. 1412[3] – 30 May 1431), is a folk heroine of France and a Roman Catholic saint. A peasant girl born in what is now eastern France who claimed divine guidance, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years’ War, which paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII of France.

I have never been particularly concerned about women in combat.  I certainly don’t want to fight in any battles, but I’ve always thought that if a woman had the desire and ability to fight in combat, she should be able to.  Women in combat has been the talk of some blogs lately since the United States lifted the ban on women in combat.  Some complementarian evangelicals don’t like this at all.   Here’s an article written by Owen Strachan I came across last week.  I’d like to discuss a few highlights.

Strachan begins his article with an example of a woman who had a bad experience in combat.  She says she was physically unable to do the job, and suffered for it afterwards.  I find it valuable to listen to people’s experiences, but this is only one woman’s experience among the many who have already been in combat situations.  This isn’t enough to convince me it’s wrong for every woman who ever lived to not engage in combat.  (Many other countries have had women in combat for years, and here is a history of women in combat worldwide.)  Here are more links for women in combat.

Strachan continues with this assertion ~

~ “Scripture teaches that woman was made from man, a truth that grounds her dependence on him (Gen. 2:21-22).” 

Um, what?  Really?  So the logic is that since woman was made from man, she is forever dependent on him.  Women being taken from man proves no such thing.  Actually, I think it could be argued for men being dependent on women, since God made the woman because it wasn’t good for the man to be alone.   The truth is, we are all dependent on each other, and  it’s counterproductive for the Church to be arguing about which gender should be more dependent on the other.  But Owen Strachan doesn’t think so.  He asserts woman’s dependence on man as if there’s no argument whatsoever, as if this one verse in Genesis explains it all, when it actually doesn’t.  There’s no evidence in the Bible that women are supposed to be dependent on men.  There are examples of women who were dependent on men because of the patriarchal culture they were born into, but God never mentions this is the ideal in relationships for all time.  Strachan is reading something into the text that isn’t there, and passing it off as truth.

He goes on ~

~ “When Barak quails at the thought of battle against the Canaanites, Deborah promises that this abdication “will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (Judges 4:9, ESV). We hear her scorn loud and clear, even as we hear the pounding of Jael’s tent peg into Sisera’s skull (4:21).”

Read the entire chapter here ~ Judges 4

Is the scorn “loud and clear”?  Maybe it’s just me, but this verse doesn’t necessarily convey scorn for women in leadership or in combat.  It’s possibly a rebuke to Barak for refusing to go without Deborah, whose counsel he obviously valued highly.  Or perhaps it’s part of the beliefs of an ancient culture that viewed women as property and baby-makers.  I really don’t know, and I question Owen Strachan’s assumption that this is God Himself showing scorn for women in leadership and combat for all time.  Strachan states this as if it’s an immutable fact and we don’t need to look any further.  He’s figured it out, because of this one verse in the Bible, that women should never be allowed in combat.  Look at Judges 5.  Where is the scorn for Deborah and Jael here??  You’d think it would be pretty obvious that if God was so upset about Deborah and Jael’s actions, He would have said something about it.  But no.  All we get is a poem of celebration and praise.

I honestly don’t know whether it’s right or wrong for women to be in combat.  It’s possible that the Bible doesn’t provide the answer to this question.  Some things aren’t “black and white”, as much we want them to be. The problem with Owen Strachan’s article is that he assumes things from the Biblical texts that aren’t actually there.  He reads his opinion into the text(which we all do at times), and then passes it off as a clear, Biblical truth, which can’t be argued with.

More from Strachan ~

~ “If men will not own this responsibility, then women will be forced to take it on as did biblical women such as Deborah and Jael (and the extrabiblical figure Judith).”

I find this statement degrading to women.  I have heard this idea before, that if a woman is in leadership it’s only because a man failed to take the position, so she had to step in.  It’s by default, not because she has leadership qualities and was the right person for the job.  God really wanted a man to do it, but He couldn’t find one, so He settled for a woman.  This devalues a woman’s efforts, gifts, and intelligence(not to mention what this says about the Sovereignty of God!).  It’s kind of like my husband saying(he would never say this, it’s just an illustration), “I really wanted to marry some other woman, but she said no, so I guess you’ll have to do.  How would I feel if he said this?  I would feel like I wasn’t wanted, not really.  I’m second choice.  He married me because someone else wouldn’t.  That’s what I think of when people say that God has only uses women in big ways because there are no obedient men around.

Again, it’s not that I particularly want to fight in a war, nor do I claim to know the correct answers to these questions.  I just think it’s wrong that this man(Owen Strachan) and probably others, are claiming to know the answers, absolutely, without question.  The Biblical evidence he presents is scant and could be subject to other interpretations.  He completely ignores cultural context, and in the case of women supposedly being created by God to be dependent on men, he actually adds to the text.  This is a dangerous game, and it should be exposed for what it is.

 

Concerns About John Piper

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John Piper has definitely written some great books, and many people have been blessed by his teachings.  Lately, however, John Piper is acting a bit strange.  He may lose support, with very good reason.  Go to the links, read, and decide for yourself.

~ The infamous, “endure abuse for a season” video.

~ His declaration that God gave Christianity a “masculine feel“.

~ His support for a faltering organization.

~ Or this post from 2007, which states that any man who endorses women in combat is a wimp.  Here’s a quote from the article ~

“Suppose, I said, a couple of you students, Jason and Sarah, were walking to McDonald’s after dark. And suppose a man with a knife jumped out of the bushes and threatened you. And suppose Jason knows that Sarah has a black belt in karate and could probably disarm the assailant better than he could. Should he step back and tell her to do it? No. He should step in front of her and be ready to lay down his life to protect her, irrespective of competency. It is written on his soul. That is what manhood does.” ~ John Piper

So let me get this straight…real “manhood” means letting someone get the tar beat out of him while someone who is competent to prevent the beating has to stand by and do nothing, because she’s a woman.  That’s  “Biblical manhood”?  Here’s a great response by Jenny Rae Armstrong on the subject ~

“The really interesting thing here is that while Piper acknowledges that gender stereotypes do not always line up with reality, and that clinging to traditional gender roles is not always the most efficient, effective way of getting things done, he insists that it is right to cling to them anyway, even at the cost of life, limb, and a competent woman’s conscience. It seems to me that this is because he views masculinity, femininity, and the relationship between men and women as symbolic, almost a Christianized version of Plato’s Theory of Forms. In this paradigm, the individual is subsumed by the ideal, the here-and-now human relationship by the eschatological one it points toward. It doesn’t matter if Sarah has a black belt, and Jason is physically handicapped in some way–the important thing is that they live up to some cosmic ideal of manhood and womanhood, as a way of representing God and humanity’s relationship with Him.”

I’m wondering, how many mistakes and missteps should we tolerate from prominent teachers and leaders before they lose credibility?  Are the things John Piper written and said in the past enough to cover the hurtful, even nonsensical things he has said lately?

Girls Have Big Dreams, Too

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While reading this post on Girl Talk, Why My Grandma Was Great, I noticed a subtle message directed at females that caught my attention.   The post is dedicated to Nicole’s late Grandma, which I think is a wonderful, beautiful gesture.  However, my intention is not to focus on Nicole’s Grandma, who I am certain was a godly woman deserving of praise from her family.

What I want to look at  is how Nicole describes what is was like to have her Grandma stay with her family for a brief period of time during her teenage years ~

~ “You see, I was one of those idealistic, sometimes arrogant, often annoying, young women who had all kinds of dreams and ambitions to do great things for God but had no clue about what that actually meant.. I was headed for the mission field (because missionary life is exciting, right?). I was going to teach women. I was going to write books. I was going to change the world for God.

I loved my grandma. She was sweet and kind. But she didn’t seem to have a vision beyond the boundaries God had set for her. She certainly didn’t ‘dream big.’“(bold mine)

The problem with this post is that Nicole is implying that in order to be a godly woman, you must choose not to have “all kinds of dreams and ambitions to do great things for God” and not fool yourself into thinking you’re going to “change the world for God.”  In Nicole’s mind, these two ways of thinking are opposed.  If you dream big, you’re arrogant and annoying.  The desire to be a missionary, teach women, and write books are obstacles to becoming a compassionate, kind, and godly woman.  Godly women pay attention “to the price of pot roast” and “how much laundry detergent we have left.”

The implication here is that a godly woman cannot be ambitious, or have big dreams or goals outside of caring for her family.  The only way to true greatness, for a woman, is in the little things, like doing laundry and saving money for her family.

That’s really strange, because I know several kind, compassionate, godly women who also manage to dream big and want to change the world.  It is true greatness to pay attention to the price of your groceries, make sure you have laundry detergent, help your kids with their homework,  and volunteer in their classroom.  It is also true greatness to follow God’s call to the mission field, to teach women, and to write books.  No matter what we do in service to God, it’s in service to God, so it’s GREAT.  There shouldn’t even be a comparison between the two.

What is really damaging about Nicole’s blog post is this:  it is stifling for women and girls to be told they shouldn’t dream big or have ambition because those things will interfere with their pursuit of “biblical womanhood”.  It would be stifling to tell my daughter she shouldn’t have the “big goal” of becoming a missionary, that she shouldn’t work towards becoming an author or a teacher, because these goals would interfere with her becoming a homemaker.  It pains me to think about  how many dreams and callings of girls and women have been squashed under this teaching.  If I taught my daughter that she shouldn’t “dream big”, I might be snuffing out the Holy Spirit’s work in her life, and I am sure I don’t want to do that.  How many women and girls have had the Holy Spirit’s work pushed to the side for someone else’s agenda?  If “biblical womanhood” means I can’t dream big and have ambition to do great things for God, then I don’t want anything to do with it.

Notable Quotes

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Social Justice is the equality of all people regardless of sexual orientation, race, gender, age, and any other sort of association that you can apply to set one group of people apart from another.

“Although emphasizing inherent differences between the sexes certainly strikes a chord with many couples, such simplistic frameworks can be harmful in the context of relationships, says Reis, a leader in the field of relationship science.

In fact, Reis believes using gender as a scapegoat can lead to relationship problems.

‘When something goes wrong between partners, people often blame the other partner’s gender immediately. Having gender stereotypes hinders people from looking at their partner as an individual.

They may also discourage people from pursuing certain kinds of goals. When psychological and intellectual tendencies are seen as defining characteristics, they are more likely to be assumed to be innate and immutable. Why bother to try to change?'”

~ This quote comes from a new study on gender*, “Men and Women are from Earth: Examining the Latent Structure of Gender“, which states, “Despite considerable popular literature suggesting a vast psychological difference between men and women, a new study suggests that gender differences are relatively insignificant.”

Here’s a really good post about gender roles by Rachel Held Evans, where she states ~

~ “How do I want to be treated?

Like the stereotypical man? Nope.

Like the stereotypical woman? Nope.

What I want is to be treated like a human being, like the unique person God created me to be.

I want to be treated like Rachel.”

Yep.

Is too much to ask, does it stretch our brain cells too much to consider this gender thing isn’t as simple as women do this, men do that? Gender isn’t black and white; there’s a lot of gray, fuzzy areas about it that can make us uncomfortable. But being uncomfortable doesn’t excuse us from the difficult work of getting to know individuals, and to stop thinking we know everything about a person simply because we know their gender.

*My thanks to Libby Anne, writer of Love, Joy, Feminism, for pointing me to the gender study, as well as her insightful thoughts on the subject.

Girls Talk about Submission

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I do not dismiss the concept of submission in a Christian’s life; please refer to this post if you want clarification.

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John Piper describes a wife’s submission as “the divine calling to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.”

The ladies at Girl Talk assert, “We must determine how we can best use our gifts in service of our marriage to the glory of God instead of for our own selfish agenda.” ~  This quote assumes, without evidence from the Bible, that a wife’s most important purpose is to use her gifts, no matter what they are, to serve her husband in their marriage.  Anything outside of this aim is SELFISH.

Reading Girl Talk’s posts on submission could lead a girl to think the most important thing about her is how submissive she is.  But does the Bible actually teach this?

“The idea of a husband ruling his wife came as a consequence of sin entering the world (Gen 3:16b).  However Jesus came to deal with sin and its consequences.  Interestingly, the concept of a “ruling” husband is not picked up anywhere again in the Scriptures after Genesis 3:16; male authority is never put forward as an ideal in the Bible.” ~ read more at New Life.

Does the Bible have consistent examples of wives submitting to their husbands?

“As I go through the list of Bible women in my mind, apart from Sarah, I cannot find one single clear example of a  woman who submitted to her husband.  On the contrary the Bible gives us numerous examples of holy women who did not behave in (what much of the Church would consider) a submissive manner towards their husbands.[2]

Several holy women took the initiative in significant situations, without apparent permission, protection or cooperation from men.  These women include Moses’ mother (Exodus 2:1-3);  Rahab (Joshua 2:1-6); Deborah (Judges 4-5); Ruth  (Ruth 2:2-33:1-6); Hannah (1 Samuel chs 1-2); and a well-to-do Shunamite woman (2 Kings 4:8-37); etc. [3]” ~ Marg at New Life

Did these women ask their husbands for counsel?  Did they make sure they submitted to their husbands’ leadership?  Here are some examples:

Deborah

Huldah

Mary, mother of Jesus

If the ‘created order’ is so very important, and women are to be subject to their husbands, to follow their leadership, then why didn’t God admonish these women when they failed to seek their husbands’ counsel??  

The example of Mary, mother of Jesus, stands out.  An angel came to Mary and told her she would give birth to the chosen one.  The angel did not command her to go and ask her husband, to seek his council and submit to his leadership.  Wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect that God Himself, our creator and the author of the so-called “created order”, would make sure this woman was submitting to her husband?  Complementarians teach that a wife is to follow her husband’s leadership.  She must, or she is in sin!  She’s disobeying God Himself!  Yet even when an angel of the Lord presented this woman with God’s plan for her, he said NOTHING to her about her asking her husband’s council or following his leadership(being engaged was almost married in that culture).  She was making the enormous, scandalous decision to carry a baby out of wedlock.  She knew it would affect Joseph in a big way.  She also knew that giving birth to this baby, the Messiah, would work for her good and  glorify God.  It also meant she and her husband’s life would be greatly affected, yet she didn’t even mention this huge decision to Joseph at the time.  You’d think that if the created order and submission of a wife to her husband’s leadership was so important to God, then Mary would have been told to go and ask her husband first before making her decision.  But this isn’t even mentioned.

I think this is just one woman of the Bible that Christian wives can look to as an example, yet have often failed to do as a result of misguided teachings on submission.  This preoccupation with submitting to husbands as the most important thing we can do is a distraction.  It has kept women from obeying God and any calling they might have outside of what their husbands think is best.  We are responsible for ourselves.  There is no excuse for not obeying God, even if our husband has pressured us into saying no to God’s call in the name of submission.  There is one mediator between God and man, and it’s not a husband.

Now for humorous view on submission from Retha at Biblical Personhood ~

…”The biblical ideal is loving, humble headship and joyful, intelligent submission.” – Wayne Grudem

When submission has the meaning Grudem defines, what is the difference between stupid submission and intelligent submission? Is it:

  Stupid submission – “Hubby said it, so I do it.”

Intelligent submission – “Hubby said it, I know it is stupid, but I do it.”

For that matter, what is the difference, if headship mean what Grudem say it does, between humble headship and proud headship? Is it:

Proud headship – “Because I said so. That is why.”

Humble headship – “God made me no smarter than you, and I don’t even know if my way is God’s way in this. But he made me the head. That’s why.”