Kathryn & Carl

December 3, 2009

An Informative Week

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn @ 8:17 pm

I was going to write this post all in “did you know” statements… but question marks get really oppressive after about three in a row. I had no idea.

Anyway, things are both hectic and static here in Plyms. HOW? You ask. One shall tell. In outline form:

I. Introduction (things are hectic/static)

II. Our Situations

A. Carl’s Situation

1. Hectic

a. The Christmas program at church starts tonight

b. They keep changing their mind about the videos

c. And making him work absurdly long hours

d. Without weekend days off

e. Also, he caught a cold

f. And continues to do freelance work

2. Static

a. You know those really horrible colds where your whole

body aches and you just want to die and the world seems

like a blank place, so that even when you have time off,

you mostly just stare at the wall? Exactly.

b. I think if this is a real outline there has to be a “b”

B. Kathryn

1. Hectic

a. I lied.

b. I mean, I’ve written almost 50 pages this week, but the

nov I’m working on is pointless, because it’s a sequel to

another book I haven’t been able to sell, so really, one

asks: why? I don’t know. Because it writes itself, I guess.

2. Static

a. It’s dinner time, and I’m still in my bathrobe. Because

Carl’s not coming home until 10, and I wrote all day

b. Also I want to vomit.

c. And I think that pretty much any time you ponder whether

or not your life has deep significance, you can be pretty

sure that your life qualifies as static.

III. Conclusion (One is apparently lonelier than one supposed. HERETOFORE.)

Actually, I’ve spent a pretty productive week up to this afternoon when I sort of launched off into the brave new adventure of feeling ridiculously ill. On Tuesday I sat down, FULLY intended to work on my mystery story, and instead wrote the first twenty odd pages of a sequel to my Vicky book.

I suppose you could call that poor choice #1 of my week… Unless, I guess, you wanted to say it was kissing my clearly ill husband. We try to be healthy, we really do. But, it ends up being sort of nonhelpful because, although we might not KISS in order to halt the deadly onslaught of illness, we’re still sleeping next to each other and basically if we want the other person’s food there is no particular reason we won’t drink out of/eat off of the other person’s cup/plate without warning.

Basically, I think I just said we were about as hygienic as hyenas.

Anyway. I try to pretend that a book that’s basically writing itself can’t be too much of a waste. It’s not like I’m slaving over it or anything. Probably my enthusiasm will peter out when I hit pg 100 anyway, and I can set it aside and get back to the mystery without a pang then.

I hate pangs.

Besides the writing, I’ve been unearthing a lot of random facts. For e, when feeling too ghastly for movement this aft, I watched a documentary called “The Rape of Europa” all about the displacement of art treasures during WWII. Really interesting the way art played into the war (did you know Hitler kept a well-researched “hit list” of all the art pieces he wanted from each country—long before those countries were invaded?). The Russians not only took back what they could from Germany, but apparently confiscated a bunch of German art too… and still won’t give it back! Apparently, there have been lots of people—ever since the war—employed full time in the search for missing art pieces and the attempt to sort who what actually belongs to who.

I’ve never really thought about this aspect of culture being very involved in military history. I’m sure conquerors have always plundered… but I wonder if this is the first war where people had to give it back afterwards? (On such a national scale, I mean).


Must go. I think the plague is tightening it’s hold. As the little boy says in that great film The Biker King and the Ten Commandments, “I JUST WANNA DIE.”

Or nap. I guess I could handle that.


November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn @ 1:03 pm

Hope everybody has a wonderful one! Carl’s in the shower, and I’m about to pop the pumpkin pie in the oven (our contribution to the Johnson family feast).

Yay, good times!

I’ve been compiling a list of my 101 top things to be thankful for throughout the month, but here are my top 5:

  1. Having a Creator who is also my Savior, who provides for and loves me with a richness I really can’t understand
  2. Being married to my best friend, who also loves me in a way I’ve never quite gotten to the bottom of. He just does.
  3. Being able to stay at home and do what I love.
  4. Our families (and friends who are the same as family)
  5. Books
  6. (Freebie: I dreamed last night I was at the animal shelter picking out a puppy and that we were pregnant. Apparently, one is in a VERY hopeful frame of mind)

Happy hols! Hope your turkey is moist and your family on speakerterms!

November 25, 2009

Reading “The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn @ 12:33 pm

Just finished Mary Pride’s The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality, which my cuz was nice enough to lend. I’ve read enough antifeminist and neo-patriarchy blogs to make my eyes fall out and wanted to take a quick jaunt through some of the official books that got the movement really rolling in conservative circles. Just to see where things differed or might have changed in the last thirty years or so.

The style is definitely polemic. And, it’s easy to see that the book was conceived in the 70s with the feminist movement booming and written in the 80s (hello, backlash! Hello, USSR!). But, there are a lot of places where I think she was right on.

Particularly abortion and home education (no surprise, I know). I thought she did an excellent job highlighting what exactly abortion means, how it’s done, and where the profits are going. She gave a lot of information I didn’t know, and most of it was pretty hard to read. I have always been against abortion, and this chapter really convinced me again how important it is to outspokenly opposed to the torture (NOT hyperbole)  and murder of children.

Home education and private education also seem excellent to me. Although there are many good teachers in the public school system, study after study has shown that homeschooled kids do just fine academically.

Okay, but there are some significant problems—significant enough that, although I think there are some really good parts to this book, I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody who wasn’t comfortable thinking for herself and keeping her Bible open.

Here the top 6 points of the book that I find concerning, extra-biblical, or downright UNbiblical:

1. The purpose of marriage is to produce children

“The biblical reason for marriage is to produce fruit for God” (20).

“the attempt to turn a perfectly good marriage into an intimate marriage has led to many, many divorces…. Intimate marriage isn’t biblical” (18).

“The Bible teaches that childbearing is a wife’s basic role”  (41).

Although I would agree that childbearing is a key role of marriage, I do not see where in the Bible she can justly claim that it is the THE reason for marriage. Nor have I seen that teaching from other pastors or theological writers. I understand from the Bible that marriage was ordained first for the mutual help (including companionship) of men and women (Gen 2); for child-bearing (Gen 1:28); and also for the prevention of impurity (I Cor. 7:2). (By the way, these aren’t my ideas. This is pretty basic Christian teaching from the Westminster Confession of Faith in the 1600s).

Unfortunately, Pride’s argument is not only questionable from a biblical basis, but logically unsound as well. She argues against the intimacy, companionship, and social contract models of marriage by stating that those are dangerous because “If the need in question is not being met, or can be met better elsewhere, the whole reason for marriage disappears” (her italics, 19). Logically, her argument that marriages is for children doesn’t fair any better. According to her model, if a marriage doesn’t produce children, or once all the children have been raised, a couple no longer has any “need” to stay together.

For those of you saying “wait a minute! What about her teaching that it’s wrong to divorce?” I say THANK YOU. She dismissed the idea that one of the primary purposes for marriage is mutual help and companionship, even though many Christians believe that and also believe divorce is wrong. I’m glad if my argument feels unfair, not because my intention is to be unfair, but because I think it’s important to realize how extraordinarily unfair much of this book feels to those who have convictions that differ from Pride’s.

2. Evangelism is of minimal importance

“Missionaries go to foreign countries to beget new Christians; mothers get pregnant to beget new Christians” (57).

“Let’s say that Christians are 20 per cent of the U.S. population. If each Christian family had six children, and the humanists, feminists, and others kept on having an average of one… then in twenty years there would be sixty of us for every forty of them. In forty years, 90 per cent of America would be Christian!” (80).

“Scripture draws a fundamental distinction between the children of the righteous (of whom there are never enough) and the children of the wicked (of whom there are always too many)” (63).

This last quote shows a stunning lack of evangelistic, Christ-like love. Although the Bible does say negative things about the “children of the wicked,” I have always believed that this referred to those who were following in the footsteps of the wicked. The Bible frequently makes the point that spiritual offspring are the true sons, not simply the physical offspring (see Rom. 9:6-8).

I think we should be wary of any huge, lifestyle teaching that points Christians in a radically different direction than the one proposed by Jesus. The major thrust of the New Testament is not really about the Christian family, but about salvation and the importance of taking this good news throughout the world. Jesus and Paul both teach about and value the family, but “Pointing to his disciples, [Jesus] said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother'” (Matt. 12:49-50). And Paul, though he has many excellent and positive things to say about family living, doesn’t always commend it as the ideal state—certainly not the only good or holy state (I Cor. 7:8, 38).

Finally, in Mark 16:15, Jesus told his disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” not “Go into all your bedrooms and raise up a new generation of believers.” Raising godly children is a valuable and wonderful part of the Christian life, but it does not replace our duty to evangelism, and it is never portrayed in the Bible as the primary means of building the church.

3. Parents are ultimately responsible for whether or not their children turn out to be believers.

“If it’s really true that a Christian mother or father can do everything right and have it turn out all wrong, then there’s no hope for rebellious children at all” (103).

“If [parents] are doing their job, their children will not grow up to be fools. God has promised” (105) (she believes that Proverbs 22:6 (“train up a child”) is a promise).

“If the parents are not to blame, who is? Society? God?” (103).

All of these statements are false dilemmas.

The first statement suggests that either parents do things right or there’s no hope for a rebellious child. Fact 1) parents have sin natures and cannot do everything right. Fact 2) God’s capacity for grace is unfathomably rich. NO child, no matter how rebellious, is ever beyond hope (not while she’s breathing, anyway).

The second statement is based on exactly the same reasoning. Here’s the crux of the problem—we can’t actually know if her hypothesis is true because all people are sinners and all people fail. She cites Absalom as a rotten child and then shows how this is because David was an adulterer and murderer—and “don’t you think you could beat those track records?” (103). Frankly, if I heard a man say that he thought it would be no problem to be more righteous than David, I would instantly suspect him of arrogance. Yes, David sinned and fell short of perfection, but if even David did, then God help us all.

The third statement is simply astonishing. Remember, we’re not just talking about whether or not a kid misbehaves. Obviously, good parenting has an effect on a child’s manners, ability to share, etc. But, Pride is not simply talking about a child’s manners, she’s including whether or not a child grows up to serve Christ wholeheartedly.

So, here’s your dilemma, Pride says: a kid grows up and leaves the faith/gets pregnant/turns to drugs. Who’s to blame: parents, society, or God?

What’s astonishing is that she doesn’t even mention the two most obvious answers: the child herself and a healthy sin nature. When you claim Proverbs 22:6 as a promise rather than a godly principle, you are effectively denying that children (remember, she’s talking about teenagers and adult children too) have any responsibility for their actions. She’s saying that children who turn out badly are simply victims of their parents’ faulty parenting.

Certainly, I believe a child can be victimized by his parents and face serious set-backs by having horrible role models. Does this mean the child isn’t responsible for his later problems with sin? Absolutely not.

4. Feminism is to blame for most of today’s social problems.

“What if our “harmless” embracing of feminist career goals… leads to moral, social, and economic collapse for our country? What would you say if the price of so-called Liberation turned out to be enslavement to a totalitarian regime?” (4)

“Feminists… want total control over everyone and everybody, including our children” (85).

“When the church came out in favor of family planning, it produced certain effects… outside careers…abortion…marital stress… epidemic divorce… child abuse, the popularity of homosexuality…infanticide, and so on” (75).

As the Russian wolfhound says in Lady and the Tramp, “it is like waving red flag in front of bull.” The truth, of course, is that defending feminism as a social movement isn’t really one of the great purposes of my life. The things feminism got right are the same things we could have found from reading the Bible more clearly…except we didn’t.

It’s to our shame that we had to have a secular group like the feminists remind us Christians of some pretty basic truths, but now that we’ve sorted through their ideas to figure out which ones are worth learning from and which are destined only for the trash bin, it might just be time to move on.

Either way, let’s not get so agitated about the movement that we reduce ourselves to foolishness and lies in our efforts to “disprove” the feminist position.

In the first place, if Pride’s really means to blame feminism for abortion and homosexuality—just to pick two from her list—she needs to be more specific in her claims about what exactly feminism is, because abortion and homosexuality have both been practiced throughout human history (and been legal in different cultures at different times). And, if she does in fact mean to be charging women throughout history with providing the fuel for these problems, she needs to give some factual evidence to support that (besides just a painful work-over of Rom. 1:26).

In fact, for being a book about getting “beyond feminism,” Pride uses remarkably few feminist sources, citing instead her own involvement with the movement before she became a Christian as evidence enough that she knows what she’s talking about. Out of 77 sources, I counted 5 who were feminist, and only 2 were women with any kind of respect or authority within the feminist movement. All of them were writing in the 1960s-80s.

Pride also likes to quote Naomi Goldenberg a lot, because Goldenberg is frickin’ crazy. Who wouldn’t want to quote her?  In case you’re not up on your femme trivia (I wasn’t. I’d never heard of her before), Goldenberg is a self-proclaimed witch who thinks women should have shrines to themselves and orgies of Goddess (self) worship. In other words, Naomi Goldenberg is to feminism what Jim Jones is to Christianity.

… To be honest, I don’t even know how to talk about Pride’s assertions about what feminism is and does, because they’re so broad, so general, and so unsubstantiated that it’s almost impossible to dig into any one of them. You could talk about the history of homosexuality, the history of abortion, the fact that China is nowhere near a feminist country and yet there is a One-Child law, that about 80% of the world’s abortions occur in developing countries (usually the most patriarchal), that blaming child abuse on men’s confusion about the purpose of sex is totally sidestepping the critical issue here (THAT CHILDREN ARE BEING ABUSED), and that criticizing modern society as though it was the product of feminism alone is ridiculous because I’ve never read any feminist on earth who categorically claimed that feminism has won and society has become enlightened.

5. Feminism of the 60s and 70s is directly responsible for dwindling family size

“With the advent of family planning in the fifties, motherhood began to be questioned” (36)

False. According to the sources I could find, family size in the west has been dropping for 200 years. In 1800, the average family had 7.0 children, by 1900, the average size was down to 3.5. By 1933, family size had declined to 2.3 children, so the actual anomaly here is the baby boom of the late 40s and early 50s, not the decline of the birthrate through the 70s and 80s to about 2 children per family. I don’t say this because I think small families are better (I don’t think size has anything to do with it), but because her argument that the radical feminism of the 60s and 70s drove the birthrate into alarming decline does not have historical evidence.

6. Feminists hate children and want a Big Brother totalitarian government that will take control of our children and remove them from our homes.

“Far from loving our children, feminists try to make us hate them as the chief obstacle to our total liberation” (68-69).

“It is a bit more difficult to convince people [she means unbelievers and feminists] that we should not worship our children” (37).

So… which is it? Do the feminist have only one or two children because they worship their children and want to pour out all their time and attention on them… or because they hate them and don’t want to be bothered with more than 2 little monsters?

It almost doesn’t matter, because the fact that she views both as problems serves as a strong suggestion that if feminists are falling into extremes on both sides of the spectrum, there’s a good chance that there are a whole bunch of feminists in the middle who do, in fact, love their children. Just a thought. (This argument, of course, has nothing to do with whether or not folks anywhere along the spectrum are believers. Belief in God and loving our children ought to have a high correlation, but they are not exactly one and the same issue. Though Pride would love to say they are).

“the modern childrens right movement is designed to get the child outof the family” (87).

Unfortunately, Pride was pretty much right on with this point… as of the original 1985 printing. Happily, this is no longer true since even the government has realized that, except in extreme cases or cases involving ongoing serious abuse/neglect, children do better in parental custody. The State of New York defines it’s policy this way: “Unless children are in imminent, immediate danger, the goal is to keep a family together.”

Does Child Protective Services make mistakes? Of course, and I’m glad there are dedicated organizations in place to fight for those parents who have been wrongfully accused. But, to assert that the children’s rights movement has “only one goal in mind” (ie total control of the child) is alarmist and unfounded (87).

Pride is quick to point out that “parents have been convicted for ridiculous things like forbidding their children to attend movies” and, finally, that “Abuse, in short, is raising your children in any way those in power dislike—such as raising them as Christians” (87), but what she fails to consider are the problems associated with the government taking no stand at all about children’s rights. Per a study done in 2003, the planet sees 57,000 children die of physical abuse every year. The study found greater chance of abuse among both poor families as well as large families. Boys were more likely to be physically abused, while girls were more likely to be sexually abused. In both cases, the chief victimizers were men. UNICEF estimates that over 200,000 African children are sold into slavery every year. The list goes on, and it’s mind-boggling.

Are governments responsible for fixing this? A whole lot of ideology and Bible verses get thrown around, but one thing’s for sure: if you’re going to criticize the government’s effort to stop the abuse and needless death of children, you’d better bereally sure you have a more useful solution to offer.

Mary Pride’s solution to child abuse is that families need to love their children more. This is doubtless true. Just as doubtless: our desire that other families love their children more is not likely to change anything. If people were nice because we asked them to be nice, we would have no war, no poverty, definitely no murder, and very few problems.

I respectfully contend that we need a better solution to keeping children safe.


There’s a whole lot more to say, but this is already too long. I guess the only real conclusion is that I feel badly critiquing the arguments when I truly believe in most of the end results she’s talking about. On the other hand, her logic is repeatedly shaky and she often reads WAY more into a verse than I’m comfortable with (building such extreme doctrines around 3 brief passages is tough for me to swallow).

But, it’s been an interesting read. And, if it’s truly helping some women to live a more godly life, then more power to her.

I just don’t think I’m one of those people.

November 23, 2009

Christmas Shopping!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn @ 1:48 pm

Yay for days off! We’re headed out to snatch a few Christmas gifts, but in the meanwhile here’s a vintage comic Carl found the other day:

There IS something incredible about this, no?

November 21, 2009

For your reading pleasure

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn @ 1:51 am

Am continuing my fascinated troll through antifeminist and pro-patriarchy blogs and resource materials.

… And I sort of fell in love with this article called “Blue Jeans—The New Feminist Uniform?” I’m posting this because I think we are ALL far enough removed from this sort of thinking to find the article worth a grin.

But, really, how could one not?

Jeans are a fitting feminist symbol. They are farmworkers’ and miners’ clothes. Feminism is an invention of the central bankers who also created and financed the socialist and communist movements as bait to control people through government (which they control.)

By wearing jeans, women are signalling loyalty to this drab unisex proletarian vision, where women work like men, look like men, and fornicate like men (i.e. dogs.)

Can it be any more obvious? If the sexes dress alike, it is because they are becoming alike.

Often I see married couples clad in blue denim, him and hers. Occasionally there is an eldest daughter already promised to the cult of androgyny.

I love that feminism is what’s wrong with the world, and yet one of the chief sins of feminism is that it trains women to “fornicate like men (i.e. dogs).”

Say what?

I’m also starting to see a trend that equates feminism with socialism… and is therefore evil. It honestly never occurred to me that feminism is socialistic. And, now that it has occurred to me… I’m still not sure of the problem? I mean, yes, I get that socialism as a political system has problems. But, um, so does capitalism.

Stuff to think about.

I’m also trying to find some Christian feminists with extreme opinions to sort of balance things out. Anybody know of any good websites? (I’ve seen the “White Washed Feminists” one). I’m not looking for straight up feminists—I know where to find those—just the ones who are also Bible-believing Christians.

Hope your weekend is fabu!

November 20, 2009

All the things I want to say about Twilight… but haven’t gotten around to yet

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn @ 1:18 am

Well, I guess it’s too late. I’ve been meaning to write about how much I abominate the Twilight books/films, but Gina Barreca beat me to it at Psychology Today.

She’s even funny.

I’d curl up and cry over my general redundancy as a human being if I wasn’t still howling I KNOW. FOR REAL about her #1 reason to hate Twilight.

Idiot children.

And then you see the mag covers where Kristin Stewart offers the sage opinion that Twilight is all about feminism because R. Patt-head is really nothing more than a sex object.

Which shows a mind-blowing grasp of feminist thought.

As Carl gently offered me in the bookstore today, “Do we need to leave? Do you want to hit things?”

Yes, honey. We must go. I must smash things with my hammer now.

I love you.

I love you too.

November 18, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn @ 5:43 pm

My brother Fig informs me that my post on “Keepers at Home” was nice and all, but a little yawny. He appreciated the organization and detail, but found nothing controversial about it, nothing that challenged any of his own beliefs or thinking.

Clearly, my work of indoctrination is finished with Fig.

And, just in case this did not come through adequately, please be advised:

I sincerely believe that traditional patriarchy—both in and out of the church—is a lie from the pit of hell.


Keepers at Home

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn @ 12:48 pm

Probably to a good 90% of the US population, the following conversation doesn’t even make sense because OF COURSE women ought to be free to pursue careers in the work force, but I promise you there are a lot of real people who genuinely debate this topic in an effort to get at what the Bible truly expects of women (particularly wives).

Are all women called to be homemakers? Are women responsible for the home life in a way that men are not? And, for the cash prize, what does it mean that women are supposed to be “keepers at home” (Titus 2:5, KJV)?

Before we get into the discussion, I’d like to list the two verses/passages that usually get top billing in these kinds of discussions, so we all know where the ideas come from. Extra points for checking out the context and maybe looking at a few different translations. I’m going to give them in the KJV here:

I will therefore that the younger widows marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully (1 Timothy 5:14).

That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,  To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed (Titus 2:4-5).

Passages like these would definitely seem to give support to the traditional role of women running the house while men run the business. Women are, after all, called to “guide the house” and “be keepers at home.”

As a rough outline, I’d like to raise two points that I think are important for HOW we look at verses like these; then talk about the verses themselves, then discuss them in light of what the Bible has to say about real women from Genesis to the New Testament, and finally see if we can’t find some useful conclusions.

First, examining the idea of public vs. private.

I’m not a scholar of Biblical cultures, so please feel free to check up on my thoughts here through commentaries and experts. I do, however, know a little bit about our cultural history in the eighteen hundreds, the Industrial Revolution, and the way European societies were structured before those wheels started rolling.

What does that have to do with anything?

Well, it has a lot to do with how we think of the words “homemaker” and “home.”

I would argue that our mental pictures of what a home and wife should be owe at least as much to Romantic and Victorian ideas of domesticity as they do to the Bible. Mentally, we have divided our worlds into two spheres: the public and the private. Everything that is public—business, money, law, politics, etc etc—traditionally belongs to men. Husbands are the ones who go out, earn the money, and come home to the safe haven of their homes for rest. Everything that is private—the home, food preparation, laundry, child-rearing, and (traditionally) early education—belongs to women. It is the woman’s job to create a loving, restful atmosphere at home to soothe her husband’s work-weary soul.

Although the splitting of public and private has been happening for thousands of years among the top 1% or so of the population (royalty and the astronomically wealthy. Those who could afford to keep harems, for example), until the Industrial Revolution, most people through history lived with considerably more overlap between spheres.

From my understanding of pre-industrial and Biblical times, it seems clear that public and private were frequently living elbow-to-rib. I sincerely doubt that people thought of their homes as places untouched by the hustle of the world. Homes were themselves often the site of work and business. Priscilla and Aquila were tent-makers who worked as partners—quite probably in their home (Acts 18:2-3).

The idea that the “private sphere” includes child-rearing also seems tenuous to me. Certainly, pregnancy, childbirth, and breast feeding are physically female roles. But, as boys, both Joseph and David are sent out to the fields to check up on their brothers—suggesting that as soon as the boys were old enough they were assumed into the man’s world and guided by fathers and older brothers rather than mothers.

What does it mean, then, for a woman to be “guiding the home”? I think it’s important when we consider this verse to remember that the home was not simply a place of comfort and child-rearing, disconnected from the family’s struggle for financial stability.

Second, separating the essentials from the extras:

The cult of domesticity, if you will, really kicked off with a vengeance in the Victorian age, giving us the image of women as the guardian angels of the house, of mothers crooning lullabyes over lacy cradles, of picture-perfect homes, of Martha Stewart-like table settings, and five-course meals served up with a smile. Was there competition to keep up with the Jones’s before the Victorian Era? Of course. Did the average 2 Kings family worry about repainting their family room walls because the green was looking a little tired? Probably not.

My point is that when we think about the Biblical idea of “guiding the house” we need to be careful to separate out the essentials from the extras. I believe the Bible makes it clear that women are to be hard-working, kind, generous, and foresighted about their family’s needs. But, I don’t believe the Bible has anything to say about the automatic holiness of canning your own peaches, making dinner rolls from scratch, updating your family photos on the fridge, or keeping your 4,000 square feet of living space sparkling clean.

If you like dinner rolls from scratch then by all means, break out the oven mitts. But, please don’t glance snarkily across the way at a working mom with her shiny Pillsbury tin. We all have to make choices about where to put our time. For some families, the home-canned peaches are a symbol of warmth and some quality bonding time in the kitchen working side by side. That’s fabulous. For other women, Pillsbury means time gained for other projects and responsibilities.

Pretty sure God doesn’t care whether or not your home conforms to some ideal standards of homeyness and comfort. Pretty sure what matters is that we as women are doing our part to support the family and see that real needs are being met.

Looking at I Timothy 5:14

I will therefore that the younger widows marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully (1 Timothy 5:14).

In this passage, Paul is addressing an apparent problem at Ephesus involving the distribution of welfare to needy widows in the congregation and, presumably, setting down a guideline for the other churches too.

Paul says that only widows over the age of 60 ought to be put on the church’s list for a dole, and then only if they have good characters in the Lord (v. 9-10). Young widows are not to be put on the list—why? Because either they marry or they become busy bodies. The principle isn’t so much that all women ought to marry, but a recognition that most women do and that—regardless of marital state—a godly woman ought to be industrious and productive.

In this passage young widows are counseled to marry, to have children, and to manage their homes. [As a side point, if Paul is counseling women to have children, doesn’t it sort of imply some amount of choice in conception?].

Excellent… remind me when we get to the conclusions part how this advice translates into a woman never working outside the home or a man never washing the dishes.

Looking at Titus 2:4-5

Then [the older women] can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. (NIV)

This is a great passage. I don’t really have a whole lot to say about it, except that I think it would be unfair to say that because Paul tells women to love their husbands and children all women must HAVE husbands and children. Many women do, but not having a husband or children certainly doesn’t make a woman less womanly, and it certainly doesn’t exempt a woman from her calling to be kind, industrious, self-controlled, or pure.

As for what it means to be busy at home, clearly it means to be busy at home—to be industrious, useful, and productive so that there’s a decent quality to the home life. With three kids and a yellow lab, most women could make the classic homemaker gig a full-time job—especially if their husband is blessed with a good, middle-class American job. But, not every woman is married to Mr. Middle-Class with those three kids and yellow lab. I believe if we’re going to have a useful conversation about what it means to be a godly woman, we have to have a model of womanhood that encompasses women of all different situations, abilities, talents, and callings.

Real Womanhood in the Bible

I would never argue that the Bible isn’t full of homemakers. Women are often portrayed baking bread, giving birth, and being given in marriage. Being wives and mothers are fabulous roles, requiring time and talent to do well, and the Bible regularly praises women for their fulfillment of those roles. However, I think we often fall into the mistake of limiting women only to those roles and fail to see where the Bible shows us women participating in a wide variety of activities.

This is getting long, so I’ll just give you some names, references, and brief ideas. I’ve really been enjoying looking at different women in the Bible over the last few days, and heartily recommend taking some time to do the same yourself. Some will be extremely familiar. Some maybe not.

Zelophehad’s Daughters (Number 27:1-11). When Zelophehad dies without any sons, his five daughters go to Moses and respectfully demand that they be allowed to inherit and keep the family name alive. Far from chiding them or telling them to provide for themselves through marriage, Moses puts their case before God. His answer? “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right.” God then adds an addendum to his laws on inheritance, stating that when a man dies without sons his daughters should be allowed inherit in their place. Instead of being labeled feminazis, these five sisters are rewarded for being bold about their situation. God was perfectly willing to listen to these women’s request—but he also apparently wanted them to bring their complaint to the attention of their spiritual and political authority, just like the men were told to.

Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4:2-3). Usually a negative example of women catfighting, Paul also gives these two women a high compliment: apparently, these women “contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers” (v. 3). How did these women minister? We don’t know for sure, but whatever they did it wasn’t apparently worth distinguishing from the men’s work, and it took place at Paul’s “side.”

Deborah (Judges 4-5). This one’s familiar, so we won’t go into it much. The salient point is that Deborah was both a wife and a prophetess who was called by God to lead Israel. Verse 5 tells us that she “held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided.” Doesn’t sound like she was keeping at home to me. So, was she rebelling against God’s mandate that women “guide their houses” or does the phrase maybe allow a lot more latitude than we usually admit?

Huldah (2 Kings 22:14-20). While we’re talking about prophetesses, why not mention Huldah too. She doesn’t get much air time, but Huldah was also a prophetess (and a wife, btw), and King Josiah sends to her for insight when he finds the Book of the Law, although according to my timelines there were several other (male) prophets alive and well at that time. Apparently neither Josiah nor his male advisors and priests found it crazy-weird to go consult Huldah, even though she was a woman.

Lydia (Acts 16:13-15) is a familiar figure, being both a “worshipper of God” and a “dealer in purple cloth.” I see no mention of Paul’s attempts to persuade her to give up her day job in favor of being a stay at home wife. In fact, no mention is made of Lydia’s husband at all here (if he exists). She seems to be the head of the house, since it is “her” household that is baptized and “her” home where the apostles stay. Was she a single, working woman? Was her husband a nonentity for some other reason? Your guess is as good as mine.

“These women” (Mark 15:40-41). “In Galilee, these women had followed [Jesus] and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.” Some of these women were mothers, we don’t know what percentage of them were wives. Because of the gentle way Jesus deals with these women, my guess is that they were not rebellious harpies who ditched their husbands and families in order to swagger about serving Jesus. It seems infinitely more likely to me that these women had the agreement of their husbands. I would bet they didn’t make it home in time to cook dinner every night. I would bet the laundry piled up. And you know what, I bet they had husbands with a little more sense than John Wayne, who famously observed that “Women have the right to work wherever they want, as long as they have the dinner ready when you get home.” Some things are more important than dinner. For real.

Sheerah (I Chron. 7:24). She only gets one verse, and I’d definitely never heard of her before I did this search, but here goes: “[Ephraim’s] daughter was Sheerah, who built Lower and Upper Beth Horon as well as Uzzen Sheerah.” The Bible gives neither praise nor censure for Sheerah’s urban planning, but the fact that it was included at all suggests to me that the writer found it impressive.

Job’s daughters (Job 42:13-15). Chapter one tells us that Job was “blameless and upright” and that God said of him there was “no one on earth like him”…  and though the book has almost nothing to say about women of any kind, I think it’s interesting how this upright and blameless guy treated his daughters: “and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.”

There are lots of other women, but this post is getting ridiculously long. Check out Jael, Priscilla, Abigail, Anna, Mary, Esther, Ruth, the Proverbs 31 woman, etc. I don’t mean to suggest that these are all career women—rather than our ideas of career women vs. homemakers might not be a particularly Biblical distinction. The Bible doesn’t differentiate between women with jobs or women without jobs. If anything, ALL women have jobs, but our division of them as either “homemaker” jobs or “money-making” jobs may not reflect the Bible so much as our own cultural heritage.

Even the women in the Bible who aren’t making money are still frequently participating in the family business. Moses meets his future wife as she’s trying to water her father’s flock of sheep. She probably didn’t earn a wage for that, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t contributing to the family’s economic situation. Earning a salary in 2009 and watering the sheep in 2009 BC might not be as different as we think.

A few conclusions I’ve come to:

  1. While the Bible states that women are to be “busy at home,” the Bible does not ever forbid or discourage women from earning money. In fact, the Bible shows multiple women helping to improve their family’s finances.
  2. After looking at other Bible passages (check out Proverbs 31), being “busy at home” seems to refers more to a character of industry, good works, and a desire to provide good things for one’s family than a rule about women not setting foot outside the home or earning an income. On the contrary, the Proverbs 31 woman seems to be something of a career type, since the bulk of verses refer to earnings and good works. Her children do “call her blessed,” so we assume she’s a good mother, but comparatively little is said about her maternal role.
  3. Children are a shared responsibility. Women are counseled to have children and to love their children, but I still haven’t seen the verse that says that children are the mother’s responsibility. It is no more right for a mother to watch her children on a Tuesday afternoon than it is for a father to watch the kids. A father cannot “babysit” his own children. It’s not babysitting if the child is yours.
  4. Our images of the words “home”  and “homemaker” are more colored by cultural history than we would usually like to admit. Often when we talk about homemaking, we mean cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, and other upkeep. With so many conveniences (and if we would all downsize our bins of STUFF), women (particularly those without young children) have more freedom and more choice about where to invest their time today. I think it’s fabulous to grow your own string beans, raise chickens, make scrapbooks of your family history, homeschool your children—but I think we should be careful of saying that those “extra” activities in the home are more in line with scripture than, say, earning money. I think the Bible gives couples a lot of room for personal decisions on how husbands and wives invest their time, and I think it would be wise for us to do the same.

Coming full circle to our original questions, here are my feelings.

Are all women called to be homemakers?

Not really. The Bible never recommends squalor as a viable option, so there does seem to be a basic level of upkeep. Biblical women either did it themselves or had servants to do it. Sounds like nobody should feel guilty for hiring a weekly maid or sending out their laundry… And, some women had either a direct calling from God (Deborah, Huldah), a need (Lydia, Ruth), or supportive husbands (likely “these women” from Mark, the Proverbs 31 woman) that encouraged them to look beyond the home to find the right place for their talents, whether in ministry or in business.

Are women responsible for the home life in a way that men are not?

This seems like a given, right? We have the passages in Titus and Timothy that instruct women to “guide the house” and be “keepers at home.” Certainly, I think there is nothing unBiblical about homemaking wives and wage-earning husbands (at least, I sincerely hope not, since I fall into that category right now), but here are some interesting verses to think about.

An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. (Titus 1:6 NIV)

A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. (I Tim 3:12 NIV).

Both verses strip away the notion that parenting is a primarily maternal occupation, and the second verse should make us question some of our basic assumptions. Why do we assume that Paul meant one thing when he told women to “guide the house” and another when he told men to “manage… [the] household”? If Paul had told women to “manage the household,” wouldn’t we have automatically thought, oh, cooking and laundry and child care, right?

We need to be careful.

In my opinion, there is no right answer to who does the laundry, who cooks dinner, who helps the child with homework, mows the lawn, or does the finances. As I read the Bible, God is much more concerned with our character, our attitudes, and our ability to work supportively and harmoniously with our spouse and Christian community.

When we avidly support the traditional roles of husband as bread-winner and wife as homemaker, we run the risk of taking our own good fortune for granted and making others feel inadequate.

When we say that women should be mothers, we forget that many women can’t have children.

When we say that women should be stay-at-home wives, we forget that many women are already struggling with feelings of worthlessness and dissatisfaction because they don’t have husbands.

When we say that women shouldn’t work outside the home, we forget that some husbands have difficulty finding work and that many fields haven’t seen significant pay increases for decades (though the cost of living continues to mount).

When we say that a real man takes care of his family’s financial needs, we forget that some men are in wheelchairs.

I think it’s important to seek an honest interpretation of what the Bible has to say about gender roles, but I think we need to be careful that we don’t tailor our interpretations around whatever we deem “normal” or “reasonable.” If I’ve learned anything from reading the Bible, it’s that God loves his human exceptions more than he loves his rules.

I think we should probably concentrate on doing the same.

November 17, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn @ 12:42 pm

An interesting subpoint from my wise auntie:

The Holy Spirit is also referred to as a “helper” and “comforter”—ie a spiritually nurturing aspect of the Godhead. In the same I Cor. passage that describes how men are the “head” of women, Paul also says that God the Father is the “head” of Christ.

Perhaps this is a better example of the difference between male and female roles.As the members of the Godhead are equal to one another, so are husbands and wives in marriage.

I think it’s also easy to get hung up on “roles” here, but as we see from scripture it’s hard sometimes to be too specific about who does what in the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is our “comforter” and yet we are told to address our God as “abba,” a child’s name for a loving parent. Sounds like comfort to me. We are told to address our prayers to the Father and yet the Spirit is involved in our prayers in ways we do not always understand.

Maybe this equal, distinct, and yet constantly interinvolved relationship is part of what God meant when he decided to make us in his “image”: multiple identities in unifying relationships—not just husbands and wives, but the Church too.

November 12, 2009

Dealing with “Headship”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn @ 6:17 pm

Ok, here goes.

First: my acknowledgment that anybody who says they know the answers probably hasn’t really thought hard enough about the questions. I definitely don’t have all the answers, and I’m pretty sure that another 20 years of being female and being a Christian will have refined, pruned, or otherwise molded my views here.

Also, since the conversation came out of a discussion of feminism, I think it’s important not only to talk about “headship” in marriage, but also the basic role and purpose of women as put forward in the Bible.

There are two creation narratives, back to back, in Genesis. The first is Genesis 1:26-29:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.

In this passage, there is no differentiation between male and female. “Male and female he created them.” Women bear the image and likeness of God exactly the same as men do, so also they share the creation mandate to “be fruitful” and “rule” over the good creation God made.

God’s first words to humankind are a message of total unity and lyrical equality. In this narrative, gender is a meaningless concept because all statements are shared. This is important not only because it sets the stage for what comes next (and yes, I know what passage comes next), but I believe there’s a full-circle aspect of history at work. I believe these beautiful verses portray, not only a past Eden of absolute unity, but a heavenly future that will live out Paul’s assertion that there is “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galations 3:28). Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:30 that there will be no “marriage or giving in marriage” after the resurrection, but that we will be “like the angels”—presumably nonreproductive beings whose focus is found in God alone. Sounds good to me.

If you’re going to talk meaningfully about the role of women in history and today, I believe it’s essential to keep in mind the utter irrelevance of gender at both the beginning of time and the end of time.

So, what do we have here in time? We have Genesis 2 with an amplified version of the creation account. Since God is omniscient, we have to assume that he didn’t create man first and then women later because only later did he realize that man needed a partner. Obviously (perhaps most obviously because other Biblical writers pick up on this so regularly), God did this symbolically to show something about how men and women are to relate to one another on earth.

God’s statement about his purpose in creating women is simple: “I will make a helper suitable for [the man]” (Gen. 2:18).

This is a strange shift from the previous passage. Now God tells us that he created the Man as primary and the Woman as helper—which seems starkly at odds with the previous assertion that the genders share equally in image and mandate.

What seems overwhelmingly obvious and important here to me is that there is no logical, human reason for God’s choice to create men “first.” A lot garbage has been written over the years about how women’s brains and bodies show that they’re not “capable” of handling authority (um, motherhood, anyone? What about Sunday school? Who here believes it’s easier to get 50 adults to pay attention vs. 50 children?). While I agree that some studies show that male and female brains are wired differently and frequently correlate to different strengths and weaknesses, the idea that women cannot “compete” with men intellectually or morally is simply not true.

So, why did God choose men to be primary? I dunno. Why did he choose Israel? Why does he allow suffering? Why did he harden Pharoah’s heart and then turn around and punish him for his hard heart?

I don’t know.

That’s the only honest answer I’ve ever heard. You can’t argue if from moral superiority (Paul’s “for all have sinned” kind of puts the kabosh on that… not to mention the equally nauseous idea that women are somehow constitutionally more “moral,” which gets floated by a lot of Christian abstinence groups. As though premarital sex was the only sin worth talking about). You can’t argue it from intellect. You can’t argue it from brute strength (Finally, a quality explanation for why governments are full of middle-aged, overweight dudes…).

Nope. I can’t think of any reason why either men or women should be the “head” over the other. Both are created in the image of God, and each individual person is a riddle of unique talents, struggles, insights, and blind spots. Attempts to see “all” men or “all” women as possessing certain qualities quickly becomes irritatingly reductionistic. To be totally blunt, you can’t even say that all women have vaginas. Look it up, friends. Some girls don’t. And some girls can’t get pregnant, so does that make them less than a woman, since they can’t fulfill what we think of as such a basic part of God’s design for women?

Of course, not.

What I DO see here is the symbolic design of Genesis 2, which calls man the primary and women the “helper.” Ok. The Bible says that, so I accept it.

Now, what does it mean to be a helper?

Here’s where I think a lot of conservative Christianity (to say nothing of other religious or secular patriarchies) gets a little crazy, because I would argue that it’s impossible to have a meaningful, godly understanding of “headship” as an independent concept. Biblical headship as a family system is like a chair with one leg. Not much of a chair.

“Headship” without strong teachings about both God and love is just abuse dressed pretty for church. And, nowhere in the Bible are women called to accept abuse from their husband as an act of worship, pleasing to God.

Ok, but before we get back into what headship is or isn’t, let’s finish talking about what it means to be a helper.

First of all, being a helper doesn’t mean being a slave. In the epistles, Paul frequently describes himself as a “slave” to the gospel, or a “slave” to Christ—even sometimes a “slave” to other believers in his efforts to help and encourage them. Sometimes, Paul gives the negative example too: unbelievers are “slaves” to their sin nature, and even those of us who are free still struggle against our old “master.”

But, nowhere in Paul’s advice to husbands and wives does he describe the marriage relationship as in any way similar to a slave/master relationship. Nor does Paul use a parent/child relationship model. Paul is perfectly comfortable telling children to “obey” their parents. In fact, although Paul tells wives to “submit” to their husbands, he never once tells them to “obey” their husbands. Unlike slaves or underage children, women are not their husband’s property, they are their husband’s helper.

A helper who does not think but simply takes orders is a helper only in the most shallow meaning of the word. I believe a biblical wife/helper is one who not only helps implements the family goals, but helps her husband to shape, create, and identify them. A husband is not a CEO and a wife is not the head of HR, folks. Marriage is too intimate for any business allegory.

The symbols God does give us in the Bible are almost exclusively those of Christ and the Church. (Although, I think it’s interesting that the “man is the head of woman” passage in I Corinthians is talking about church order, not marriage. Clearly, there are implications for marriage in there, but it seems significant to me that Paul’s purpose is not really focused in marriage… and as even Paul points out later in the chapter, all men today are born from women, so it gets a little muddy). As the Church respects, values, appreciates, and relies on Christ, so women are told to respect, value, appreciate, and rely on their husbands. Sounds fab to me. Husbands are told to love, sacrifice for, and protect their wives. Also sounds fab.

I have no idea how that’s supposed to support the notion that husbands make all the decisions.

Nor am I advocating a sort of egalitarian, every-other-decision marriage. I guess what I’m saying is that a husband who loves his wife more than himself and a wife who respects and trusts her husband may not be running into all that many tough, dig-out-the-trenches decisions. Most of our decisions as a couple stem from conversations anyway—we will have a conversation about something and end with a mutual decision. I respect Carl’s ability to make decisions just as much as Carl respects my opinions. For me to walk out of the room and say, “well, let me know when you decide” wouldn’t be fulfilling my role as a helper either.

In our first 9 months, Carl’s never made a choice that I felt was wrong/sinful (and yes, I can see the rolling of jaundiced eyes. I know). He’s made choices I wouldn’t necessarily make, but since when am I infallible either? Now, certainly if he chooses something that produces pain in my life, I will let him know so we can figure out how to resolve it. Individual situations may be unpleasant or difficult, but I don’t believe that long-term suffering is the hallmark of any healthy marriage.

In times of peace and prosperity, then, headship works like spiff. The problem is that many marriages don’t experience much peace or prosperity, and ALL marriages go through problems. And, that’s where I have to be blunt and say that I don’t really believe “headship” was the best model to go with. I don’t believe that giving fallen mankind verses that compare men to the Messiah and women to sinners was the most merciful choice God could make.

I’m not saying he was wrong. We know that God is God, and God is love. I have no alternative to offer, no ideology to promote instead, only the simple fact that millions of women have been abused and mistreated and had verses like that shoved in their face as justification.

I believe that there are some ways in which headship is like the existence of suffering in the world. We can’t know why God chose some things. Simple answers only serve to deny reality and belittle people’s suffering. To insist that women always find deep fulfillment in patriarchy is to deny too much reality.

I’ve heard lots of anti-feminists argue that Christian women should find a deep joy in patriarchy because that’s what God created them for. Excuse me. That’s not what God created them for. That’s a system God put in place to organize marriage and church relationships. Our deepest purpose, male or female, is to be in relationship with God. Husbands cannot save us or be saved for us. Husbands cannot give our lives ultimate satisfaction or meaning, husbands cannot fulfill us or carry us off into happily ever after. Marriage can be great, but happily ever after is heaven, people. Not earth.

The Bible makes it clear that although men are the “head” and the two have become “one” in marriage, God has never stopped dealing with people as individuals. In our souls, we are alone with God.

The story of Sapphira (Acts 5) reads like a primer on this issue:

1Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.3Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

5When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

7About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

9Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

10At that moment she fell down at his feet and died.

“With his wife’s full knowledge.” Luke informs us here that Sapphira is an active participant in the deception. This implies that she could have, and was even morally obligated, to refuse. After her husband is struck dead, Peter even gives Sapphira a second chance to make the right choice, but Sapphira sticks to her man. Her reward? God strikes her dead too.

Two things are interesting to me. First, God treated Ananias and Sapphira as individuals, even though they agreed to sin as a couple. Men and women have always loved to hide behind a good excuse, but, unfortunately, even “headship” isn’t a good alibi for crappy behavior.

Second, God clearly expects women to weigh their husbands’ decisions against the truth and to refuse to cooperate with evil.

I don’t know how we got to the place where we recognize “lying” as sin but fail to recognize brow-beating, selfishness, violence, and sexual humiliation as sin.

Should a wife divorce her husband because he bullies her, calls her stupid, refuses to consider her needs in his decisions? I wouldn’t rush to the courthouse (although I think it’s pure evil for churches to teach women to “submit” to a husband’s physical or sexual violence. That’s a terrible misreading of Paul’s advice to women), but I think a wife should absolutely and respectfully address the situation if her husband chooses to sin against God or against her. Jesus gave a pattern for intervention among believers in Matthew 18:15-17, and while I agree that the marriage relationship is more intimate than the brotherhood of believers, I don’t see how that would nullify the pattern here:

15“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

The point isn’t that we rush out to air our dirty laundry to the church. Obviously, I think people need to be careful about making accusations or pressing charges against another believer, especially one’s spouse. The point here is that there should be no secret violences, no private and pervasive evils allowed to fester in the church. A husband who is beating his wife doesn’t need to be brought to repentance by seeing his wife’s sweet endurance. He needs some church discipline.

(My negative examples here have all been about men because we’re talking about women’s roles, but I definitely believe there are evil, abusive women who also need curt and swift correction. I would never want to belittle or ignore the men and children who suffer from the verbal, emotional, sexual, or physical abuse of women. Evil is not gender specific).

So, here we are. “Headship” is the system God put in place, but I would argue strongly that headship is not quite so simple as we often hear it explained. To sum up some of the points here (in no particular order):

  1. Headship does not mean that women are servants, slaves, children, or employees. The role of wife is not justly comparable with any other human role on earth. This is why most explanations of roles (he’s the president! She’s the vice-president!), are reductionistic and unfair.
  2. Unlike Christ and the Church, men and woman share equally both in their sin nature and their image bearing, which means that, also unlike the Christ and the Church, wives are expected to weigh their husbands’ choice against the truth, and refuse to cooperate with evil.
  3. Christ will never fail us or betray us, but humans do occasionally. We should not ignore or assist that failure by stressing headship over either love or justice in our churches or marriages. Headship cannot healthily exist without being balanced by love and freedom. A wife who has no choice whether or not to agree to her husband’s decision is not a wife, but a slave.
  4. The “helper” status of women, which is undeniable in the Bible, ought to be seen as a design feature for earth only. In the beginning, God created male and female to share equally in his image and in their position as masters of the earth. In the future, gender will again be meaningless. This doesn’t mean we should ignore our role as helpers, but it should certainly inform our sense of identity and purpose.

And, because this is now crazy long, I’ll have to talk about the “keepers at home” issue in another post.

Finally,this ramble is certainly not meant to be exhaustive on the topic. I didn’t get into the gender-specific curses after the Fall or all of the Pauline passages about husbands and wives (or a lot of other things), but it’s a rough outline of where my thinking is currently on the topic of headship in marriage.

Again, the reason I wrote about this at all was because of a debate in the comment section of a post from last week, re: whether or not feminism was compatible with Christianity (or useful), so clearly the headship ideas I’ve talked about here are those that most closely relate to feminism.

As a fairly conservative Christian as well as a feminist, I’m very willing to acknowledge that my feminism is not particularly mean stream, but any feminist literature I’ve read is always quick to mention that there are as many different kinds of feminism as their are feminists. Feminism is a cavernous umbrella term for lots of discourse about women’s issues.

I also feel that it’s important to mention that I believe men should be active in thinking about, talking about, and resolving what it means to be masculine too. I’m a feminist because I’m a woman and that’s my identity, but as a sister, friend, wife, and hopefully someday mother to men, I hope I will continue to learn about and be supportive of healthy masculinity too.

I see value in feminism in two areas: First, as it critiques the abuses of patriarchal thinking in Christianity, and second, as it speaks to global politics about the failure to include women in basic human rights. Being a Christian and a feminist is difficult, but I can’t say it’s any harder than being an American and being a Christian.

We all have a long way to go.

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