A Woman’s Place

This was originally published on Intellectuelle

Part 1, in the Church

I don’t know of a more hot-button topic for both the churched and unchurched than this one. For that reason, we should probably try to take a fresh new look at threading out the various views on just what a woman’s place in society consists of.

It seems as if there are more presumptions on what the Christian scriptures say than there are authoritative doctrines. And of the authoritative doctrines, few are widely agreed upon as to how they work in the modern world. I’d like to look at that. In fact, I’d like to look at that with one of the more curious variations of recent memory: that blogging is a questionably womanly pursuit.

But first, what are some of the controversies? Women themselves are not agreed on what woman’s freedom, rights, and dignities are or ought to be. And this has lead to some confusion about what the reaction of re-instituting traditional roles should look like. An example: Feminists of today would eschew the mid-twentieth century persona of “June Cleaver”, TV mother. Neo-traditionalists seem to view those scenes with scentimental nostalgia. But what are we really looking at when we review mid-twentieth century female roles and lifestyle? Aren’t we seeing the Feminine Mystique generation? The women who oftentimes threw off the homemaker’s mantle and went into the workplace in hordes, who sometimes left home to ” find themselves”? Or had to make new lives for themselves as divorce rates skyrocketed? I know my mother had ‘Feminine Mystique’ on her bookshelf, had to become a breadwinner, and lived a very different life from the Donna Reed Show, et al. This is why I don’t think it is in looking backward culturally that we may find the defining roles of women.

And where has the Church been in all this? Pretty much where the rest of the culture has been: experimenting and floundering around to define women and understand how society should work. The Church hasn’t had a voice of consensus. And I think it is out of laziness and self-protection that it hasn’t yet produced clarity for even women in the Church, let alone a view of women in the Culture.

Further, the responsibility for this has lain with the Protestants. The ones who lay claim to Sola Scriptura, and studying to show oneself approved. But instead we are tangled up with reiterations of traditions and slipshod adoption of the culture’s lead on this. The Worldly culture. We are the ones who ought to be able to work at rightly applying how the Bible’s directives appear in our culture.

The Churches View

So first, what do the scriptures teach? Undoubtedly, the Bible gives a view of order and hierarchy. This is underlined in nature, but doesn’t have to be to give it moral force. The hierarchy of the Bible is: God, the man, the woman. Before I lose you modern souls, here, I ask the question: does this mean in all ways and at all times? If it did, there would not be so many permutations of leadership roles, and the reason I would give for this is contained in the word,”delegate”. Hierarchy is only the basic structure and not the immutable law of how all the players interact. But it is how responsibility is divvied up, and it is also the authority structure. Everything in life operates with authority structure of some sort:”You Gotta Serve Somebody” as Bob Dylan put it.

I heard a teaching long ago that made alot of sense to me. It was this: that in the Genesis curse the paths of success and downfall for men and women, respectively, was stated. Men would gladly give up the mantle of authority if they could also divest themselves the burden of responsibility, women will gladly shoulder the most onerus amounts of responsibility if they can only be in charge. That was the reasoning given on how the famous curse helped outline where people go awry in their gender roles.

To move on to a specific instance of scripture, let’s look at one chosen by so many raise controversy:

1 Timothy 2

11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.
13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived,
but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

That seems quite clearcut until you add Paul’s epistle to Titus:
Titus 2:3-4: 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children…

Apparently, there is a place where women can teach.Then you have examples such as Priscilla, in the company of Aquilla:”when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately” -Acts 18:26

John MacArthur points out:”In Romans 16:1, Paul indicates that women possibly serve or minister as Deacons (Diakonon) in the church. Then in I Timothy he sets forth the qualifications for a Deaconess.”

If we understood that there are times when women are delegated place in the Church to minister in such ways we wouldn’t have foolish contentions about whether women may say things of substance in blogging, etc. If it were sin to blog it would be sin to write, and all women-authored books should be rejected on that basis. That is how I see the logical progression of such thinking. Yet, I don’t believe we see any such idea like that from the scriptures. I do think that the final authority in spiritual matters is given to men, but not just any men. Again, the hierarchy is that God calls and ordains who He wills, and this is the outline given for the Church.

Is it an abrogation of hierarchy for women to produce something intellectual just because some man somewhere might view it and thus “be taught”? In the light of day that sounds a bit silly, but when a respected teacher throws out such an idea it stirs up doubts and confusion. I call it as I see it: such are irresponsible teachers who are sloppy when they ought to take the admonition of James,

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

This sloppiness gives occasion for misunderstanding to a listening world. More circumspection and less retraction in important doctrines and controversial views becomes the more necessary when hostility and high rhetoric are rampant on a topic.

But the counterbalance for women who minister through preaching and teaching should be:”What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?” Our Churches and society as a whole welcomes and gives a place to women, but in the economy of God the truth is not in any one persons personal possession. If there is not a position given to a woman within a Church that does not mean that there is no avenue for teaching, simply that there is no officially ordained position within that group. No Christian ought to strive for pride of position, and it is disappointing to see so many women disdain opportunity unless it comes with a full set of perks and prestige.
I think the example of Deborah in the Old Testament is one of the most telling on this subject.

The Christian Opportunity

Should the Church abide by these standards enough to have a body of evidence for the culture to view, I think the high esteem for women, and their opportunities for fulfilling their potential could be seen plainly. In fact, I think this is what we see in the the way Western culture has grown to give Women the place they enjoy today. Unfortunately, the extrapolations of those high views under the secular watch seems to be leaving women highly vulnerable to harm. This is seen in too many ways to go into with proper depth here. Everything from increased vulnerability from easy divorce to the emerging picture of exploitation due to ideas of “sexual freedom”. This is all hotly debated even within the feminist camp. Not just between Christian traditionalists and Feminists.
Some of the examples are enumerated by Melanie Phillips, arguing in books such as “The Sex-Change Society Feminised Britain and the Neutered Male” that “feminism has distorted its own agenda of equality by replacing it with sameness”, “women are being encouraged to work at all times, whether they want to or not” . (I cite this book because it articulates some of the conflicts and issues. It makes some accusations that I am not prepared to defend. )

Is this the pattern the Church wants to emulate? One which has not and will not work? Or ought we return to looking at what our own guidelines and mandates say? And figure out which is which?

I’m not sure we can do that if we forget Christ’s example of Lordship was also one of humility and service, and think that men in authority means that women’s voices are silenced. In all cases, if God gives us words to speak, how can we not speak them?

When qualms such as these are brought up, I ask myself, what is the actual articulated fear here? Is it blogging and accidental teaching?
Is it the idea that women must have a restricted place in the church ministry? I do not think this is what is actually being verbalized. I think the actual fear is the breakdown of accountability, and that is something that doesn’t get addressed in the calls to shut women away from the internet or to stop blogging or writing books. It is a different problem that has symptoms and poor outcomes in some of these areas. Putting a band-aid on the gushing hemorrhage, or cutting the rest of the hand off, isn’t the solution. The solution is to strengthen the Churches structure to function properly. And just as there are times a husband should listen to his wife, there are times when men in the church should give ear to women. Not in exchanging authority roles but in the mutual respect and honor that Christ teaches and Paul explained.

If we restored such accountability in the essence of Christian brotherhood, we would make inroads against other problems such as pornography use, that is eating many men alive. Men in the Church. Accountability would strengthen them and help them to grow into the husbands and fathers that watch over the welfare of those in their care. I think this is the needed emphasis and that the squabbling over women somehow wandering into conflict with biblical wisdom is a red herring. The reason Deborah was called to lead, (Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.) may well have been due to a dearth of men vigorous enough in the service of God. But perhaps I am wrong about that, perhaps there are times that God shows His sovereignty in working through those whom He chooses.

Please do not take this as a doctrinal statement on the idea of women leading the Church, the only expression given us is that women have callings and gifts, and that these should be used. I have no ambitions for women in specific roles, and I think there are many ways to serve God, some of the best without titles. Best because they are the more free, and I would conclude my thoughts here with the idea that our expression, as Christians, about the place of women in society is that they should be free to fulfill their potentials, and that we all appear before our maker without designations of gender or nationality or prestige. We ought to value that freedom and use it to its fullest in the service of God and mankind. It isn’t the licentiousness of the worlds version of women, it isn’t the subdued version of domination from the power hungry, either. What it is, is a respectful and responsible form of what best expresses woman in the full version of her humanity, and spiritual heritage.

“What of the future? We live in a day that is fast-moving. The United States is moving at great speed toward totally humanistic orientation in society and state. Do you think this will leave our own little projects, our own church, and our own lives untouched? Don’t be silly. The warnings are on every side. ”
-Francis Schaeffer.

A Woman’s Place, in the Culture, what might that look like? What does it look like now? Who’s going to draw the template?

Gender: questions about theology, doctrine, practice

A Woman’s Place

I don’t know of a more hot-button topic for both the churched and unchurched than this one. For that reason, we should probably try to take a fresh new look at threading out the various views on just what a woman’s place in society consists of.

It seems as if there are more presumptions on what the Christian scriptures say than there are authoritative doctrines. And of the authoritative doctrines, few are widely agreed upon as to how they work in the modern world. I’d like to look at that. In fact, I’d like to look at that with one of the more curious variations of recent memory: that blogging is a questionably womanly pursuit.

But first, what are some of the controversies? Women themselves are not agreed on what woman’s freedom, rights and dignities are or ought to be. And this has lead to some confusion about what the reaction of re-instituting traditional roles should look like. An example: Feminists of today would eschew the mid-twentieth century persona of “June Cleaver”, TV mother. Neo-traditionalists seem to view those scenes with scentimental nostalgia. But what are we really looking at when we review mid-twentieth century female roles and lifestyle? Aren’t we seeing the Feminine Mystique generation? The women who oftentimes threw off the homemaker’s mantle and went into the workplace in hordes, who sometimes left home to ” find themselves”? Or had to make new lives for themselves as divorce rates skyrocketed? I know my mother had ‘Feminine Mystique’ on her bookshelf, had to become a breadwinner, and lived a very different life from the Donna Reed Show,et al. This is why I don’t think it is in looking backward that we may find the defining roles of women.

And where has the Church been in all this? Pretty much where the rest of the culture has been: experimenting and floundering around to define women and understand how society should work. The Church hasn’t had a voice of consensus. And I think it is out of laziness and self-protection that it hasn’t yet produced clarity for even women in the Church, let alone a view of women in the Culture.

Further, the responsibility for this has lain with the Protestants. The ones who lay claim to Sola Scriptura, and studying to show oneself approved. But instead we are tangled up with reiterations of traditions and slipshod adoption of the culture’s lead on this. The Worldly culture. We are the ones who ought to be able to work at rightly applying how the Bible’s directives appear in our culture.
Continue reading Gender: questions about theology, doctrine, practice

Just Who Are These ‘Church Ladies’?

Inspired by Sarah Flashing who is doing an admirable job of providing commentary on our culture, and recently on specific Church culture, I started to think about how I define this term that I have used, ‘The Church Lady‘. I pretty much presumed that we all know this lady and have similar thoughts and feelings about her. As she has become defined, however, I am not so sure I presumed correctly.

So, how do I see ‘The Church Lady’? And how far have I conformed to this stereotype, myself?

  1. She is the SNL caricature of old fashioned clothing, and as recorded in Wikipedia:”uptight, smug, and pious”…”She often takes others to task”…”whenever she felt that she had demonstrated her superiority, she would do her “Superior dance” in which she would rhythmically strut to organ music in front of her alleged inferiors”
  2. Much of the Church Lady’s attributes in our real churches are the result of following the prescribed dress, demeanor, and attitudes handed her by the mainly male leadership. This is usually in the name of various virtues and denominational references. Some women sincerely try to emulate the sets of rules with the best of intentions, some struggle without knowing how to be otherwise, and some find themselves completely at home in the persona.
  3. Church ladies are secure in their constricted world of social rounds inside their church circles. They are – and often proudly so- a callback to the ’50’s women of the past… with their own substitutions for bridge parties and coffee klatches. They make it equally as difficult to break into their cliques as any elite social organizations of that time.
  4. They are mixed in among the sincere and the faithful, so that they are not identifiable by image alone, but rather by the undermining critical spirit hidden in their pious smiles, the impossibility of gaining their acceptance by any except their own standards.
  5. Her view is small and parochial, she doesn’t want to be bothered by larger concerns of the world, except in the most generic way possible, she stands aghast at the great unwashed masses. Her world is neatly pressed, and deodorized… brightly smiling, preferably.
  6. But sometimes she is determined to break from that smallness, and sometimes she proves herself a tireless worker in ministries to the less fortunate
  7. Sometimes she provides a safe haven of grace and hospitality, lovingly setting a fine table for guests or providing meals for the distressed. Her home cloistered from the outside world can be a place of peace and respite.
  8. She is mindful of boundaries that make the difference between a place of order and grace and chaos
  9. She is the amalgam of women, both sincere and hypocritical who seek to have a Christlike life. The one succeeding in spirit, if encumbered by distractions to many rules of appearance and lifestyle…. the other giving rise to the many jokes and bitter memories of being ambushed by her.

My own Church lady role has consisted of trying to conform to the mold of my newfound Christian faith, back in the day ( 1970’s ). Some of it was finding my way through the maze of real versus substitute virtue.

Real modesty vs. a dress code for Christian women, real charity vs. a knee-jerk reaction to every church related plea for time and money, time managed by priorities of a spiritual demand rather than the merry go round of meaningless, time-filling (killing) Church activities. Real piety of prayer and compassion vs. the religious conformity to outward shows of pseudo-holiness, real love and sense of ones own depravity vs. bemoaning the world going to hell in a handbasket, real investigation of the Word of God rather than Bible study by rote in hand delivered palaver. Real devotion to Christ rather than hard-driven, hard-bitten dogmatism to the party line.

Mark D. Linville in his all too accurate picture of a fundamentalist’s church life, leaves us in his essay, IN PRAISE OF THE CHURCH LADY ( a pdf file) with these thoughts:

I suspect that the Church Lady—who, in my memory is more an amalgam of many people who had an early influence on me than an actual person—had something less than an articulate and carefully reasoned theology. I would not be surprised to learn that she harbored some religious beliefs that were downright silly. I know that I could take her in a fight today. But she is yet another example of those crude earthen vessels, in which God has placed His treasure, and which He is able to use for His good purposes.

…I am convinced that the Church Lady is needed today more than ever. It would be the height of foolishness for anyone to expect to pass on the baton of a robust faith to their children in these days and in this culture without immersing them in a community of
believing people as I was. The unchurched child in the nominally Christian family today will find anything but a Christian role model to set his course. There may be attempts within the home to instill faith and Christian virtues, but the prevailing winds of our culture are blowing strongly in the opposite direction.

What defines the difference between those church ladies who are affectionately, if amusedly, remembered and who left a positive impact on ones Christian life and those who are recalled with some bitterness and disdain? I believe it is the element of love. Love which is sincerely desiring the best, and in this view the proverb that love covers a multitude of sins may be our very own. That for all the faults of many well-meaning Christian women, the deciding factor of reflecting Christlikeness is this quality of love.

As a ‘Church Lady’, this is the goal: not throwing off rules or remaking images, but reflecting Christ Jesus, Our Savior and His gospel. These women who provide nourishment, who clean the hallways and rooms of our lives, who are available for prayer, who seek to the best of their ability to serve and support are mixed in with some who are hypocritically self-serving under the pretense of their pious smiles and their eternal preoccupation with the small details of rulebook infractions. The Gladys Kravitz‘s of our churches.

I personally desire to be a Church Lady with a difference, one that aspires to all the virtues of Christ in a faith the genuinely works by love. One that is honest enough to look at herself, and look at her world and adjust the lens, and throw away the false filters. I chose to be a stay at home, homeschooling, home birthing, fundamental doctrinally, conservative dressing, values-oriented woman for reasons. Well thought out reasons, but not those that I would apply universally to every other Christian woman. My mainstay of a message is that we appreciate each others sincere effort to follow Christ Jesus, that we honor Him in our lives and in the world, that we support each others efforts, even when we don’t fully approve or understand. The benchmark is whether one loves Christ. Church ladies have a responsibility to adjust themselves to that benchmark. And when they do, who will be laughing, then?

Bringing It Home 3

Balancing the Scale

What the Bible portrays is often in opposition to our prevailing culture. Yet, because the culture, the worldly system, has so infiltrated our churches, a battle ensues any time there is a concerted move ( whether individual or group) to align with the Bible’s pattern.

A common tension is the one, often garbled, on money. The love of money being the root of all evil and the garbled version which leaves out the definitive “love”, or idolatrous place of money. Often the family size-birth control controversy has components of “money/can we afford it/fewer means better provision”. It makes sense that this is foremost in a materialistic society. People will rant til the cows come home on faith teachings and the prosperity messages, but see no problems making all sorts of moral decisions based on their perceived “lack”. How backwards is that? I have often thought of the Faith/Prosperity teachings in conjunction with some of this QF belief, both have those who take things out of their context and go to extremes not within the teachings themselves. It is often true that truth within teaching is taken out of the proper context. That does not deny the truth within it, but it gives cause for the whole precept to be dismissed.

The money factor is often rooted in very “gentile” or unbelieving mindsets. The basic teaching of Jesus on this is that we are not to worry about money or provision, that we are to cast our care for these things on God. That doesn’t displace our need for wisdom and restraint, but it places those matters bound by money fears on a different plane. The perception of what we can afford is so subjective that it can be stretched to mean almost anything without further clarifying in our thoughts and circumstances of realities. In fact, this whole distorted view is at the base of many such concepts as over-population. Which more likely is simply a greed and distribution problem rather than a number problem. We can apply the same thoughts to our ideas of family.

That does not create a moral mandate to distribute money in certain ways, it does keep one from using provision, or lack, as an easy excuse. Perhaps this is why I have often said the economics of a large family is different to the query, “How do you manage?”.

In the culture we have an equation of monetary wealth, or just its accoutrements, with our entire worth as a person. This was illustrated in the Mommy Wars quote,

“History suggests that financial success is the only way women will finally achieve not just legal equality with men but also power and respect. – Ann Marlowe”

And we all know how the world hinges upon power and respect.

Something within man rejects an equation of ones worth with things, so it isn’t only in Christian doctrine that there is a revolt against such views. But it is within Christianity that we have the theological support to sustain the revolt, and institute the restoration of balance. That is what I think is happening within some of these Christian, largely women-oriented, teachings. Women, not going backwards, but forward in a new way.

This is good for Christianity if they are going forward in a Christian inflected manner, which would eschew propaganda, manipulation, and pushiness. They are renewing and reforming the form and role of the family.

So what about this idea that “Parenting is the highest calling given to mankind”?
Continue reading Bringing It Home 3

Bringing It Home 2

The myth of control by James Bowman:

I think it is because the most cherished of all the myths of the Left is the myth of control. For those whose political starting point is the need to change the world, obviously the first article of faith must be that the world can be changed by the leaders they elect and the decisions those leaders take and the laws they pass.

Although spoken within a different context, this has been the same motivation behind changing Church doctrine to further implement policy within the Left agenda. I would further say that this desire to control is not the Left’s alone. There is alot of political activism in the Church, but within the traditional and fundamental Protestants there is one pivotal factor: What does the Bible say?

Looking At The Theology

Martin Luther comments on this verse, “Genesis 9:1 leads us to believe that children are a gift of God and come solely through the blessing of God, just as Psalm 127:3 shows. The heathen, who have not been instructed by the Word of God, believe that the propagation of the human race happens partly by nature, partly by accident, especially since those who are regarded as most suited for procreation often fail to have children. Therefore the heathen do not thank God for this gift, nor do they receive their children as the gift of God.”-Above Rubies

There are different uses for doctrine and the right use is for better understanding God and how to obey Him. The other is less straightforward. The other is to persuade someone to a different point of view and that can be more politics than theology. In the way Christians sometimes approach this, it has got the qualities of both. I think this is where there is some difficulty with the QF stance as some people express it.

In Quiver Full, as its adherents express it, there are two platforms promoted. One is the basic idea that God commanded fruitfulness in the Genesis account, that this remains in force, and that the reproduction of children within a marriage is one avenue of it. The other is that parenting is the highest form of serving God, or maybe they would word it more as the ministry of parenting children is above other ministries in the persons life.

I am not going to approach this from what is wrong with a specific view, so much as from my understanding on the topic.
Continue reading Bringing It Home 2

Bringing It Home 1

Quiver Full is one form of the birth control debate, it has other components, but at its core the issue is birth control. Its context is reactionary to the prevailing culture. Reactionary is not always bad, but I think we will see how much it handicaps people as we go further into the controversies.

The cultural points that are protested are the ideas of over population as the family planning organizations such as Planned Parenthood promote them. The birth control and family size propaganda and politics and the attendant attitudes towards various decisions to have a traditional family are factors.

women tend to gravitate towards wanting things to work. Thus a return to some of the more natural methods of dealing with our reproduction. And no wonder, when you look at the way we have been guinea pigs and had to deal with an often arrogant and disinterested monolith of institutionalized health care

Within this large view is an overlap of Feminist philosophy, and a residual problem in the denial of facts, or their obscuring, that took place in the large societal debates over abortion, population, and birth control of past decades.

Layered upon all this is the conflict and controversies that arise from liberal versus traditional, or fundamental Christian doctrine.

And further complicated by that universal complicating factor: our humanity. As women we have a huge interest in how we deal with our reproductive part of our lives. It affects almost everything for us. The fathers in families also have a greater than traditional pressure in the outcome of this subject as we apply our philosophies and follow our convictions. That makes for strong needs to rationalize our view, and to borrow authority to push it. Although in the case of authority, borrow actually means to usurp.

Quiver Full is basically, also, a Christian debate. It bases all its arguments on the interpretations of the Bible, but it has much of the philosophical overtones of “getting back to nature”. An equation of God and His Will and Nature’s Evidence, or perhaps an interpretive look at God’s Will through the perspective of nature.

We have been told that God has gifted us with brains, modern medicine, and freedom of choice and that we should use them. We agree wholeheartedly, however, we disagree with the application and context in which this is said. -Pete and Corinne Kligmann, “Quiverfull Response Letter”

This has an echo in popular culture, as many lose faith in technologies and the ideal of an unsullied and objective science. In the reproduction area, we see science hijacked for political agenda and for economic gain of vested interests. Women have had to fight for basic rights in their birthing choices, and they’ve been at war over abortion. They’ve struggled with their desires for motherhood and their desires for respect, and much of all this struggle ends up in questions of their reproductive choices.

The Church has not been immune from this struggle at the foundations of peoples lives, it has…. because God has…. been in the midst of where people live in the decisions of how to structure ones family and ones life.
Continue reading Bringing It Home 1