Wednesday, February 22, 2012

More Masculinity

Another posting that may shed some more light on this post:

"John Piper on Men in Ministry, and the Masculinity of Christianity"

Everyone keeps blogging way better than I can on this point, but hopefully I'll have the chance to post some original content soon.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Still Stealing

Found this today, and it was worth a guffaw or two given this post - and it may help clarify better just what I'm fussing about:

"The Kitchen Has a Feminine Feel in the Bible"

As one of the comments accurately observed, "Nothing shows up absurdity about our prejudices and presumptions than putting the shoe on the other foot!"

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Into the Mouth of Babes

For no particular reason, I pulled my son out of the nursery to celebrate Communion with us for the last two Sundays.

He is such a joy to watch take the Bread.  The celebrants learned to give his piece to him first - otherwise he  steals what is handed to my husband with the faintest hint of righteous indignation.  He reaches for the Bread, smiles at the Bread, and enjoys every second of the Bread... and yet, he is somehow a little bit solemn at the same time. 

It gives me a catch in my throat.  Oh, my sweet boy, may you always be so eager to partake of Christ.   May He always feed your soul and your childlike faith.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Easy Way Out

You know, sometimes I wonder why I even bother blogging when there are people out there who do such an incredible job already.  Oh, right -  I do it for my own sanity.


"God is Not Ashamed: Our Brothers Speak Out"

I hadn't read Dr. Piper's initial comments before I read Ms. Evans' blog post, but the encouragement I received from the multiple contributions to her blog was amazing.

My favorite quote?
What are you are saying to women when you say God is a man? You are telling them that they are not, truly imagio dei. You are telling them they are a tacked on afterthought, a dim, imperfect thing that is destined to always fall short of the full light of God’s glory. You are telling them they are not fully human, because they do not fully reflect who God is.
 Amen, and amen.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Feminine Mystique

This article crossed my radar this week: The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood's "Homemaking Internship".

It's a real gem.  And some of it is even borderline heretical. Go ahead, read it through, and then we'll discuss it.

Done?  Ok.

The first three paragraphs I take personally, because I am familiar with the American medical system.  You don't go to med school for 8 years - you go to college for 4 years, then medical school for 4 years, then anywhere from 3-5 (or more) years of residency/fellowship training depending upon your chosen specialty.  After making it through this rigorous agenda you're not going to wake up a few years into private practice and suddenly realize you should have gone into El Ed. Promise.

Paragraph 4 highlights the apparent tragedy of not knowing exactly what your future holds and therefore being caught untrained for it.  Because we all know exactly where life will take us when we're in high school/college and can take exactly the right classes for what lies ahead.

Paragraphs 6-8 would make me laugh if the author weren't so serious.  First, she quotes one of her own books saying, "Isn't it telling that our culture requires training and certification for so many vocations of lesser importance, but hands us marriage and motherhood without instruction?" - and then she quotes another author who echos her sentiment.  EXCEPT THIS AUTHOR WAS WRITING FROM THE EARLY 1800's.*

Let's have a reality check.  In the early 1800's (and to be honest, for the vast majority of human history), there were no temperature-controlled cooking appliance. No refrigeration.  No electricity. Very little modern medicine to speak of.  No central heating or air conditioning.  No fresh fruit or vegetables outside of the growing season.  No department stores with cheap ready-made clothing.  Life in general, and especially for a woman, was difficult, and probably short.  "Homemaking" was an entirely different set of skills than it is today (and to be fair, so was a man's required skill-set).  You made your own clothes, put up food for the entire winter for the family, washed clothing with back-breaking labor, cranked out babies, lost babies, and died yourself pretty easily.  These skills weren't "homemaking", they were "survival". To even begin to compare the skills required for "homemaking" today to the skills required in the early 1800's is ridiculous; to quote someone from the 1800's as an authority on homemaking is disingenuous.

Paragraph 9 finally gives a bit of what the author defines as "homemaking": to "love, follow, and help a husband; to raise children for the glory of God; and to manage a home..." Later on, she indicates it begins with marriage and ends when you die.

I don't understand this definition at all, especially when comparing it to reality.  Although only 1/3 of her definition includes "home management", nearly all of the article's examples fall in that category.  Given that, I would probably define "homemaking" as "life management", and  I don't see this only starting once you're married. These are life-skills, not wife-skills. You can be a single woman (or man!) living in an apartment and you still need to know how to balance a budget, cook for yourself, clean your living quarters, do your laundry, and interact with your co-workers/fellow students/roommates maturely.  Both genders need this skill-set.   A spouse and children may intensify the need, but it was present long before the "home" began.  And what if you never get married?  What if you can't have children?  What happens if your husband dies?    What if your husband leaves you?  Are you suddenly bereft of 2/3 of your "homemaking" responsibilities even though you're not dead? Really? 

Required to accomplish the author's definition of "homemaking":
  • "management abilities" (wow, you're right, no college degree will help with this)
  • "knowledge of health and nutrition" (guess that MD is reasonable after all)
  • "interior decorating capabilities" (eh??)
  • "childhood development expertise" (ooh, MD wins again!)
And then to cap off this arbitrary list, she states, "If you are to become an effective homemaker, then you must study these subjects and many more."

Talk about making even the most capable woman feel inappropriately inadequate.  A broad variety of life-experiences outside the home sharpens management abilities pretty well.  And if you don't know the basics of health and nutrition, you apparently didn't go to school, don't watch TV, can't read, and have no internet access.  Seriously, "interior decorating capabilities"?  So if I don't have a well-decorated house** I fail as a "homemaker"?  Plus, I have to be an "expert" in childhood development?  Sure, the more you know about what makes kids tick at various ages, the easier it will be, but again - nobody has a doctor?  can read?  has internet access?  Interacted with a child at any point in their lives prior to busting one out?

Ah, finally, the spiritual guilt-trip in paragraphs 11 & 12. Homemaking is commanded by God - though, Jezebel that I am, I don't remember reading the interior decorating verse nor the child development expertise passage.     
"...homemaking is a career that demands considerable expertise, may encompass decades of our lives, and has the potential to spread the gospel to our families, churches, communities, and future generations."  
So once again referring to the skills required for "homemaking", if I don't decorate my house well then I may be obstructing the spread of the gospel.  And read this description again - isn't what she just described essentially life as a Christian?  Male or female, young or old, married or not, children or none: a Christian's life is God working out the Gospel. Homemaking isn't a means of grace.

Paragraph 13 reassures us that she wouldn't be so extreme as to say that homemaking is all that a woman should prepare for.  Thank goodness for that.  Those people who believe that are so out there, aren't they?  But of course, the really spiritual girls will make sure their hopes and dreams don't get in the way of making sure they've gotten the necessary homemaking skills down first.  I just hope that Interior Design 101 isn't offered at the same time as Biochemistry...

Paragraph 14 & 15: "God did not assign this vital training to educational institutions."  Is there any training that God assigned to educational institutions? Have there even been educational institutions for the majority of human history? She emphasizes that the mother should be the primary one instructing, and uses Titus 2:3-5 as prooftext.  (Never mind where the Scripture says "older women", it clearly meant "mother".) Watch what really happens in the next few paragraphs, however.

Paragraph 16 was where I just about lost it.

Mothers, we must begin by recognizing the full-time nature of our training. Remember Deut 6:7: "[You] shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." We must incorporate domestic training into the fabric of our daily lives. We must seize every opportunity to prepare our daughters for their mission.

Hold up now. What was Deuteronomy referencing? The Law of God!  She puts her artificial homemaker idea on par with the Law of God itself in order to guilt the reader into constantly striving to meet her ideal.  I honestly gasped when I read this. This is heterodoxy and borderline heresy.

The next three paragraphs tell the mother how to accomplish this training - the first of which is to essentially "talk up" being a homemaker.  Not only does this seem artificial - the daughter isn't stupid; she can see both the rewards and the challenges of her mother's responsibilities - it also smacks a bit of protesting too much.  Implementing a specific plan in the training is mentioned, as well as making sure the daughters stay at home often enough that they'll be used to it.  Also making sure that they get a "steady diet of God's Word" - because of course, that will lead to making the same choices her mother did.


"Think of your daughter as your homemaking intern. She needs both practical training and instruction. You can provide hands-on training by delegating portions of the household responsibilities to her for short periods of time. For example, you may assign your daughter to buy all the groceries and plan and cook all the meals for a week, or you may have her prepare dinner once a week on a consistent basis. Actually you could rotate through each section of your daily tasks in order to furnish your daughter with a well-rounded experience of the homemaker's world."

Then she launches into a list of things her daughters did that were taught not by her, but by educational institutions, books or other people.  Despite all the earlier emphasis on mother doing it all, there's a surprising amount of "other" performing the job.  And the really ironic part?  She talks about taking classes to learn homemaking skills with her daughters despite insisting up to this point that one should prepare for all of this ahead of time.

You know, practical training in life-skills is great.  But I don't understand why this only needs to be daughters involved.  This is the kind of thing *everyone* needs to have experience with.  These are basic life skills.  I plan on doing this sort of thing with my son - and if I have a daughter, with her too.  

If you can ignore the sexism and heterodoxy, there are some good ideas here.  I love the idea of taking a personal enrichment class with my child and being intentional about passing on knowledge.  However, I have no idea why I would limit that to my daughter only.  Parents should teach their children life-skills.  End of story.  In today's world, there's little difference between basic life-skills that men and women need.  In fact, men need just as many "homemaking" skills as women.  My dear husband recently took on the majority of the household management when I was nearly incapacitated from illness for 3 months.  If his mother had followed this nonsense and declined to teach him basic "homemaker" life-skills, he could not have fulfilled this incredibly godly role that he did, and did well.

The deeper I get into this nonsense, the less sense it makes.  But I guess that's why I left fundamentalism in the first place.

* It's a little unclear exactly when, however, as the author states in the following paragraph that it was written in 1828 while her own footnote dates it 1832.  Maybe she missed that class.

** Regardless of budgets, personal artistic abilities, and by whose standard, pray tell?? 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

General Authority

One of the things I was taught often in Fundamentalism, whether explicitly or implicitly, was that authority cannot and should not be challenged.  Authority is never wrong.  And if the authority is wrong, you are not the authority, therefore you do not have the authority to challenge it.

Sometimes it was blatant; others it was couched in more "reasonable" terms, such as, "Well, you placed yourself under this authority, so you should follow their rules while under it."

Sorry, I don't buy it anymore, and there are two main reasons why.

The first is because I'm starting to read the Bible for what it says, and not through the filter of what I've been told it says.  For example, a few Sundays ago at church, we read I Samuel 3.  This is the chapter where God calls Samuel at night to deliver a very disturbing message to the High Priest, Eli.   God uses a very young child - someone with no power at all - to rebuke and confront the biggest human authority in the nation of Israel.

Now, when I was in Fundamentalism, I heard this story often, but the emphasis was on Samuel's obedience.  The second half of the chapter was usually ignored; or if it was included, the judgment of God upon Eli was emphasized.

However, reading this passage again, taking in the entire chapter at once, I awoke to the real ethos of the story.

The chapter opens saying "...the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision."  God wasn't speaking much, to anyone.  Of anyone, the High Priest would have been God's go-to guy for a vision or a word.  He was The Authority in religious and civic matters.

Yet to whom does God choose to speak here?  A young boy.  A nobody.  An anti-authority figure, if you will.

It takes Eli three times to even realize it was God speaking to the boy.  Perhaps I'm over-analyzing, but one would think the High Priest should be a little quicker on the uptake about recognizing God's voice.  No wonder God's word was rare.  Even the High Priest wasn't listening.

And then?  God tells poor Samuel that Eli will be the recipient of unavoidable, unimaginable judgment.  Why?  Because of Eli's sins.  The High Priest!  Full of gross sin?

Just think of it - a young child, a servant, a nobody - was tasked with confronting The High Priest of sin and judgment!  No wonder the poor boy was afraid.

I have to credit Eli at this point.  Once he finally figured out God was speaking, he wanted to hear.  He didn't seem to care who the vision came through - nor did he believe that only authority could receive a vision.  He even used his authority to prod Samuel to do the right thing - to tell him those hard pronouncements of judgment.   He didn't use his authority to quash Samuel's message at all; he actually used it to make sure the message was heard as intended.

How different from my experience in Fundamentalism!  Picture a young fundamentalist lad confronting The Preacher or The Administrator regarding wrong.  What is he first told?  Certainly not that he should be truthful and tell his heart.  He is told *he* is the problem for pointing out the problem.  He is told he doesn't have the authority to do that.  He is told he is not respecting authority by doing so.  He is labeled as rebellious, bitter, and a troublemaker with a wicked, carnal heart.  And if the young Fundamentalist happens to be a lass rather than a lad... well, she is an unsubmissive Jezebel to boot.

God *doesn't* have an "umbrella of authority" or a "chain of command".  He speaks to the one who listens, whomever that may be.  And He delights in speaking to the weak to confound the wise and powerful.  *That* is God.  And if the "authorities" in your life demand you toe a line that God does not, then they are not of God - in fact, they are trying to BE God.

Secondly, I don't buy into the "following authority because they're the authority" because it's illogical that any judge, The Almighty or otherwise, would find that a valid defense in a case of wrongdoing. What do you think?  Do you think God would accept an excuse that you didn't do the right thing because your authority told you not to?   Or that you did something wrong because your authority said you had to?  Even the authorities in Fundamentalism *say* they oppose such behavior - I remember constantly being told to "do right 'till the stars fall" and to stand up for what is right no matter who was on the other side.

Unless, of course, the one whom I opposed was a leader in Fundamentalism.  Then you either shut up or leave. 

When your leaders refuse to play by the same rules they demand of you, they are dishonest, abusive, and liars.   I promise.  Been there, done that, have the healed scars.

Praise God He speaks to anyone who listens.