Friday, November 9, 2012

-tarian schlemarian

So "biblical womanhood" is a topic again. I hadn't even heard of Rachel Held Evans until recently. I've been up to my eyeballs in textbooks, lessons, and child rearing. My "extra reading" is stuff that has been on my list for years, and Evans' book will have to wait.

But I want to add my little voice to the topic: 

My experience has been most Christians are in the Church because of  . . . an experience: "I went into the church, and I felt peace for the first time." "I was going to commit suicide, and I decided to open my Bible. I read and wept and asked Jesus to help me. He did." "I was raised in the church, and I love Jesus. He's always been there for me." Pretty much like St. Augustine, et al, a lot of Christians are believers not because it makes sense, but because God is real and broke through to them. So hermeneutics and exegesis tend to not hold a lot of water.

Our society went nuts in the sixties . . . with a mixed bag of some great ideas and some awful ideas . . . a heart of revolution against the status quo, no matter what. Then came the 70s, the 80s  . . . and on and on until you have suicide as an epidemic that has spilled from high schools into middle schools. There is unprecedented bullying. Where in the public sphere has a mass shooting not taken place in the last two decades? And then all the abortions . . . unborn babies slaughtered on the altars of materialism and convenience. (Go ahead and do research on child abuse statistics, and see how they went up instead of down after Roe v. Wade.)

Society has always been a mess, true. But the standards to which our society had been held have changed, and this seems to have made for a whole host of problems. At the very least it's an interesting coincidence.

So if the average Christian who came to Christ because of experience looks back over the last hundred years to see what went wrong, they will find well meaning (I'm sure), liberal theologians who decided to tell people that the Bible is a great myth and that it really doesn't have any practical application except for a few verses which tell you to forgive and love each other. And here begins the distrust of liberal or even moderate theologians.

Of course when we look back, it's easy to focus on the pictures and paintings of idyllic domestic life, forgetting that all was not hunky-dory in centuries past. But the pictures do show that there was at least a concrete ideal, where as now we have fuzzy stick figures of relativistic, self-fulfilling goals.

The average Christian does not trust the Academy. The average Christian is tired of being told they don't know how to read their Bible, or that God couldn't possibly be transcendent. The average Christian is too busy to read all the arguments online or to read the latest Christianity Today. So given what we've got to work with, it's easiest to tune out moderates and liberals who seem to have made a mess of things, and just listen to the conservatives.

Family life seems to be the greatest battle ground for liberals versus conservatives. Noting that the family was turned upside down in the sixties, and deciding that this contributed to the problems of our current society, people have concluded  it's time to go back to those (now loaded) "family values." And guess who encourages women in their roles as mothers? Guess who encourages men to provide and be supportive of their families? Guess who is giving us advice to love each other sacrificially? It's not the liberal church.

And this is why you have "biblical womanhood and manhood" councils and what not. It's not because so many Christians are dumb; it's because they are trying to avoid the statistics of drug abuse, suicide, divorce, and violence. They are reaching back to tradition not because they care about hermeneutics, but because egalitarians seem to have contributed to the diminishing of the family.

My personal take on being a Christian woman has evolved over the last 16 1/2 years of marriage. I never believed the apostles were mysogynists. I was more complementarian in my earlier years of marriage, and it was my husband (!) who slowly convinced me that I may have been too literal. I found secular parenting magazine advice to not be practical, and I found some good advice for staying off the pity potty from complementarian authors. But I also have seen up close and personal some of the effects of strict complementarianism, and it made me shudder.

I do think freedom in Christ means that women can be in ministry (again, this is something my husband convinced me of), though I confess I have yet to meet a woman priest or bishop that I like so I still prefer men taking on the cloth (and yeah, that's pure opinion and not much logic). I think the relationship that St. Paul described in Ephesians 5 is a beautiful way of describing mutual love and submission, though I have no idea what the hermeneutics are. I have submitted to my husband, and he has submitted to me . . . neither of us is right ALL of the time, and we need each other. We don't make plans without talking to one another, and people find this odd and old fashioned. We listen to one another. We really like each other and are best friends. We disagree, we argue, and we make up. We are protective our time together because we know that there is no coasting in marriages, and we want to be married for life. So we work at it. And we take time to have fun and laugh together, too.

My views make me more of an egalitarian than a complementarian, except that I do think men and women are different. Our differences don't make us unequal, but rather we complement one another. We are better together. I don't think defining masculinity or femininity helps anyone, and I think some of these definitions have actually contributed to problems with sexual identity. But at the core, women with their unique gift to carry and nurture life are not the same as men, and even secular researchers have found this to be true.

To be honest, I'm tired of -tarianisms. So I'm sticking to Michael Halcomb's Entering the Fray, which I'm thoroughly enjoying though it's taking me forever to read with my schedule. And I can't wait to finally start reading some more N. T. Wright.


  1. I knew I wanted to read this when I saw it in my reader. I'm glad I did. Joel and I have an interesting relationship as well that seems to be similar to yours. At the moment I am more of the homemaker than he is, and I love that. One of the things I cherish the most about Joel is that he is concerned for my wellbeing and how easily I give that up in "service" to other people. He has always been willing to be my fallguy and excuse when I shouldn't do something, and I don't feel at all controlled or like he is so meant o me. He almost always knows when I'm overwhelmed and he teaches me how to say no. Yes, this is because the reason he knows I'm overwhelmed is because I get grouchy at him and the kids, so it is a bit self-serving on his part, but I am so grateful. So many husbands seem to just let their wives do whatever they want, without questioning their decisions, and those poor souls are tapped out to the limit. Something about the female brain wants to (in general of course) serve others and be useful, often to our own detriment. I love how my husband steps in, complements that side of me, and helps me be a realist about what I can actually do.

    Evidently I feel strongly about this. And I miss you. We should talk. You are one of my few mentors and you had to move away. Sigh.


  2. Sarah, I miss you! I've been sick in bed, and your comment just warmed my heart. Hope we can talk soon! Much love to you and your family!