Monday, November 15, 2010

"Biblical Womanhood" in the New York Times

Jordanian Christian woman reacts during prayers at the Greek Orthodox church in Amman, Jordan, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2005So.... there was an amazing in the New York Times on Sunday that I just stumbled across titled "Housewives of God". The article examines the evangelical debate between a complementarian and egalitarian view of the role of women. Considering the evangelical world is a mystery to most people and the distinction between those two viewpoints can be super confusing, the article did a great job at just examining the culture and both sides in a clear way.

The author based the discussion around the person of Priscilla Shirer, a popular female speaker/preacher who takes the conservative complementarian viewpoint and yet has a life and marriage that practically speaking looks pretty much like a feminist career woman. It's fantastic, you all should really read it.

It's timely for me, too. Isaac has a seminary class discussing the issue right now (incidentally, his seminary and various professor's viewpoints on the issue were discussed in the article), and he's reading a book on the topic. Also, some of my favorite bloggers, Rachel Held Evans and Elizabeth Esther have both talked about "biblical womanhood" recently.

It's something I've never really blogged much about, because unlike most topics, I have a hard time approaching it objectively. Usually I can take a topic I'm wrestling with, look into it deeply from a variety of angles, and come to a conclusion. On this one every time I face the topic I get really emotional, which is really unlike me. I don't get and don't like the topic of submission, biblical womanhood, the role of wives and husbands, etc. It has been discussed in classes, I've read about it, I've been through church studies on the topic.... even presentations that other people love on the topic have resulted in me walking away and crying to Isaac...

Like I said, that's pretty unlike me. Even just the other night as Isaac was trying to describe some things presented in the book he's reading, I couldn't respond in discussion because I got teary as soon as I tried to talk because of my emotional gut reaction. Isaac asked me why I respond so emotionally, particularly when the question of submission or our roles within our marriage has NEVER been a point of conflict. I told him that it feels like there is no other theological question that is so central to my identity. That's not true, but I suppose it's the only unsettled theological question that I have that is so central to my identity. In every way. How I act in the church, how I relate to friends, how I live and act and who I am in my marraige.... the question of roles and biblical womanhood directly affects every single one of those areas.

So no, I find I can't approach the whole thing very objectively. Mostly I just avoid it, and hope that a life lived with love and respect avoids the question.... *sigh*...

10 comments:

Jaimie said...

I love your thought about how "Biblical Womanhood" affects every part of the woman's life. It's so, so true. And some people really believe God meant it that way -- that we're meant to have pressure in every part of our lives in a way that men have NO pressure, merely by lacking a Y chromosome.

Yeah... I don't think God meant it that way. It's sick that it's turned out that way. It's sick that people take classes on the subject, like it's some special thing. I think over the years, men have gotten really good at upping their power by giving us something enormous (and arbitrary) to concentrate on. Women, too. Women like controlling women as much as men do.

I think living a life with love and respect is all God meant, and that's everyone. Everyone, regardless of the small details.

Amy B. said...

I react the very same way to this issue. I was going to say more, but I don't really have anything to add that you didn't already say yourself.

Amy B. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Young Mom said...

I find my reaction is mostly anger, because I was raised to be a doormat. Like you said, it hasn't really been an issue in my marriage since we broke out of the patriarchal mindset, but I still get emotional about it. Especially when I dare to think of any dreams I might like to accomplish, I insantly feel guilty that I am desiring ANYTHING but cleaning and cooking. The only thing that "submission" ever taught me was that I had no right to feel or think anything other than that which I was told to feel or think.

Andrea Elizabeth said...

Wow, thanks for sharing that this is upsetting to other people too.

Kacie said...

I find that complementarian presentations begin by reassuring everyone that their beginning presupposition is that all are equally valued and of equal worth in the eyes of God. That is good.

However, the metaphors they use don't FEEL equal to me. Recently someone talked about marriage being like the head of a company as the husband and another worker/employee as the wife. I reacted strongly to that metaphor. Well sure, the two may be equal as human beings, but in terms of their worth and value to the company, the career world, etc... they are NOT equal. When I heard it I was in the middle of a few years of feeling absolutely worthless as a secretary, so NO I do not take kindly to being called the secretary to my husband's CEO status.

No one has yet presented a good metaphor yet for the relationship that complementarians say men and women have.

Andrea Elizabeth said...

Christ and the Church, but people disagree on the role of the Church too.

s-p said...

The longer I'm around "theology" the less I'm impressed with metaphors. They invariably reflect, not the Scriptures, but the mind of the teacher and all of his/her assumptions, cultural baggage and prejudices. The longer I am married the less I am impressed with systematic theology trying to define the human person and love. One might consider my wife vapid because she probably would say "HUH?" if someone asked her if she was a "complementarian or egalitarian", but she does know that she is adored, loved and she's happy. St. Maximos the Confessor says the goal of the life in Christ is to overcome all of the dualities injected into creation and the human person due to sin. This includes the categorical duality of most theological constructs that are ultimately overcome and fall by the wayside through love, which is true union in God in whom there is both complementarity and equality.

Kacie said...

S-P,
Yes, I'd agree. I wish I could find some set and comfortable position theologically, but as of this point what I AM thankful for is that I am loved well, respected, treated with dignity, and given grace by my husband when I am impatient or catty. I hope that I return these things to him.

Togenberg said...

Great article!

Bit of an irony there, a distance between her teaching and her married life and ethos