Thursday, April 06, 2006

Christian womanhood: two different views

On the one hand. I was doing my usual blogbrowse, and hit on the Bayly brothers' blog, Out of Our Minds, Too. Tim Bayly writes today about Carolyn Custis James, a familiar name. I expressed my concerns about James' troubling article in the PCA's magazine. At that time, I knew nothing of her background. Now I find that the Baylys' site features a host of posts.

Reading through the information and links and reactions in those posts, the least one comes away with is the affirmation that I'm not the only one who picked up the same "vibes" from James' line. Worse, there is some confirmation of those misgivings.

Bayly comments:
The flap is all about a woman listing her credentials in such a way that prominence is given to her evident disdain for, and denial of, domesticity--cooking, cleaning, and being what is called a housewife--when the world is filled with other godly women who pray each day that God will give them the holiness not to despise such menial tasks despite their high IQs, their deep biblical knowledge and understanding, and their yearning to play the man on the stage of the wider world outside the home and family confines.
Here is from James' own blog:
Carolyn is her husband’s favorite theologian. She is not a kitchen wife. She does not keep house, cook, clean or sew, but she reads an awful lot and often talks to women (and sometimes men) from all over the world about women’s struggles within the evangelical church.
By contrast. In the course of reading over the Baylys' page, I found a very thought-provoking confession of a woman's faith written by Rebecca Jones: My Credo as a Christian Woman. It is all worth reading and pondering, including this:
I believe that sin affects every area of my life. I am not, therefore, surprised that my sinful nature rebels against some of the very truths I confess. May God mercifully soften my heart and conform me to His perfect will.
Jones has a number of articles listed here, including a thoughtful reflection on submission.

Lot of food for thought in those links.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I've quoted this before, but Libbie said it so well, it bears re-repeating:
...they claim to be wanting to lift women up. Yet they go about this by denigrating the clear mandates given to women in scripture, exalting the mandates given to men, and then saying that women should be doing the men's tasks because the women's tasks are rubbish.


michele said...

Too bad the focus is on only those two views because there are a number of other views out there. And those who hold different views get lumped into either the feminist camp or get lumped into the woman shouldn't do theology camp. When they don't really fit in either.

DJP said...

By two views, do you mean egalitarian and complementarian? Or James' and Rebecca's? In terms of James, I see "two" as the view that heartily embraces the specifically Scripturally-defined unique ministries, roles, and responsibilities of women, and the view that overtly or covertly denigrates that and covets something else, as if it were something more. What other permutations do you see?

Kim said...

How did I miss this article?!

This is one of my favorite topics. I struggle daily with the balance between my academic desires and the desire to be a keeper of my home.

I can personally attest to the fact that even those of us who don't work full-time outside the home spend moments when we believe that we are not doing enough for our families. I don't know what kind of mess I would be if I had to be away from home a lot, too. I have a friend who would desperately love to be able to home more, but because of financial needs, she has to work part time.

DJP said...

Yeah, I wondered where you, Libbie and Carla were! (c:

Contrast your attitude, Kim, with James'. It's pretty clear to me that she doesn't think much of what you've "settled for."

Libbie said...

Chalk that up in the 'Things I wish I'd written' category.

michele said...

I believe that women can be called to different roles. I know (and my husband, pastor (PCA) and seminary administers(Westminster) know) that I am called to be in seminary and not just me but many women. We are all training for service for the Lord and yet none of use is training to be a pastor nor would we. Where do we fit in the James, Rebecca camp? BTW, I'm complementarian and conservative in theologyl.

itsboopchile said...

So many brilliant people in this world, but I just don't know them.
I do believe with blogging comes a way for me to learn more, think deeper, and still keep my faith and love of Jesus. So I will read you again.

See you, Betty G

Rebecca said...

I've followed some of the links posted and, frankly, I'm a bit surprised at the ire raised by someone saying they are not a "kitchen wife". I know men who say, "I'm not a handy guy", "I don't really help out much with my kids", "I make my wife mow the lawn" --- and no one gets their knickers in a twist. On the one hand, we have men upset that a theologian is being supposedly arrogant for wanting to teach beyond the confines of the children's ministry, but on the other hand, it is common knowledge in every church that it is nigh impossible to get any man to embrace the "high calling" of teaching young children. If a man has a gift for teaching, or theological training, it is assumed that his gifts would be wasted on the children.

The truth of the matter is that most men don't really think decorating tables, teaching children, teaching women, kitchen work, and anything in the domestic sphere is truly important. Oh, they might think it should be important FOR WOMEN, but that it is not really important work or ministry. Men certainly enjoy a good meal and appreciate that there is a Sunday School available for their children; however, until we begin to value this work as being as glorifying to God as "real ministry", women will be feeling a need to point out that they are not "kitchen wives".

Frankly, although I spend hours in the kitchen, I am not a kitchen wife. It's not my highest calling. I cook to feed my family. It is my duty. Sometimes I even enjoy it. But it does not form my identity. I would embrace this role even less if I were told that it was the only identity I should have --- and that seems to be the message that I am getting on many of the blogs I've read about this brouhaha. How dare a woman NOT be a kitchen wife?!

Rebecca said...

About Bayly's comment:

"The flap is all about a woman listing her credentials in such a way that prominence is given to her evident disdain for, and denial of, domesticity--cooking, cleaning, and being what is called a housewife--when the world is filled with other godly women who pray each day that God will give them the holiness not to despise such menial tasks despite their high IQs, their deep biblical knowledge and understanding, and their yearning to play the man on the stage of the wider world outside the home and family confines."

As a woman who has made some lifestyle choices that are socially unacceptable (family size, for starters) and who has struggled with the job description of "housewife" (if I were to pick the job for which I am most unsuited, it would be this one in which I am stuck either until death or physical collapse) I am tired of people whining about someone supposedly denigrating menial household chores by choosing not to center their lives and identities around them.

Many women like me have absolutely no desire to "play the man". ICK. Neither do we want to be restricted by some outmoded fantasy idea that we should be pretending to be June Cleaver clones or some ridiculously shallow housewife in a commercial who goes into raptures of delight over new toilet cleaning supplies.

Menial tasks are just that --- menial. They do bring some people a certain amount of satisfaction and joy. I knew a man who thought that the best way he could possibly spend his life was pulling weeds and planting and transplanting stuff in his garden. (On a vacation, he once joyfully pulled weeds in someone else's yard --- just for fun.) Unfortunately, his high tech career limited his hours to do the "important stuff". But most people are not like that.

If we truly believe that household drudgery is so wonderful, we should not complain about those who suggest otherwise. When people mock me for having so many children, I just smile. It doesn't make me question my choices or feel denigrated. These poor people don't have my kids --- or they probably would be taking extraordinary measures to have even more children than I do. I wouldn't trade my children for all the riches in the world.

I think the reason that so many women are reacting so strongly to James' comments is that they strike a chord; they express a longing that so many women do not even wish to articulate. Hence the struggle of godly women to pray daily not to despise menial tasks, but to embrace them.

Years ago, I tried that approach. I prayed desperately that God would help me to love cleaning toilets and changing diapers. Instead, with each child, my stomach grew weaker and diaper changing became even more unpleasant. There is no way to "pretty up" this task --- which is why most husbands I know refuse to change diapers unless nagged to death by their wives. It's worse than menial. Now that my children are out of diapers and I am thankfully retired from this task, I have let it be known that I WILL NOT CHANGE DIAPERS. Does this mean I am denigrating those who do? Not at all. But let's be honest --- no one is "called" to diaper changing. It's not some wonderful thing that women everywhere need to embrace and wax eloquent over. It's another one of those awful tasks that need to get done; another one of those trials we endure, hopefully with cheerfulness, out of love for our families.

Even if every other woman in the world would proclaim, "I AM NOT A KITCHEN WIFE", I'd still cook dinner tonight. I'd probably say, "I hear you, ladies!" But it would not make my menial tasks any more or less menial, any more or less pleasant. It is just something that has to get done. I don't need applause; I don't need the women of the world joining me in solidarity; I don't need a sense of "finding meaning in the pots and pans"; I don't need to flatter myself by pretending I am embracing some "high calling"; I just need to get in the kitchen, stop being a whiny baby, and cook dinner. Do I view this as my calling in life? No. But my family is hungry and I'm usually the one with kitchen duty. Whatever my hand finds to do, I should do it heartily unto the Lord. But I shouldn't let this make me arrogant and disdainful towards those who choose to let their hands find other tasks.

I am not a kitchen wife, either. I'm neither married to kitchen nor house, no matter how much my life is filled with those menial tasks. If I define myself by household chores, I am indeed to be pitied.

Jim said...

This is my first post here, and I know I'm a bit late in regards to a blog of a week ago. But I was curious. Did Paul have it wrong when he told Titus that younger women should be "workers at that the word of God will not be dishonored"? Titus 2:5

I'm not sure how else to take the boast that "i am not a kitchen wife."

michele said...

But Jim is that the extent of what a women can do? And what is the context of that passage. Why do you think he said that? If women are only called to be "workers at home" then what about those who have to work, are they sinning (what if their children are full grown or they don't have any)?

No Fluff Required said...

Thanks for the boost! Can I say our whole problem is that we fail to see that God's glory is everything and we are nothing. If Christ taught one thing clearly it is that the first shall be last and the way up is the way down. But curse related, we think it doesn't apply to us. Far from stealing the authority given to men in our families and our churches is the attitude that washing feet is just plain Christ-like. The problem doesn't begin in the debate about whether mom's should work or whether women should begins with this quesstion: "Do I think I am so much better than Christ, that I don't have to be the servant of all?" The End

Rebekah said...

Michele, I'd recommend reading Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney. It's a study on Titus 2, and she does indeed address single women and women who have to work outside the home. It's available through Amazon.