Friday, November 12, 2010

Theory, Yes; Practice, No

To me, this 7 page NYT article on evangelical women can be summarized like so: Conservative evangelical women often believe in submitting to male authority and leadership in theory, but not in practice.

I don't mean to sound smug or sarcastic; that's honestly what I got out of it.

I find it interesting that the woman they profile (Priscilla Shirer) and her family practice the very feminist idea of sharing child rearing responsibilities and career responsibilities somewhat equally and in a non traditional way. She is a speaker/author, and her husband works by maintaining her schedule, taking calls etc. He often acts as primary caregiver when she's traveling.

Yet, Shirer is insistent that she's "not a feminist" or even a "career woman" but makes her living (presumably a pretty lucrative one) by advocating for the idea of biblical (male) headship. The article states:

Shirer and many conservative Christians believe that the Bible defines gender as a divinely ordained set of desires and duties inherent in each man and woman since the Garden of Eden.

I'm not clear, and neither is the article (IMO) as to what these "divinely ordained" set of desires and duties that are supposedly inherent in men and women actually ARE.

I also find it rather disappointing that she's quoted as describing feminist activists as people who tell women to “do your own thing, make your own decisions and never let a man slow you down" when in reality feminism and feminist activism is not about elevating women to a higher status than men or disregarding men or meaningful relationships with men, but rather making sure that women have an equal voice and equal opportunities in all areas of life. Like in ministry, for example. In fact, I'd argue that it's feminism and the progress that feminism has made over the last several decades that allows not only Priscilla Shirer to step outside the boundaries of what women were "supposed" to do, but also allows her husband to step outside of the traditional male roles and expectations.

It's kind of humorous to me that she is quoted as saying she defers to her husband when it comes to the BIG DECISIONS (emphasis mine)and then the example she gives is that her husband chose the name of their kid. I'm not saying a baby's name isn't important... but I'm pretty sure where the family lives and works, and how the family unit operates as a whole is more important, and in their case that's obviously guided by Priscilla's career as a speaker and author.

I honestly find the whole idea of "Biblical womanhood" kind of fascinating because it always seems to change or have caveats depending on who you ask. And it's not that I like to see infighting between churches or denominations, but it's so interesting to me that people whose mission it is to impact the Kingdom for Christ would spend a significant amount of time debating the role of women in leadership. I've read essays and excerpts from both sides of the egalitarian and complementarian views. More and more schools are allowing women into their pastoral programs, but there are still some holdouts. And of course the holdouts claim they are being true to the Bible, but then the other school ardently defend that THEY are being true to the Bible also.

When I was younger, I was taught to seek out answers by respected authorities when I had questions regarding theology. And I've tried to do that, not just recently but for quite some time now. I've come to realize though that I'm not really going to get answers, but rather more questions every time I try to seek out answers. And I honestly just don't know if any one person, or school, or church, or denomination, or even religion in general can claim to have THE TRUTH.

I didn't really mean to get off on that tangent; I had originally thought about just posting the link and maybe a sentence or two about it, but I think it's good to think these thing through and actually post something of substance (maybe...hopefully?) once in awhile.

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