Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Women & Men and How They Behave

At the park last Friday I began talking with some fellow homeschooling moms that I don't know very well. One had mentioned to me at the beginning of the (school) year that she was going to join the Created to be His Helpmeet group by Debi Pearl. The other mom had mentioned her husband was becoming more "authoritative" and was asking them to dress more femininely (longer hair and mostly dresses). Both of these situations worried me.

It's hard to know when to open your mouth and speak or to just keep quiet, but anyone who *knows* me knows that just keeping quiet isn't usually the route I take ( be it good or bad!). I began to talk with these two young moms about the journey out of legalistic thinking God had walked me through this past year. I wanted them to see that not many people choose to live legalistically, but that it has a way of creeping up on you. I asked the woman who's husband was in the picture is he was reading a lot lately, and she confirmed this (naming some authors [who scare me ;]). What I'm wondering is when we begin to read multiple books on the same subject, by people who posit that what they are saying is *the right way*, can we say for certain that it is *God* calling us to live in this new way, or is it man? In my limited experience it has been man acting as God.

The woman who had been studying "Biblical truth" with Debi Pearl worried me, too. I suggested, after she named off a few "foundational truths" which included women acting a certain way, that we come to the scriptures *full* of preconceived ideas that we have been taught along the way (ie, how we digest what scripture says about "church" ). I knew I was getting somewhere with that idea, but hadn't fully thought it out. Serendipitously, Molly from Adventures in Mercy thought it out for me. Here's what she says:

CBMW says that heart of Biblical womanhood is the acceptance, nurturance and submission to the leadership of men. I’m a true woman, in other words, if I believe and perform the above expectations.

(then into the comments)

The actual booklet is, “What’s the Difference? Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible.”

It begins with Piper harkening back to the days of his youth and the way his mom and dad behaved with each other… and the “Biblical” (huh?) definition he then gives for femininity is thus:

“At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.”

In other words, if you do not agree with Piper, then you are not mature, nor feminine, nor Biblical.

It is not Biblical to say that *women* receive leadership from men, whereas men give leadership to women. If this were the “Biblical” pattern, why did God call Wisdom a woman? Can anyone read the passages about Wisdom in Proverbs and say that God is not encouraging all of us to affirm and nurture and receive strength and leadership from her?

I feel that there is nothing at all wrong with wanting a traditional marriage, or desiring traditional roles. Where I cringe is when it’s said to be GOD’S way.

These books and teachers are telling men and women that they *must* adopt these gender roles, that it *is* God’s way, and that they are the only way to the kind of intimacy God wants for a marriage (and that if the married couple’s don’t experience that level of intimacy, then it’s NOT the books fault, but the man or the womans).

[see Spunky's post on Created to be His Help Meet; she comes to the same conclusion.]

Again, I think everyone should have the right to choose traditional gender roles if that’s what they want. But the point is, they should get to choose that, not *must* do it because it’s *God’s* way. It’s like the thrust of women choosing to come and be home to raise their children. That is AWESOME. Instead of being forced to, like before, they are now given the freedom to CHOOSE to do so. That is beautiful.

This silly divvying up of qualities just drives me nuts. As if strength is masculine but not feminine…as if leadership is masculine but not feminine…as if nurturing is feminine but not masculine…? All three of those “gendered” attributes can be refuted Biblically, because all three of those attributes can be seen in positive lights through MALE *AND* FEMALE representatives in the Bible.

Which is the whole point of this post. We’ve made up the idea that “Strength” is “Masculine. Our culture made that up. It’s a cultural belief, not a true belief. Strength is both a male and female attribute. Yahweh tells the female Zion to gird herself in strength. Abigail exhibited strength. Esther exhibited strength. Women giving birth exhibit strength.

Gentleness is not a Feminine attribute. Our culture made that up. Was David being feminine when he was gentle with Saul’s crippled son?

We’ve made so many of these “gendered” attributes up. They’re just attributes, things found in humans, not some in men and others in women, but all in humans, because all the attributes are found in GOD, who is NOT gendered.

Was Stephen being feminine when he served the widows? Was Paul being feminine when he said he was travailing in birth again? Was John being feminine when he leaned on Jesus’s chest? Were husbands instructed to act femininely when the Apostle told them to nurture and cherish their wives?

Was Wisdom being masculine when she said, “Come in and sit down, that I may instruct you?” Was Deborah being masculine when she solved difficult problems and disputes with authority? Was Huldah being masculine when she heard words from God and then told them to men, even to kings? Was Priscilla being masculine when she helped instruct Apollos in the finer details of the Gospel (instead of serving tea and cookies while the menfolk talked)?
That's what I'd like to say to the women at the park, but I don't think I'm brave enough. I don't think they want to hear it anyway.

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