Monday, August 08, 2011

On women

There has been a lot of chatter in the biblioblogosphere on women once more. Amanda has been blogging about female theologians, as well as sharing other thoughtful reflections in her Girly Girl Week. Yeah Amanda! Her blog experiment is quite informative.

In response to her writing on theologians who happen to be female, let me mention some women, most of them Canadian, whose writing has influenced me - Maxine Hancock, Edith Humphrey, Linda Belleville, Renita Weems, Berenice Gerard. Some of the female Bible bloggers that I read regularly are Shirley Taylor, Waneta Dawn, Carolyn McCulley, Rachel, Shawna, Hannah, Mara and Wendy. Charis is closing her blog which makes me sad and happy for her at the same time. There are many others that I read occasionally, or hope to read in the future.

Some of the male bloggers who have been especially supportive are chronologically Wayne, Peter, Theo, Kurk and Jeff. Overall, I find most male bibliobloggers to be highly supportive of women as equals both on the blogs and in all domains of life. There is no question that most of the bibliobloggers I have encountered have an ethic of treating women as equals.

So why is there such an ongoing inequity in participation? I can only relate what I see going on. Amanda has expressed her views here, and Tonya here. Whatever I say here is only how I perceive it.

First, women have already experienced bias and negativity regarding what it means to be a Christian and a woman long before coming to the internet. This is a given. Here is an example.

I have a PhD in ministry. I studied under Wayne Grudem, and did so well that Wayne Grudem urged me to get a PhD. I asked him what I could do with a PhD? He said “Teach children in Sunday school.” I told him that I don’t need a PhD to teach children. Finally Wayne Grudem could only come up with this: I could write books under the authority of some man.

I attended John Piper’s church. I told John Piper of my calling into full time preaching/teaching. John Piper said, “You are just like the homosexual, right desire, wrong gender.”

Another example - I googled 1 Corinthians 14:34-36 and ended up reading the "G-word" again. Even Tim Challies finds women do not like his interpretation of submission.

I have often been challenged with the subject of submission and how it relates to the role of women in a marriage relationship. In particular, I have been challenged to understand and then prove that the submission prescribed by Scripture is inherent in God’s created order. In other words, the fact that women are to submit to their husbands is not merely the product of the Fall of the human race into sin, but is a product of God’s creation. Even if sin had never entered the world, a wife would still be expected to submit to her husband. Having studied this issue I believe that is a fair statement and wrote this brief article in an attempt to prove my understanding.

I have discussed this topic with several women and have been a little bit surprised by their reactions. It seems to me that women would be glad to know that the idea of submission precedes the fall. This shows us that the headship of the husband is not rooted in a punishment, and perhaps even an unfair punishment where woman was given the harsher penalty of having to submit, but is rooted in the very purpose and creation of mankind. Yet women have told me that they prefer to think that submission is a product of the Fall. Perhaps this shows just what a poor job the church has done in teaching this subject and what a poor job husbands have done in making submission joyful. Or maybe this is simply society echoing even in the church.

Wendy disagrees with the way a woman's desire is turned against her
Conservative, complementarian evangelicals (of which I am one) regularly interpret the next to last line to mean that her desire will be to rule over her husband. But that simply is not what Scripture says.
Women, whether egalitarian or complementarian, experience much of theology relating to women as negative.

We can also read some of the horrifying efforts to indoctrinate children with the notion of female submission and male leadership here and here. Men are characterized by work and initiative, and women by submission and helpfulness.

Just reading these views about women is deeply hurtful. And if male bibliobloggers, who may themselves treat women as equals, then turn around and express approval and acceptance of those who speak of the submission of women in these terms, the consequence is that women are left out. Women have no acceptable way to express how truly awful it is to be talked about as a sexual subordinate in public.

I truly believe that the tolerance many show to those who speak of women in this way is neither conscious nor deliberate but it is deeply ingrained and very unpleasant. Here is series of posts which exemplify this. First, the original post, where the obedience of the wife is mentioned in the first comment by someone else but I myself am not supposed to discuss gender in any way, and then Kurk's representation of this conversation with some of the deleted comments still in place. HT Theophrastus.

I honestly think that when a gender issue is mentioned by a man among other men, no bells go off. But when a woman responds and mentions gender, it's as if the fire alarm was pulled. She is breaking the peace, that peace which is preserved when men talk about gender among men - peace because that thing that is being discussed - subordination - is the subordination of women - it is not about them, it is thank goodness not about their subordination, but only about the subordination of a woman. And would that woman please not talk about it. Such bad manners.


Charis said...

I truly believe that the tolerance many show to those who speak of women in this way is neither conscious nor deliberate but it is deeply ingrained and very unpleasant. -Suzanne

and sometimes shocking and disconcerting who it comes from (where you least expect it)....

Thank you, Suzanne!

Keep speaking up. You are speaking for many, myself included. Bless you!

I'm not going to blog anymore at hupotasso, but you are in my reader and I always look forward to your next post.

Keep up the good work!!! :)

Don said...

I will break the peace for my sisters as it is a false peace. And I have done so.

Hannah said...

And we THANK YOU Don! I pray that more have your character on this subject.

Great Article Suzanne. I got a bee in my bonnet yesterday from Shirley's article - and those comments as well.

I'll never understand how people can claim that these attitudes, viewpoints, etc are not derogatory in nature - and live with themselves.

Women say something is wrong, and what you say is hurtful.

Certain men respond...stop being a feminist. It wasn't until the 1960's did women think this. You are buying into the lie.

If that is 'leadership skills' we are in trouble.

Amanda said...

Thanks for the shout-out Suzanne!

Transforming Seminarian said...

Re: the story about Grudem advising the woman the get a PhD.

That one's new on me. It makes me wonder if Grudem has any concept of the sacrifices that people today have to make to get such degrees.

Presumably he had to make sacrifices of his own, but can he honestly say he would have done so if there were no viable chance of making enough money in gainful employment to pay off those debts? (We're not talking here about becoming wealthy or anything like that. Just paying off financial obligations created by the endeavor to earn a degree)

Shawna R. B. Atteberry said...

"Overall, I find most male bibliobloggers to be highly supportive of women as equals both on the blogs and in all domains of life. There is no question that most of the bibliobloggers I have encountered have an ethic of treating women as equals."

That's good to hear. I'm glad it's more equal than the recent argument suggests.

I just posted this on Kurk's blog and thought, since it's about you, I should post it here too:

"I applaud you Suzanne for continuing the fight. I respect you a lot for first, staying evangelical, and second, for making them see and hear you. I wish I had your patience, grit, and determination, but I don't. You should see what my blood pressure shoots to when Kurk quotes some of these guys: don't know if I could handle the full blog posts, let alone engage and respond to them without having a stroke.

"And to be honest: I love how women being equals with men in all areas of life, including ordination and leadership, is just a non-issue for the most part in Mainline churches (I live in Chicago, so it's fairly liberal here). I love that I don't have to waste my time defending myself and I can just do what Godde has called me to do.

"But I have a great deal of respect for the women who stay and fight because I could not do it."

Thank you for the shout out and staying in the fray with such grace and poise.

Pam said...

"...some of the horrifying efforts to indoctrinate children with the notion of female submission and male leadership..."

At church one Sunday last year, my kids were given some printed material that caught my eye. There was a large illustration of Priscilla and Aquilla actively teaching an individual. Well, Acquilla and the individual were seated at the table, Aquilla gesturing and speaking. Priscilla was standing next the table, eyes down and mouth in a closed smile, arranging flowers in a vase.

Rod said...

That Piper quote is disgusting. Can't stand him.

Charis said...

Speaking of women, check this out:
The Newest U.S. Mission Field: Women

diamondnell said...

Hope I still encounter you around the blogosphere, Charis. I always value your input.

Interesting article.

Peter Kirk said...

Thank you for this, and for your helpful comments.

I looked again at the first comment on the WELS post on BBB. This was allowed at the time largely because it predated the latest controversy about gender which led BBB to tighten its guidelines. It was also strictly on topic as it related to WELS views on women and how they related to its attitude to NIV 2011. But none of us wanted those comments to be used as a pretext for turning that comment thread into a general discussion of gender issues. Unfortunately several BBB commenters have regularly been trying to do that in ways which went well off topic. We BBB authors have been trying hard to keep matters on topic in an even-handed way. But it is very difficult to spot every allusion to gender in long comments which are otherwise on topic. So sometimes we get things wrong.

Shirley Taylor said...

Thank you, Suzanne, for mentioning me. So many respect your work and blog, and I am honored to be one of those blogs that you read. Together we will make a difference. On these blogs, men and women are speaking up and connecting with each other. This gives us all encouragement. Thank you for your work.