Monday, August 29, 2011
Women's orientation to work: part 2 - the hoe culture
This is the general pattern internationally and historically. When tilling the soil is a task accomplished with a hoe, then women tend to be the major workers in the field. When tilling the soil is done with a plough and oxen or slaves, then men are the major workers of the soil. Plough cultivation is male dominated, and hoe cultivation is female dominated.
Although we cannot imagine that Adam and Eve had oxen and plough, the narrative of Adam and Eve was composed within a culture in which farmers did use oxen and plough. Tilling the soil was a male dominated activity as a consequence of the technology available in the Middle East at that time.
Today, hoe cultivation dominates globally, and women make up the majority of those who work the soil. It is therefore not a universal truth that women are oriented to the family, in contrast to men who are oriented to work in the fields. The pattern that is most prevalent in the world today is that women are oriented to their family and to the soil at one and the same time. These patterns are dependent on culture and technology.
We might, on the other hand, think of Adam and Eve as occupying the transition era between hunter-gatherers and farmers. In this case, it is likely that men were still hunting and women both gathering and experimenting with the cultivation of plants and intiating the first planned crops. In this case, Eve would likely be the first farmer, and not Adam.
These are speculative thoughts that present some of the difficulties in imagining that Adam and Eve exited the Garden of Eden, whereupon Eve stayed in the home and cared for her children and Adam tilled the soil with a hoe. Such a scenario presents serious questions and is not consistent with what we know about the development of agriculture. But as I said, this is speculation.
I cannot fill in more details since little is known about the very early origins of agriculture. However, we can say for sure that the participation of women in agriculture is a culturally diverse paradigm. While the subordination of women is near to universal, the dominance of men in tilling the soil is far from universal.
In conclusion, I will soon discuss the work that women did in an agricultural economy, but I will not contest the cultural pattern found in the Bible, that men tilled the soil. However, I do contest the notion that there is any sense of universality in this pattern. We are unlikely to persuade the world today that women should not be full participants in all areas of agriculture.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Women's orientation to work: part 1
While God created men to be generally oriented toward work, God created women to be generally oriented towards relationships of helpfulness and companionship.This is often taught in conjunction with the notion that women stay home and nurture the children and create an environment that is supportive to the husband's career. The major tasks of women would be to bear and raise children, to cook and clean the house, and see that the family is well supplied with clothes and other goods. These clothes and goods are bought with money earned by the husband, who is the "provider." The main teaching role of women in this model is to teach younger women to fulfill these tasks.
The following verses are often used in this connection, Gen. 2:15, 18 and Gen. 3:16-19,
2:15And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.While it is true that women bear children, there has been no civilization in which men's participation in agriculture was dominant over women's participation in agriculture. Women worked the soil in ancient Israel and they continue to be participate in farming and agriculture today. In many countries women participate in agricultural work at a far higher rate than men.
18And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.3:16Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
17And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
18Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
19In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
So I want to look at alternate interpretation for Gen. 3:16. The consequences of the fall for the woman relate to childbearing and her relationship to her husband. The consequence of the fall for the man relates to the soil. The most obvious interpretation is that just as woman was taken out of man, so the fall returns her to man. And in the same way, as man was taken out of the soil, so he is returned to the soil. We need to consider that the story of Adam and Eve has internal plot coherency that is not necessarily related to universal truths about men and women.
Women work the soil and we can't get around that. Women share the physiological makeup of men, and die and decay in the same manner as men. Eve returns to the soil, just as much as Adam does. But the story is not about that. The story contains the plot line that man came from the soil and returned, just as woman came from man and is returned to him.
However, the woman also suffers in childbearing. Children are the main asset of women. Women wanted to produce children in order to establish their value to the family. The chief asset of a man was land. Just as Rachel schemed to bear children, and Rebekkah manipulated Isaac in Jacob's interest, so men schemed over land.
This does not mean that men bear an intrinsic relationship to the land that women do not share. Far from it. But it does mean that, in the creation narrative of Gen. 2 and 3, the male bears a relationship to the land that the woman does not. This reflects the legal and political situation in ancient societies where women were not typically landowners.
We are left now with the fact that women exclusively do bear children, but men do not exclusively own land or work the soil. Perhaps I need to qualify this last sentence. Women have a very specific but time-limited exclusive role in raising a child. Just as women are connected to the land, fathers have a close relationships to their children. A father as well as a mother suffers when a child dies. Fathers are equally invested in their children and children are the asset of both parents as is land.
We can safely say that both men and women are oriented to relationships, and both men and women are oriented to work. This may look different according to the sexes, there is some truth to the varying availablity of women to work, but this is slight when we consider that women globally partipate in physical labour full time in addition to bearing children.
I hope to blog about women's orientation to work and how this plays out in the Bible and in undertanding women's leadership in the epistles of Paul. I feel that it is important to respond to the teaching that men are to provide, protect, work and initiate, and that this is what makes men leaders, and women the receivers and affirmers of male leadership. My focus will be on certain areas of women's work in the biblical narrative.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Rachel Held Evans
Thursday, August 18, 2011
The Help, implausible and preposterous -
In my view, the main character, Aibileen held centre stage with little challenge from Skeeter. She expressed the tragedy, danger and enduring pain of the maids' social situation. Aibileen was the only well-rounded character, although Celia came in a close second. Skeeter was a little too good to be true, but she drove the plot - that was her role. She is how the story came to be written.
Here are two reviews that I found worth reading, Natasha Robinson and April Scissors. I chose this image because I feel that this is the pose that should have been used to publicize the movie. Aibileen is in her own home, wearing her own clothes, writing her own story. If I have any criticism it is this - that the publicity should have focused on this image of Aibileen. (This is how I would like to be portrayed.) In my mind, Aibileen is real, and Skeeter is a construct. We need to see Aibileen writing her own story, a painful one with no happy ending.
I also listened to Xue Xinran being interviewed on the radio. I had read The Good Women of China a few years ago, and it was extremely helpful to me to read of other women also discovering how to respond to abusive circumstances. Xinran was being interviewed this week on Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love. Here is one of the stories from her book,
My life is full of strong Chinese women. Are we providing any kind of model for women in our western world with a presidential candidate who claims to be a submissive wife? I think not. But I have benefitted from watching and learning from the financial intiative and solidarity of Chinese women.
Visiting a peasant family in Shandong, she sees a newborn baby girl snatched from her mother and dumped headfirst in the chamber pot: the head of the family demands a son and, because of the one-child policy, will not let the daughter live. Two years later, the young couple pays Xinran a visit. They, along with the rest of the young people, have left their village to look for work in cities. The mother says she had two more daughters but her father-in-law gave them away to foreigners for adoption. “Have you seen any foreigners?” she asks Xinran, fearfully. “Do you think the foreigners know how to hold my baby?”
At the tiny restaurant where Xinran eats lunch, the waitress tries to kill herself twice, each time after a little girl’s birthday party. The woman is tortured by the happy faces because, thinking it her duty to produce a male heir, she had smothered her baby daughters. She survives because, as well as the bottle of agricultural fertiliser she swallowed, she drank one of washing-up liquid, thinking that any chemical in a bottle was poison. The detergent diluted the fertiliser’s fatal dose.
Cycling to work one winter’s day, Xinran has a flat tyre. The woman who repairs her bicycle turns out to have been a midwife. Under the author’s patient questioning, she reveals the pricing system of her trade: three times the normal price for a first-born son; six times more if the father is first-born, too; yet more if a daughter is “done”. The trick is to strangle the baby with the umbilical cord as it emerges, and call it stillborn.Most of Xinran’s mothers submit stoically to the cruelties of “son preference” and the one-child policy. But a few go to extraordinary lengths to have more than one child. On a train journey she meets one of China’s so-called “extra-birth guerrilla troops”—families with daughters who leave home and move secretly from city to city, hoping to escape the birth-control regulators long enough to produce a son. The father rocks his daughter tenderly to sleep, as he explains the dangers of their life. At the next stop, Xinran sees the young girl talking to a food seller on the platform and waves goodbye, assuming the family has got off. But later she meets the father on the train: he has abandoned his beloved daughter to strangers because his wife is expecting another child and the family cannot hide more than one. She was the fourth daughter they had given up.
Mercifully, here we are not in the same situation with regard to our babies. But let us raise our sons and daughters to have mutual respect, and to have equal value to their families.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Removing mighty men from the NIV
For example, Denny Burk writes against the NIV 2011 pointing out various changes from the NIV 1984, which he claims are "inaccuracies,"
12. Removing "man" when the original Hebrew means "a male
human being" ('ish, gibbor, zaqar, bahur, and also 'adam [but only
when 'adam refers to a specific male person]) (247 inaccuracies)
a. The Hebrew nouns gibbor and gibborim when previously
translated "mighty man/men" (21 inaccuracies)
I have to say that I feel Dr. Burk is misleading his readers in accusing the NIV 2011 of inaccuracies. It is sad to see so many comparisons between the NIV 1984 and the NIV 2011. We were once raised to think of 1984 as the dystopian future, but according to Dr. Burk, it may be thought of represented as the gold standard of Bible translation.
Michele Bachman's Submission
Conservative columnist Byron York put this question to Michele Bachmann in last Thursday’s Presidential debate,
In 2006, when you were running for Congress, you described a moment in your life when your husband said you should study for a degree in tax law. You said you hated the idea. And then you explained, “But the Lord said, ‘Be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.’”
As president, would you be submissive to your husband?
Marcus and I will be married for 33 years this September 10th. I’m in love with him. I’m so proud of him. And both he and I — what submission means to us, if that’s what your question is, it means respect. I respect my husband. He’s a wonderful, godly man, and a great father. And he respects me as his wife.There has been a lot written on this topic, and I can't begin to discuss it all. Here are the posts that I have read so far by Denny Burk, Kurk and Wayne.
My view on this is fairly simple. I don't think anyone who has made a vow of obedience to someone else should be elected to public office. I don't think anyone who has made a vow of obedience to someone else should be allowed to vote. We need to make it clear that vows of obedience cannot coexist with democracy.
So, yes, I think Bachmann gave a reasonable answer. Mutual submission is fine, unilateral submission of the wife is wrong, and a vow to obey should be outlawed.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Whether these cave paintings are 20,000 years old or 32,000 years old, hardly matters. Viewing this art will reorganize your view of the history of civilization, or perhaps one's view of the human brain. How sophisticated does one need to be in order to produce this art?
I will suggest some alternate thinking not mentioned in the movie. In the absence of activity in one sense, another will grow out of proportion. Stress also produces chemical change that heightens sensitivity. I have seen one website that suggests that the art is primitive and resembles the art of an autistic child. I also see similarities to the art of a young hearing impaired child that I knew. Was this artist simply expressing prehistoric artistic sense, or was he or she deaf, or isolated, perhaps stranded from the rest of the group, and experiencing psycholgical trauma of some kind, perhaps a sort of hypergraphia? Or is this a product of sophistication and training? In any case, it stretches one's view of the human race.
On other movies, I also loved Midnight in Paris, for the sheer silly fun of it. Besides a tourist's view of Paris, there is also the maxim that if we go back in time to experience our "golden age" we will find others in that epoch who want to go back in time to their own "golden age."
And Kurk has written about The Help here and here. As it happened, I saw Cave of Forgotten Dreams instead of The Help, and now I am not sure about whether to see it or not. Lots of other good stuff on Kurk's blog as well. I can't possibly respond to all of it, but great writing. Thanks, Kurk!
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Deleting the story
If anything I said personally offended you, will you accept my deepest and most sincere apology?This is the sequence from my viewpoint. Don Miller wrote two posts on how to live a good love story, part one for girls and part two for guys. The gist of his posts, still available in cache, are that guys initiate, write the story, make it happen, and are responsible. Girls have a story happen to them.
Rachel Held Evans responded here and here. Then Don deleted his posts and wrote and explanation with apology.
The dicussion on Rachel's blog is about how to have a disagreement in an appropriate way. The message that I am getting is that sexism is such an integral part of the way people interact that those who say and write these things are not intending to hurt women, but they are simply not aware of the affect of what they are writing.
I am truly pleased that Don Miller took down his posts. I have no idea what he will write in the future about men and women. It is truly wrong to talk about men as those who make things happen and women as those to whom things happen. That is not Christianity, and we need to make people aware of how wrong it is to talk this way.
But we need to learn not to demonize those who do talk this way. They are mislead by the overwhelming sexist atmosphere in the Christian community which devalues the intitiative and responsibility that women take every day of their lives.
Thanks to Don Miller for deleting his posts. Thanks to Rachel Held Evans for her honest portrayal of women as actors and agents.
Another Rachel responds to Miller's post with these words,
Interestingly, I have always dated “good Christian men.” I’ve kept myself above board in all aspects in my relationships with them. But if I’m honest, I have never been treated worse than I have in those relationships. For some reason, whether it be expectations, pressure or nerves, it seems like I leave each relationship feeling ugly, worthless and stupid. One relationship in particular left me feeling like a whore. And I don’t use that term lightly. For more than a year after it ended, I felt like a whore. And would you believe I didn’t even kiss that guy? In the three months we were together, we never even kissed. He believed it was important to wait a year before going down that road. But his words cut me deep, and it took years to repair that wound.
I write this only because Mr. Miller’s blog stirred up some of the same physiological reactions I had in that three month relationship. No matter how “pure” I was…it wasn’t enough. I needed to tone down my personality. I needed to change my humor. I, who doesn’t wear revealing clothing because I don’t want imaginations to run wild, needed to cover up even more. But ladies…please hear this…that isn’t love. That isn’t grace. That isn’t mercy. That isn’t God.
So, I ask that you throw that blog out the window. Sure, chase after the good things, the righteous things, the holy things. And when it comes to love, look for a man who forgives. Who extends grace when it seems like there is none to be offered. Who gives mercy when you’re certain you’re unworthy. And hold yourself to the same standard. Look for opportunities to offer forgiveness, grace, mercy and understanding. THAT is God. THAT is good. And THAT, my sweet friends, is what a great love story is.
Jesus is my helpmeet
Just as the woman is designed to be the helpmeet of the man, so Jesus is naturally born according to the writer of Hebrews to be the helpmeet of the offspring of Abraham, the people, those who are tempted. Here it is:And that is how Clement understood it also, that Jesus is our help βοηθος, as Phoebe was a helper πρστατις to Paul. These two words βοηθος and πρστατης are used as titles for Christ alongside "saviour" and "high priest." Here is how the words were used in 1 Clement 36:1.
16For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help [βοηθῆσαι] those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2, ESV)
Αυτη η οδος, αγαπητοι, εν η ευρομεν το σωτεριον ημων, Ιησουν Χρστον, τον αρχιερεα των προσφορων ημων, τον προστατην και βοηθον της ασθενειας ημων.If we feel that the scriptures are turning hierarchy upside down, let us follow suit.
This is the way, beloved, in which we found our salvation; even Jesus Christ, the high priest of our oblations, the champion and defender of our weakness. tr. Charles Hoole 1885This is the way, dearly beloved, wherein we found our salvation, even Jesus Christ the High priest of our offerings, the Guardian and Helper of our weakness.tr. J. B. Lightfoot.
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
There is no doubt that the word "help" here refers to a separate and subordinate class of people. And we regard this today as an injustice.
This sentence is the way one talks now about women. "The woman is to be the helper." It refers to a different and subordinate class of people. Some call it oppression and others deny this.
Vicky Beeching shared this on her facebook page,
“Anyone thinking the ‘women in ministry’ battle is over & done, we still have a long way to go. Complementarianism, even when delivered with trendy clothes & a cool haircut, is still merely the oppression of women. My heart aches to see younger women grow up free from this teaching, so they don’t have to doubt their leadership gifting, their equality in the Body of Christ, or their equality within marriage.”She then blogged
So what I’m wanting here is BIBLICALLY BACKED UP, theologically well explained comments!Denny Burk replied,
Helping speaks to difference. The text says that God created her to be a “helper”–a role that involves aiding and supporting the leadership of her husband. God did not assign this role to the man. He assigned it only to the woman. Thus before there is any sin in the world, God creates man and woman to be equal with respect to their humanity (being created in the image of God) but to be different with respect to their roles. The woman is to be the helper.As we all know, in the Bible, God is our help.
Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. Psalm 27:9In this verse, the human is the servant and God is the help. But in his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem writes,
Whenever someone helps someone else the person who is helping is occupying a subordinate or inferior position with regard to the person being helped.That is not what the Bible says. The Bible both supports hierarchy and turns it upside down.
Monday, August 08, 2011
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.
Wendy disagrees with the way a woman's desire is turned against her
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.
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.
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
As an evangelical John Stott was also surprisingly progressive. Famously he incurred the ire of some evangelicals by coming out in support of the annihilationist view of hell as opposed to the classic conservative eternal-conscious-torment view. He was also reasonably progressive in supporting the ordination of women deacons and ‘presbyters’ (essentially local ministers), while not believing that they should be in a position of full headship over men.Another great post on Stott has been that of Nicholas Kristof. He writes,
I know that there are those who say that evangelical Christianity has lost its integrity. But it is not that simple. Christianity has been a vehicle of oppression for many, but it has also been a vehicle for the expression of empathy, for sharing one's worldly goods, and for loving one's fellow human being as oneself. Empathy, as part of our basic human nature, is found to a lesser or greater degree in everyone, animals included, but Christian teaching and example can serve to foster empathy and exend it.
Mr. Stott didn’t preach fire and brimstone on a Christian television network. He was a humble scholar whose 50-odd books counseled Christians to emulate the life of Jesus — especially his concern for the poor and oppressed — and confront social ills like racial oppression and environmental pollution.
“Good Samaritans will always be needed to succor those who are assaulted and robbed; yet it would be even better to rid the Jerusalem-Jericho road of brigands,” Mr. Stott wrote in his book “The Cross of Christ.” “Just so Christian philanthropy in terms of relief and aid is necessary, but long-term development is better, and we cannot evade our political responsibility to share in changing the structures that inhibit development. Christians cannot regard with equanimity the injustices that spoil God’s world and demean his creatures.”
Mr. Stott then gave examples of the injustices that Christians should confront: “the traumas of poverty and unemployment,” “the oppression of women,” and in education “the denial of equal opportunity for all.”