RetroWomen: The Rise of Gender Fundamentalism
Earlier this year, I provided a link to a video of a fundamentalist teacher in the UK. His comments about women and what he saw as their God-created role (little more than animals, created to serve and please men) were understandably shocking to many readers. Quite a few of those who responded wondered why I had bothered to draw attention to the perspectives of an isolated extremist. No one could possibly take him seriously. This kind of primitive thinking had been "dealt with" since the ?60s, and there was no reason to spend time and energy on it now. We're well into the new millennium. Now, Christian women believe that if they've been given gifts, they have a divine call to use them, wherever God leads. End of story.
I've mused about those responses the rest of this year. Were they right? Has the perspective that women are made solely for men's pleasure and use truly been relegated to the annals of history?
This fall, The Los Angeles Times ran an article entitled, "Stubborn Stains, Cookie Baking on Syllabus." Its opening lines:
"You hear that a lot (about gender) on the lush green campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. God values men and women equally, any student here will tell you. It's just that he's given them different responsibilities: Men make decisions; women make dinner. This fall, the internationally known seminary - a century-old training ground for Southern Baptists - began reinforcing those traditional gender roles with college classes in homemaking. The academic program, open only to women, includes lectures on laundering stubborn stains and a lab on baking chocolate-chip cookies."
To sophomore, Emily Felts, the new curriculum comes as good news. Instead of studying pre-law, she has something she believes is more hands-on, more in sync with what she believes God had in mind for her in the first place. "My created purpose as a woman is to be a helper," Felts said firmly. "This is a college education that I can use."
Emily isn't the only young woman rethinking what it means to be female in the 21st century. At MarsHill Church in Seattle (a congregation of mostly twenty and thirty-somethings), women are regularly encouraged to leave education and professional careers behind, embrace homemaking, and do their part to repopulate their godless city with Christians. In a recent Salon magazine article, one attendee, Judy, reflects on her choice:
"Judy no longer reads secular books or speaks to her old friends. She is now a deacon at Mars Hill and is responsible for planning the weddings held there, which always include a biblical explanation of marriage and gender roles; each year Mars Hill averages about one hundred marriages between couples within the congregation, all of whom must agree with (the doctrine of wifely submission). Between her marriage ministry, the women's Bible study she runs, her two small children, and taking care of her husband and her home, Judy says she doesn't have time for many relationships anyway, and when she starts to home-school her kids soon, her time will be even tighter. ?It's not what I ever imagined?or even what I ever wanted, but it's my duty now, and I have to learn to live with that.'"
Evidently, Seattle isn't the only city Mars Hill Church is targeting for its fundamentalist message about women's roles. According to the article, Senior Pastor Mark Driscoll wants to take this message of extreme role-ism to the rest of the nation, and is using a large, influential church planting group to do it.
Maybe Salon magazine got it wrong. Maybe they're exaggerating. Perhaps. But, recently, I was nosing around in some of Driscoll's blogs and found this post about the feminization of the church:
"I've gotta think these guys [David, Paul, John the Baptist] were ?dudes.' Heterosexual, win a fight, punch you in the nose, dudes. And the problem in the church today is it's just a bunch of nice, soft, tender, chick-ified, church boys. Sixty percent of Christians are chicks and the 40 percent that are dudes are still sort of chicks. I mean it's just sad. When you walk in its sea foam green and fuschia and lemon yellow the whole architecture and the whole aesthetic is feminine and the preacher is kind of feminine and the music is kind of emotional and feminine and we're looking around going ?how come we're not innovative?' Its because all the innovative dudes are at home watching football."
Well, I can tell you, I'm not into sea-foam green, fuschia, and lemon yellow. And I've been known to be critical of overly-emotionalized, manipulative worship services. But let's not take the easy route and just blame stupid, poorly planned worship services for our lack of effectiveness. When 64 percent of the conservative church can only innovate in the kitchen, the nursery, and the bedroom, we shouldn't be surprised that we've lost our edge. And when the 36 percent remaining spend so much of their time and energy making sure the 64 percent don't invade their territory, well, what you have is a whole lot of nothing going on. And a culture that looks at us, and just laughs.
As one respondent to the Salon article writes: "Many Americans believe that Islam is the only world religion that treats women with disrespect. I find that laughable. When your purpose in life is reduced to childbirth and childrearing, you are nothing more than a piece of livestock."
I'm sure am glad we've dealt with all of this already.