R.C. Sproul on The Role of Man and Woman

I often say that we need to listen to others who are not like us, and in that spirit, I read complementarian articles and I tune in to complementarian sermons on marriage and gender roles.  Having been raised in a comp church tradition, I know the point of view intimately, yet am still surprised every time I hear comp teaching.  The idea of gender roles was once so clear to me, but now I feel as though scales have fallen off my eyes.  I can see how my socialization in patriarchy led me to read the Bible through that lens and to accept these kinds of sermons as being Good News.

rc sproulLast week, I listened to a sermon on gender roles by Dr. R.C. Sproul, a Calvinist pastor and Reformed theologian, author of more than 60 books, and the founder of Ligonier Ministries, which broadcasts his sermons around the world. This is a theologian with a lot of influence within Christianity, so I believe it is worthwhile to test his teachings.  The Apostle Paul told us to follow Jesus and not this preacher or that preacher, because it is human nature to adopt a favorite minister and tune into their voice religiously and not balance their influence with diverse voices.  It takes diligence to wrestle with differing perspectives, panning for the nuggets of truth.  There is no perfect teacher besides Jesus – we are all prone to error.  And ideas have consequences. Compelementarian theology has consequences that often endanger women. 

For example, Dr. Sproul’s son, R.C. Sproul, Jr., was a Calvinist minister and advocate of Christian patriarchy, even rumored to have practiced “wife spanking”.  He was found to be subscribed to Ashley Madison when that scandal broke several years ago.  Their motto was, “Life is short.  Have an affair.”  There is a slippery slope between “purity culture” and the sex industry.  Patriarchy objectifies women.  Period.  I am not sure if there is an official connection between the Sprouls and the puritanical Head Covering Movement, but there is obvious respect for their voices in that community, as these memes suggest.

Below, I am offering egalitarian rebuttals to Dr. Sproul’s sermon, point by point.  I am doing this to explain the egalitarian point of view that Dr. Sproul misrepresents for those who may be in the midst of a shift away from complementarianism.  It is when we are in a period of transition that we are most open to new ideas, which is a truly humble stance. Otherwise, we respond to new ideas by becoming defensive, even more locked into our ideology.  This is the power of confirmation bias – we dismiss information that contradicts what we already believe, and give extra weight to information that supports our ideas. Let’s bear this in mind as we pan for God’s Good News on the topic of gender roles.


Here is the sermon description from the “Renewing Your Mind” website:

In an age when the women’s liberation movement has reached all corners of society, the concept of a woman submitting to the authority of a man finds disdain. Now, more often than not, there is misunderstanding of the roles men and women have in marriage. Dr. Sproul looks at the issue in this message entitled “The Role of Man and Woman.”

Formerly, I would have read this statement and pictured  a sinister darkness spreading across a map.  In actuality, the women’s liberation movement was initiated by Christians who were offended by the marginalization and abuse of women and children by patriarchal society.  (I once responded to the assertion that feminism is devoid of God here.)  Going even further back, women flocked to the early Church because they were treated as equals there.  I challenge you to reread the New Testament, being attentive to the stories of women prophesying, preaching, teaching, and there was even a female Apostle, named Junia. “Celsus, a 2nd-century detractor of the faith, once taunted that the church attracted only ‘the silly and the mean and the stupid, with women and children.’ His contemporary, Bishop Cyprian of Carthage, acknowledged in his Testimonia that ‘Christian maidens were very numerous’ and that it was difficult to find Christian husbands for all of them. These comments give us a picture of a church disproportionately populated by women.” [source]

The sermon was broadcast on February 20th, 2017 on the Renewing Your Mind program:
The Role of Man and Woman – Dr. R. C. Sproul

I thought this was a current sermon, but I found a video which places it decades ago:

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Dr. Sproul is preaching on Paul’s household codes of Ephesians 5.  I was happy to hear Dr. Sproul begin in verse 21, as most complementarian teachings on this passage begin in verse 22 after the heading. In the original letter, there were no chapters, verse numbers or headings separating topics.  Paul had been talking about how Christians are to walk out their faith in their day to day life, and in verse 21 tells everyone to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, then continues the sentence to say, “wives, to your husbands” like this, and husbands, like this.  “Wives, submit to your husbands” does not exist in the original Greek.  “Submit” occurs in verse 21 and applies to both the husband and the wife. I recommend reading Rachel Held Evans’ post, “Submission in Context: Christ and the Greco-Roman Household Codes.”

Dr. Sproul calls the idea of mutual submission an “exegesis of despair” without any explanation of what he means.  I have searched and cannot find this term anywhere.  Who despairs under mutual submission?  If you start Googling, you will find many women despairing under legalistic, authoritarian gender roles. Start at A Cry for Justice and Spiritual Sounding Board or this post from Diary of an Autodidact on why complementarians cannot actually condemn spousal abuse.

Dr. Sproul goes on to say that you would have to apply the idea of mutual submission across the entire passage, causing confusion and disorder.  You would have to say that parents must submit to children, and that Christ is the head of the Church just as the Church is the head of Christ.  My response to these assertions:

brene brown parenting

I love Brene Brown’s Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto

First, I believe that reading the Bible with an authoritarian view (complementarianism is all about a hierarchy of authority) leads parents to, mostly unintentionally, teach their children conditional, strings-attached love.  This does not resemble God’s love for us.  It has also led to abusive treatment of children. Physical abuse is certainly rampant, but coercive control of others is abusive and might never be physical. Obedient, docile children are trophies in authoritarian comp cultures, objectified for their behavior. If you teach your children to recite Scripture and play an instrument and never talk back, you will be given honor in your complementarian church. Brene Brown would describe parenting like this as coming from a mentality of scarcity and shame rather than from worthiness and wholeheartedness.  Brennan Manning tells us that God loves us just as we are and not as we should be, because nobody is as they should be.  In this way, egalitarian theology honors children’s individuality, gifts and callings. Egalitarians do not clip their children’s wings by forcing them into prescribed roles that may frustrate them if they are not naturally inclined to fit into those boxes.  We watch our children to see their natural inclinations, we understand that their behavior is tied to their developmental stage and reveals real needs that we can meet.  Yes, correction is needed on a daily basis, but it should be about developing character, honesty, generosity, and kindness, not perfect behavior.  No parent is doing a perfect job (we need grace too!), but our theology deeply impacts how we respond to and guide our children. Young people are fleeing churches nowadays, and I don’t believe that would be the case if the ethos of the culture is worthiness and grace rather than power and control.

Second, Dr. Sproul brings us to the topic of headship.  In our modern context, we read “head” and infer “boss,” “CEO,” “authority.”  This was not the understanding of “head” in ancient times.  We now understand that our brains are in our heads, but then they thought the function of the head was as the place that food entered to nourish the body; it was the source of the fuel to run the machine while the gut was believed to be the seat of knowledge, etc.  In a patriarchal society, the father was the source of financial security for the family except in some cases where a single woman of means ran her own household. Men had nearly all of the privilege, education, financial control, and social power, and Paul is instructing men to care for their disenfranchised wives, to use their privilege for the betterment of his family, just as Jesus gave up his position in heaven to give his life for us. In this way, egalitarians understand “head” to mean “source.” Marg Mowzcko’s blog is full of insightful egalitarian exegesis, and her post on Paul’s use of “headship” is excellent.

“Rather, I think, as the consensus historically of Biblical interpreters has been…”

Yeah, let’s talk about the consensus of Biblical interpreters.  Bob Edwards provides a fascinating overview of the roots of male authority in the church here.  It is no coincidence that patriarchal theologians infused their translations and commentaries with patriarchal thought.  Edwards’ talk includes translation errors by patriarchalists that have influenced complementarian teaching.  In our post, “Quoting the Founding Fathers of Complementarian Theology,” we list some examples of sexist quotes by Augustine, Calvin, and others.  For example:

“It is the natural order among people that women serve their husbands and children their parents, because the justice of this lies in (the principle that) the lesser serves the greater…. This is the natural justice that the weaker brain serve the stronger. This therefore is the evident justice in the relationships between slaves and their masters, that they who excel in reason, excel in power.” (St. Augustine, Questions on the Heptateuch, Book I, § 153)

Next, Dr. Sproul says that he sees women raging about Paul’s teaching as being chauvinistic and arrogant.  He says that all authority was given to Christ, then Christ gives that authority to his apostles.  This is the law of God.  What is so controversial, Dr. Sproul asks?  Women are willing to submit to the authority of Christ, so why not to their husbands in the same way?  Dr. Sproul says that God has given a significant level of authority to husbands as the heads of the home.  If a woman resists her husband’s authority, he says she is resisting God.

Again, this comes down to different interpretations on the meaning of headship. Complementarians believe headship means “authority” and egalitarians believe headship means “source.”  Yes, Christ has all authority over heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18) and he gives authority to his followers, but that includes Christian women as well as men (Galatians 3:28).  And Jesus is still the ultimate authority.  There is no human that has authority equal to Christ.  In an egalitarian marriage, the husband and the wife submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, and Christ alone is the final authority.  Both are always seeking to honor Christ and follow Christ faithfully as the true leader of the family.

Dr. Sproul goes on to clarify that women do not have to submit if their husband is asking them to disobey the final authority of God on a subject.  If a husband tells his wife to prostitute herself, she doesn’t have to obey.  If a husband tells her to stop going to church, she should disobey him on Sundays because God commanded us to keep the Sabbath holy, but she doesn’t need to go to the Wednesday night service.  I would say that a Christian husband should not be controlling the freedom of his wife. Living in the mystery of oneness does not necessitate losing any aspect of your God-given identity.  I do appreciate Dr. Sproul’s distinction here though, as I’ve read other complementarians who say women should never disobey their husbands.

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Run away from this book!!

For instance, Elizabeth Rice Handford has said a woman should never voice her opinion to her husband unless he asks for it, and she should have an abortion, participate in sexual activities that she does not want to do and tolerate physical abuse even to the point of death if that is how her “head” directs her (in her book, “Me? Obey Him?“).

Dr. Sproul tries to lighten the burden of his teaching to women by pointing out God’s sense of humor in the translation of “submit to your own husband,” the Greek word idion being the root of “idiosyncrasy” and also “idiot.”  He offers this loose translation: “Wives, submit yourselves to your idiot husbands.”  Again, I say submit is absent from verse 22, so the Bible never says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands.”  Second, I understand his point is to say that men are not superior to women, but I don’t believe it is ever appropriate to make gendered jokes, period.  It is not OK to make fun of men or women from the pulpit, not to mention that this is not a true translation of Paul’s meaning.  Egalitarianism avoids stereotyping of men and women, leaving space for both to become their best selves apart from socialized gender expectations.  Many men do not feel freedom to live emotionally healthy, sensitive lives because complementarian culture rewards toxic masculinity and machismo.

Next, Dr. Sproul decries the 50/50 myth of marriage, saying “I can’t think of anything worse.”

umbrella-graphic-by-amber-dann-picottaEgalitarians do not teach that marriage requires 50/50 from each spouse.  In fact, we teach 100/100.  Bring your whole self to the marriage–there is room for two callings and two perspectives.  Decisions can be made together in loving, mutual submission.  It isn’t necessary to demote one half of a marriage to assistant status in order to function.  In every other context, we understand that “two heads are better than one” and that iron sharpens iron.  I personally have never witnessed an egalitarian marriage that seemed to be stuck in a “perpetual power struggle to get control,” even though Dr. Sproul believes this is inevitable.  Authoritarians worry about control, not egalitarians.  Egalitarians seek mutual submission to each other and ultimate submission to Christ.  Disagreeing with Dr. Sproul’s interpretation of marriage roles does not equal “vilifying” a teaching of the Bible.

Dr. Sproul says God settles the “perpetual power struggle” by vesting all authority and leadership in the man, and he doesn’t see this as a privilege as much as it is a “weighty, weighty responsibility.”  Women have been “bleeting” about this interpretation, but they need to understand that subordination never equals inferiority.  The Son is subordinate to the Father, the Spirit to the Son, but none are inferior.

Complementarians see subordination within the Trinity while egalitarians see mutuality. In Marg Mowzcko’s “Seperate Spheres & Distinct Roles in the Trinity and Marriage,” she says,

When Jesus came to earth as a human being, he voluntarily laid aside his divine privileges (Phil. 2:6-8) and became completely dependent on the Father’s and the Holy Spirit’s guidance and power. Jesus submitted to, and obeyed, the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Some Christians believe that wives are to display this level of dependency, submission, and obedience towards their husbands. However Jesus, in taking human form, had become ontologically inferior and thus, subordinate, to the Father and the Spirit. He was even “a little lower than the angels” (Heb. 2:9a). Jesus had temporarily lowered and limited himself by taking human form for a very particular purpose and a vitally important reason: to save the world!

Wives, however, are not ontologically inferior to their husbands. That is, women are not lesser creatures than men. So it is unhealthy for wives to emulate the same degree of dependence and submission towards their husbands that Jesus had towards the Father and Spirit while he was on earth.

After describing women as raging and bleeting about wifely submission/male headship, Dr. Sproul says we should listen to women’s cries and men should not tyrannize their wives. Great.  “But we also need to hear the cries of men” who have five times more nightmares than women and feel tremendous pressure in their role of provider.

I believe egalitarianism does in fact listen to the cries of men.  We see how patriarchy harms men too, how hierarchy privileges a few at the top and tramples on women, children, and most men.  We believe a husband and wife are a team, sharing equally the yoke of responsibility of caring for their family, trusting ultimately in our Great Provider who cares even for the sparrow and the lily in the valley.  Rather than pressuring men to be Providers, Protectors and Priests, churches should encourage us all to surrender our lives and our money to Jesus.  A couple excellent books came out in the last two years addressing the very real plight of men under patriarchy: Man Enough by Nate Pyle and Malestrom by Carolyn Custis James.

Dr. Sproul correctly blames culture for imposing these pressures on men, but does not recognize that it is the culture of patriarchy that he is in fact advancing.  He goes on to explain that it has been like this since the beginning, when woman was created as man’s helpmate.  In the original Hebrew language, Eve is describes as ezer kenegdo, which has been translated (by patriarchalists) as “suitable helper” (Genesis 2:18).  In the other instances when ezer appears in the O.T., it is referring to God as a helper to Israel, often in war.  For instance,

“There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides across the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty…Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will tread on their heights.” (Deuteronomy 33:26, 29; NIV).

I recommend reading God’s Word to Women’s word study on ezer kenegdo in which they begin,

Usages of ‘ezer in the Old Testament show that in most cases God is an ‘ezer to human beings, which calls to question if the word “helper” is a valid interpretation of ‘ezer in any instance it is used. “Evidence indicates that the word ‘ezer originally had two roots, each beginning with different guttural sounds. One meant “power” and the other “strength.”

And conclude,

The woman was never meant to be an assistant or “helpmate” to the man. The word “mate” slipped into English since it was so close to the Old English word “meet,” which means “fit to” or “corresponding to” the man which comes from the phrase that likely means “equal to.”

What God had intended, then, was to make a “power” or “strength” for the man who would in every way “correspond to him” or even “be his equal.”

The Torah Study for Reform Jews says, “From the time of creation, relationships between spouses have at times been adversarial. In Genesis 2:18, God calls woman an ezer kenegdo, a “helper against him.” The great commentator Rashi takes the term literally to make a wonderful point: “If he [Adam] is worthy, [she will be] a help [ezer]. If he is not worthy [she will be] against him [kenegdo] for strife.” This Jewish study also described man and woman facing each other with arms raised holding an arch between them, giving a beautiful picture of equal responsibility

Dr. Sproul says he believes women have the easy role within this complementarian doctrine.  He wishes that “all he had to do was submit.”  At the same time, he recognizes his leadership ability and chooses “precious few” others to follow.

e4c2e61dc0186b4ebe317ab0bcc67f33We are socialized to associate stereotypical masculine characteristics as leadership qualities, i.e. decisiveness, assertiveness, even lower vocal registers; whereas, the same qualities in a female are not recognized as leadership identifiers.  Girls are in fact socialized away from these qualities.  Again, egalitarians avoid stereotyping.  Each person is an Image bearer imbued with authority since the beginning in the Garden, when God gave both Adam and Eve the command to rule creation (Genesis 1:28).  Singling a few out as leaders and ignoring the gifts and voices of the majority is the common practice of churches but this does not best advance the Kingdom.  Throughout the New Testament, the message is to submit to one another, to consider others greater than yourself, to avoid lording authority over others but to become a servant of all. Serving others involves giving others opportunities to use their gifts and to follow God’s calling on their life, and having the humility to follow others.  We are all called to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

Dr. Sproul says that having a husband that loves his wife as Christ loves the Church, who is willing to give his life for his wife, liberates women.  Jesus never exploits, tyrannizes, abuses or batters his Bride.  Amen to that, but would Dr. Sproul feel liberated if he was never given opportunities to follow his call to ministry?  He then says that in living out “your own part” of the passage, things naturally work out – if husbands love their wives, wives submit; if wives submit, husbands love their wives.  Then he says something I find particularly dangerous and offensive: “I think if she dedicated herself to being a helpmate, that would be returned with sacrificial love and she would never be tyrannized.”

Patriarchy fuels abuse, and our churches are steeped in a silent epidemic of hurting, hopeless women.  I believe awareness is growing, through the work of Leslie Vernick and Boz Tchividjian and many others, but pastors have been remarkably ignorant of the plight of many women in their congregations.  Dr. Sproul is placing a millstone around the necks of victims of abuse, blaming them for their own victimization.

Divorce is the ultimate evil in many churches, and when women seek advice about controlling and abusive husbands in complementarian churches, pastors frequently direct them to stop complaining about their husbands and start submitting more, essentially silencing them so that they do not ask for help again until they are in real danger.  Gary Thomas posted a powerful article about this, “Enough is Enough” that has gone viral.  We shared a Facebook post from Naghmeh Abedini exhorting the Church to face the epidemic of domestic abuse, along with several resources for victims here.

One way for a woman’s voice to find a platform in complementarianism is for that woman to tell other women to make themselves small.  Dr. Sproul gives a shout out to a “woman who understands men,” Marabel Morgan who wrote “The Total Woman.”  In this book, which is written with advice to wives on how to keep their husbands happy and faithful (as though that is a wife’s responsibility), she says, “Women, here’s a secret. Your husbands don’t want your advice.  They want your admiration.”  Dr. Sproul points out that men have fragile egos, and that may very well be true for a man who is saddled with dangerous messages about masculinity and manhood, not only from our sexist, patriarchal society at large but also from his spiritual leaders in churches touting complementarian theology of gender roles.

Dr. Sproul wraps up by saying that “this isn’t a battle, this isn’t a competition for authority.  This is that place God created where the two become one flesh.  Paul goes on, this is the mystery.  My job is to nourish her.  In that, Christ is honored and marriages are made whole.”

safe_imageAs an egalitarian, I believe that Christ is honored when we love one another and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  I disagree that God has given husbands alone authority over their families and men alone authority over the Church, not because I rage or bleet against teachings on submission but because following Jesus with integrity means obeying him, and he has never told me to not use my God-given authority for the sake of the Kingdom.  In fact, I believe I would dishonor Christ by living in the box that complementarians give to women, and I do not want my husband to live in the box that complementarians give to men.


Sheesh, that was long!  Thanks for hanging in there to the end!  Kate Wallace wrote a beautiful poem, They gave me a box, that you will love.  If you belong to a tradition that teaches gender roles, I pray that you find freedom in Christ to live out your true identity and calling.  You are a gift to the world and God has prepared good works for you to do.  God bless!

Oh, and you can find us on Facebook if you’d like to read all the links we find from around the web concerning gender equality in the Church.

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A Litany to Honor Women

Happy International Women’s Day!  A day to celebrate all of the great women of our past and present, and to raise awareness that the fight for equality is far from over.

I love “A Litany to Honor Women” from Shane Claiborne’s Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (the pocket edition is only $5 right now!), which celebrates women heroes of our faith.  The portraits are by Sarah Beth Baca, which can be purchased here to grace your homes with the stories of women used by God in extraordinary ways, as an inspiration to your family and friends.

A Litany to Honor Women

sarah beth baca deborah

Deborah

We walk in the company of the women who have gone before,
Mothers of the faith both named and unnamed,
Testifying with ferocity and faith to the Spirit of wisdom and healing.
They are the judges, the prophets, the martyrs, the warriors, poets, lovers and saints
who are near to us in the shadow of awareness, in the crevices of memory, in the landscape of our dreams.

We walk in the company of Deborah,
who judged the Israelites with authority and strength.

We walk in the company of Esther,
who used her position as Queen to ensure the welfare of her people.

We walk in the company of you whose names have been lost and silenced, who kept and cradled the wisdom of the ages.

sarah beth baca mary

Mary

We walk in the company of the woman with the flow of blood, who audaciously sought her healing and release.

We walk in the company of Mary Magdalene,
who wept at the empty tomb until the risen Christ appeared.

We walk in the company of Phoebe,
who led an early church in the empire of Rome.

We walk in the company of Perpetua of Carthage, whose witness in the third century led to her martyrdom.

We walk in the company of Saint Christina the Astonishing, who resisted death with persistence and wonder.

We walk in the company of Julian of Norwich,
who wed imagination and theology proclaiming “all shall be well.”

sarah beth baca junia

Junia

We walk in the company of Sojourner Truth,
who stood against oppression, righteously declaring “ain’t I a woman!” in 1852.

We walk in the company of the Argentine Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo,
who turned their grief to strength, standing together to remember “the disappeared” children of war with a holy indignation.

We walk in the company of Alice Walker,
who named the lavender hue of womanish strength.

We walk in the company of you mothers of the faith,
who teach us to resist evil with boldness, to lead with wisdom, and to heal.

Amen.


Thanks for stopping by The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors.  If you like this post, please pass it on!  Thank you!  You can find us on Facebook too, where each day we are sharing inspiring and challenging links from around the web that illustrate the need for equality between men and women in the Church.

Guest Post: Prototype

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I am their prototype for women.

I am a stay-at-home mom who has the propensity to do far more for my boys than I should, and in the back of my mind, I am aware that I want to teach them that women are strong, courageous, human. The old adage — “Actions speak louder than words” — well, I think it’s very true.

On an ordinary Saturday evening, my husband decided to cook dinner. When my oldest, who’s five, asked him to play instead my husband responded, “No, I’m making dinner right now.”

My son’s response: “What?! Mom does that.”

My fiery eyes met my husband’s while I inhaled a deep breath, and he, with a slightly amused smile, told my son that mom does not always make dinner. To further his enlightenment, he had my son join the ranks for dinner duty.

My son has never heard in our house that it is my sole responsibility to cook dinner, but he’s watching, and that’s what he sees. If I always cook dinner, he will believe that women always cook dinner, so I’m trying to stick my nose in a book and let dinner happen upon the table without my help a little more often.

My three-year-old is the kind of boy who would still live in my womb if I let him. Of course, at three he still needs some help, but he could get dressed by himself. He could put on his own shoes. He could pick up his own messes. Heck, he could even walk on his own two feet all of the time! Mostly, though, he’d rather just let me do everything for him.

He loves to respond to my requests with, “No, you do it.” I know he also says this to his dad from time-to-time, and I’m sure three-year-old girls also say such things to their parents, but when it comes to the dynamics between my boys and I, I know this habit can plant a seed. It won’t stop at mom does everything for me, it will morph into the expectation that women can be bossed around, that women are around to take care of them.

I have primarily been home day-in and day-out every day of my sons’ lives. I still remember telling my oldest one day that some moms go to work and their kids go to daycare. It felt weird to need to say that, to explain it. But I stay home, and most of the mom-kiddo combos that we spend time with are also home — similar schedules are magnetic.

If I never work, if my only responsibilities are to them and to our home, then they will more easily assume that all women should do this. So, I work. At home. I write. I photograph. I edit. And I call it work. I’m rarely making money, but money isn’t the measure for work. I want them to know that — that we all have jobs to do. We all have gifts and abilities and things that we offer outside of our own homes and families. It’s work raising them and taking care of our household, but that work is shared work. (Or at least, we think it should be.) My writing and my photography — it’s my work. It matters, and the whole family works together to make room for it.

I’m grateful for the ever-expanding presence of women in my sons’ lives. Teachers at school, who go to work everyday. Doctors, who give them checkups. Friends, who have different dynamics and norms and routines in their homes. Family members who do things differently. I may be their primary prototype, but other women in their lives will help dispel assumptions about what all women are like.

I have to be aware of the ways my actions and habits affect the way they see an entire gender. I’m grateful for a husband who also understands this and realizes that he is the primary example of how a man treats a woman. Thank God he treats me well.

I am the standard of women for them whether I want to be or not. Though they will hear that women are equal from my lips, it’s far more important that they see that reflected in the way our family functions, in the way I actually live.


denise-lillyWe are honored to share this guest post today from our dear friend!  Denise Lilly lives in Maine with her husband and two boys. She writes and photographs for clarity, hoping it will hone her sight. Read more on her blog, Eyes to See, and her self-published book, Cling: Faith Lessons from my Son’s Early Years, available on Amazon.

If you relate to this struggle of teaching your sons what to expect from the women in their lives, please share Denise’s post!

On being Pro-Life and Pro-Refugee


This has been a tough week in the U.S.  Emotions are running high, friends and family are divided on national policy and relationships are falling out over it.  Many do not want their social media feeds to be full of protests and politics.  Disagreement feels uncomfortable and stressful.

Let’s stop for a minute and look into the eyes of the refugee children pictured above.

Think about the years of traumatizing war they have endured.
The lives of loved ones lost.
The only homes they ever knew destroyed.
Their perilous flights from violence, through desserts, over treacherous seas.

I cannot help but think of my own children when I see these heart-broken faces.

This national discourse is worth the pain.
We must stick with it and resist the urge to look away.

true-religionHalf of all refugees are children.  Three quarters are women and children.  Asylum seekers to the US go through an intensive vetting process that lasts 18-24 months.  Once here, refugees are loaned money for six months to get their feet on the ground before they have to begin paying the US government back.  The chance of being killed by a refugee-turned-terrorist is one in 3.64 billion, according to the CATO Institute (study linked below).  In a December 2015 letter to Senators/representatives considering proposals to stop the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the US, former National Security officials including Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger, wrote:

“Refugees are victims, not perpetrators, of terrorism. Categorically refusing to take them only feeds the narrative of ISIS that there is a war between Islam and the West, that Muslims are not welcome in the United States and Europe, and that the ISIS caliphate is their true home. We must make clear that the United States rejects this worldview by continuing to offer refuge to the world’s most vulnerable people, regardless of their religion or nationality.”

As a Beautiful Kingdom Warrior, I believe every life is precious, deserving of dignity and rights.  God’s plan of redemption and shalom is for all the nations of the world.  This is my pro-life ethic.  “America First” does not honor God’s will for all of His beloved children.

This certainly is not the first instance of a policy that has hurt refugees, but the reaction to President Trump’s EO last week is frankly unprecedented and I am encouraged to see our nation discussing immigration and the refugee crisis.  I do not want to see people shutting this conversation down.  I especially want to listen to voices of people who work in immigration, who serve refugees, who know people first-hand who have come to the U.S. to begin again here.

Much of the resistance to welcoming immigrants and refugees is based on fear rather than fact.  President Trump says that he is temporarily banning immigration for our safety.  People who agree ask us, don’t you lock your doors at night?  In Trump’s defense, Franklin Graham, prominent Evangelical and son of evangelist Billy Graham, went so far as to state that immigration is not a Biblical issue.

This simply is not true.  For example, the Hebrew word ger, the closest approximate to our word immigrant, appears 92 times in the Old Testament.

“The LORD your God is the God of all gods and Lord of all lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t take bribes. He enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing. That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19 CEB)

“You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9 NLT)

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV)

“The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin” (Psalm 146:9 ESV)

“When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow” (Deuteronomy 24:19-21 NIV)

And we cannot say that Jesus does not care about refugees and immigrants.  Joseph, Mary and Jesus fled an evil, murderous tyrant as refugees to Egypt.  Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  He taught us to give sacrificially for the good of others.

There are widely-held beliefs about immigration and refugees that need to be debunked.  Here are a couple helpful info-graphics to consider:

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I don’t believe that President Trump is our first president to negatively impact the resettlement of refugees in our country.  But I do believe that President Trump’s Refugee Ban is unchristian and is an affront to pro-life ethics.  It is a myth that this ban makes us more secure.  I strongly believe that any human being running from war should be welcomed and cared for.  And so I will use my voice to speak up and my dollars to assist humanitarian agencies helping refugees.  It feels like a drop in an ocean of need, but it is better than nothing.

 


Further Reading:

An Appeal to Choose Fact Over Fear – Communicating Across Boundaries

President Trump’s Refugee Order: 5 Things to Know  Preemptive Love Coalition

Evangelical Experts Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban – Christianity Today

The Rejection of Refugees is Manifestly Unchristian – The Brian Lehrer Show

Security is not everything – Religion News Service

We Are Followers of a Middle Eastern Refugee – Christianity Today

Terrorism and Immigration: A Risk Analysis – The CATO Institute

Immigration and the Bible – Mennonite Missions Network

Trump says Syrian refugees aren’t vetted.  We are.  Here’s what we went through. –  The Washington Post


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On Being Pro-Life and Pro-March

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This past Saturday, nearly three million women in the United States and millions more around the world participated in the Women’s March on Washington to protest the misogyny, racism, xenophobia and more of Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric, in the hopes of tempering his policies now that he is president.

In this video, the founders of the Women’s March explain why they organized this event:

Sadly, this “inclusive movement” chose to exclude pro-life sponsors.  Early on, Planned Parenthood became one of two premier sponsors, and in the weeks leading up to the march, the organizers removed the sponsorship of several pro-life groups, essentialy uninviting around 40% of women–those who believe human rights begin in the womb.  A growing number of people want restrictions on abortion, as this poll shows, and these videos demonstrate:

For many, participating in the Women’s March on Washington was no longer an option after they excluded pro-life sponsors and because of the prominence of Planned Parenthood in the event.  And for many conservative Christians looking on, it was mystifying why any Christian would participate.  I have been doing my best to read and listen to different voices explaining their choice to either march or not.  One post in particular got my wheels turning a few days before the march.  Laura Martin questions the effectiveness of Planned Parenthood, reflecting on her experience as a nurse for 18 years and examining their website, asking,

Why do so many defenders of Planned Parenthood portray them as providing services that they do NOT actually offer?

Why not just honestly proclaim that Planned Parenthood’s focus is on birth control, STDs, and abortion?

Why did Planned Parenthood change their website to give the appearance that they offer prenatal care?

As a pro-life Christian, I believe that all life, beginning in the womb, is sacred and deserving of dignity, care and equal rights.  But I also believe that making abortion illegal in all circumstances is not the answer.  The legality of abortion does not change the number of abortions that occur, but the safety of women is impacted by criminalizing abortion.  After eight years of democratic policies providing easier access to birth control and better sex education, our nation’s abortion rate has hit an all-time low since the passing of Roe v. Wade.  The language Donald Trump used while campaigning to describe late -term abortion shows his ignorance at the painful dilemma parents face when forced to choose a medically-necessary late-term abortion.  For instance, this mother’s account is a must read.

Although staunchly pro-life, I am also pro-dialogue, and I am very much pro-woman.  I don’t think abortion is an issue that will go away without working together with people from different ideologies and priorities.  As on all difficult issues, I believe that, “With an abundance of counselors there is victory” (Proverbs 15:22).  The more we are polarized, the longer it will take to heal our nation.  By considering diverse perspectives, we better see the nuances of each issue and thus come to better solutions.

I have seen some lump all protesters together as “vulgar, baby-killing feminists.”  I don’t think it is fair to vilify the entire Women’s March on Washington because of disagreements on abortion or because of the actions/words/costumes of the far-left factions participating.  There were dozens and dozens of reasons why women, men, girls and boys from around the world were protesting.  Here are some posts from Christians who participated expressing their reasons for marching.

For some, being pro-life means being pro-social justice:

In a Facebook post, Father Martin said further,

These Sisters are pro life. And so am I. That’s why they were marching for social justice. I salute all the women religious, and all women and men, who were trying to advocate for life and justice this weekend in their own way.

Were all 1,000,000 people who marched across the country on the same page about life issues? No. Clearly not. But these Sisters, and many who marched, knew exactly what they were praying and advocating for: justice, peace and life. If we waited until everyone agrees with us before we set out to help, we’ll never leave our homes. Would you join in a march against the death penalty with people who disagreed with you on abortion? I would. Would you join in a march against abortion with people who disagreed with you on the death penalty? I would.

Part of advocacy is being part of the mix and being willing to mix it up with people you disagree with, even strongly. That’s how conversations start. That’s how bridges are built. That’s how conversion starts.

Even if some people misunderstand you.

So yes, I’m pro life, pro social justice…and pro Sister.

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For others, being pro-life means supporting the BLM movement and speaking up against racism, blocking refugees, etc.:

For some, marching was important because of the disenfranchisement of women through patriarchy, misogyny, sexism, rape culture, etc.:

And for the pro-life protesters who showed up to march, they were there because unborn girls matter too:

Here are some of my favorite posts I’ve come across in the days since the march:

This open letter from a pro-life, Republican, SAHM, Renee Contreras De Loach, was really powerful.

I am a married, Pro-Life, Republican, mother of two, and I marched. I wrote this in light of how many women are attempting to shout down women who marched. The myopia of those belittling our efforts is befuddling. I suppose this is where we have arrived – us vs. them until bruised and bloodied we all fail. To all the women who believe they have plenty of rights and they are plenty equal… how do you think you got those rights? The short sightedness and historical amnesia at play here is dangerous. It was barely 100 years ago that women were being beaten and jailed for trying to VOTE.

In A Christian’s Place is in the Resistance, Luke Edwards says,

If one more person quotes Romans 13:1-6 to prove that Christians should blindly submit to authority, I’m going to cry.

When you quote this verse, you are quoting a man who stood up against authorities over and over again. He spent at least 5 years of his ministry in prison for deliberately breaking laws that were in conflict with the kingdom of God.

Sojourners has been publishing the #WhyIMarch stories of Christians on this page.  For example, Elena Ampeire says,

My husband and I left our four young children and took two overnight busses to march in D.C. because we believe that “Love Trumps Hate.” Our faith teaches us to love and support those who are marginalized by those in power. In our society, we believe this to be women (particularly women who have been sexually assaulted), immigrants, refugees, Muslims, people who are LGBT, people with disabilities, and people of color.

Sarah Bessey captured the tension Christian feminists feel, caught in the middle of conservatism and liberalism, seeking justice and mercy while feeling ostracized by the very groups we identify as:

I identify as part of a group of people who receive their fair share of criticism.

And to be honest I think a lot of the criticism has a grounding in truth.

There are things Christians do that I find wrong and embarrassing and unholy and counter to the Gospel.

There are things feminists do that I find wrong and embarrassing and unholy and counter to the cause.

But here I am. I’m a Christian. And I’m a feminist. 

I’m not fully represented by what those labels mean. They’re imperfect. And I know that the stereotypes of those labels cannot sum up the vast majority of the people I know who live within them.

Beth Allison Barr wrote a cool piece about a fifteenth century writer who challenged the misogyny of her day, encouraging us to carry on by her example.

Christine de Pizan used her voice to speak for other women. She didn’t convey much concern about who those women were or what they believed; her focus was on making a better world for all women.

As a Christian woman, I can’t help but think Christine was right. She realized that misogyny hurts all of us, whether we recognize it or not, and it especially hurts those already marginalized by economics, education, race, even religion. Christine de Pizan used what she had to fight against that misogyny; to love those who God loves; to help make the lives of women better, even the life of that “poor woman who pays too high a price”. I would like to think that her fifteenth-century vision is one that all of us–regardless of political affiliation–can still embrace.

So, I share all of this to say: if you see posts about the Women’s March on Washington, do not assume that your friend is pro-choice.  Many pro-life activists participated and many pro-life Christians support the march from home because they believe in the power of protest to effect change in the world, and there is much that needs to be changed.  Let us all continue to pray for President Trump and his cabinet, let us pray for our country, and let us continue to resist, speak truth to power, and show up and stand with the vulnerable.


Thanks for visiting TBKW blog!  We’re honored to have you here.  If you join us on Facebook, you can read articles every day about gender issues in the Church and world.

Michael Kimmel: Why gender equality is good for everyone – even men

Filmed at TEDWomen 2015, sociologist Michael Kimmel made a strong, and often funny, case for gender equality.  I encourage you to watch these sixteen minutes and then share with others.  I’m transcribing my favorite quotes below:

“That’s how privilege works. Privilege is invisible to those who have it.”

“White men in Europe and the United States are the beneficiaries of the single greatest affirmative action program in the history of the world. It is called ‘the history of the world.'”

“Research by Catalyst and others has shown conclusively that the more gender-equal companies are, the better it is for workers, the happier their labor force is. They have lower job turnover. They have lower levels of attrition. They have an easier time recruiting. They have higher rates of retention, higher job satisfaction, higher rates of productivity. So the question I’m often asked in companies is, ‘Boy, this gender equality thing, that’s really going to be expensive, huh?’ And I say, ‘Oh no, in fact, what you have to start calculating is how much gender inequality is already costing you. It is extremely expensive.'”

“It turns out that the more egalitarian our relationships, the happier both partners are. Data from psychologists and sociologists are quite persuasive here. I think we have the persuasive numbers, the data, to prove to men that gender equality is not a zero-sum game, but a win-win. Here’s what the data show. Now, when men begin the process of engaging with balancing work and family, we often have two phrases that we use to describe what we do. We pitch in and we help out.  And I’m going to propose something a little bit more radical, one word: ‘share.’

“Because here’s what the data show: when men share housework and childcare, their children do better in school. Their children have lower rates of absenteeism, higher rates of achievement. They are less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. They are less likely to see a child psychiatrist. They are less likely to be put on medication.  So when men share housework and childcare, their children are happier and healthier, and men want this.

“When men share housework and childcare, their wives are happier. Duh. Not only that, their wives are healthier. Their wives are less likely to see a therapist, less likely to be diagnosed with depression, less likely to be put on medication, more likely to go to the gym, report higher levels of marital satisfaction. So when men share housework and childcare, their wives are happier and healthier, and men certainly want this as well.

“When men share housework and childcare, the men are healthier. They smoke less, drink less, take recreational drugs less often. They are less likely to go to the ER but more like to go to a doctor for routine screenings. They are less likely to see a therapist, less likely to be diagnosed with depression, less likely to be taking prescription medication. So when men share housework and childcare, the men are happier and healthier. And who wouldn’t want that?

“And finally, when men share housework and childcare, they have more sex.”

So, what we found is something really important, that gender equality is in the interest of countries, of companies, and of men, and their children and their partners, that gender equality is not a zero-sum game. It’s not a win-lose. It is a win-win for everyone. And what we also know is we cannot fully empower women and girls unless we engage boys and men. We know this. And my position is that men need the very things that women have identified that they need to live the lives they say they want to live in order to live the lives that we say we want to live.”

In 1915, on the eve of one of the great suffrage demonstrations down Fifth Avenue in New York City, a writer in New York wrote an article in a magazine, and the title of the article was,Feminism for Men.’  And this was the first line of that article:Feminism will make it possible for the first time for men to be free.'”


Thanks for watching this video!  We have more great resources throughout our blog and Facebook page for learning about gender equality.  Unlike this TedTalk, most of the resources we share come from a Christian perspective.  But Kimmel’s message applies to the Church as well.  Gender equality in Christian families and ministry is good for men too.  The Gospel is not tarnished by treating women as equals and giving women equal opportunities in ministry.  In fact, the Church’s patriarchal stance is a stain on the Gospel.

Audrey Assad and Sarah Bessey on Finding Their Voices

audrey-assadAudrey Assad – Witness

Although women are often excluded from teaching roles in complementarian churches that believe in “Biblical gender roles,” leading worship is one area often deemed appropriate and the hymns and songs written by women are included in complementarian services.  Interestingly, corporate worship through song is a time of powerful transformation and spiritual development.  On the RCA website, they say,

“Through congregational singing Christian faith is not only expressed; to a very real degree it is formed. Since people tend to remember the theology they sing more than the theology that is preached, a congregation’s repertoire of hymnody is often of critical importance in shaping the faith of its people.” 

And in a video entitled Words of Wonder: What Happens When We Sing? from the Desiring God 2008 National Conference, complementarian Bob Kauflin says (citing egalitarian scholar Fee),

“New Testament scholar Gordon Fee once said, ‘Show me a church’s songs and I’ll show you their theology.’ And it’s true. Or as Mark Noll puts it, ‘We are what we sing’ (Noll, ‘We Are What We Sing,’ Christianity Today, July 12, 1999, 37). Words should be the first thing we consider when we think about what songs to sing when we gather as the body of Christ.”

It makes me happy that through songwriting, women have been powerfully influential theologians even in patriarchal churches.

With that in mind, I enjoyed watching Audrey Assad‘s testimony yesterday about finding her voice and calling from God to public ministry as a singer/songwriter despite being nurtured and formed within a strongly patriarchal tradition, the Plymouth Brethern Christian Church.  I love Assad’s songs and heavenly singing, and I really love this talk:

And now, visit her website, buy her music, and listen to her top tracks, leting her beautiful lyrics soak in and draw you closer to Jesus.

Sarah Bessey – Learning You Have a Voice

I also listened to The Road Back to You: Looking at life through the lens of the Enneagram podcast’s most recent episode yesterday, featuring Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile’s interview with Sarah Bessey in which she talked about finding her voice as an Enneagram 9: The Peacemaker.  I am also a 9 and found her self-description and experiences to be helpful.

You can listen here.

Bessey’s voice is one I always tune into to learn from.  She’s taught me so much about God’s love and vision for women through her blog and books, Jesus Feminist and Out of Sorts.  Or something that is fun is scrolling through her quotes on Good Reads. 🙂


Thanks for visiting The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors!  God can use your voice in powerful ways too.  Don’t be afraid to explore your gifts and calling!

God bless. 🙂