Friday, June 25, 2010

Housewife Angst

Anytime I see a "supermom" on t.v.--you know the kind: the ones who love all their chores and never ask their husbands for help--I feel two extremes. First, I get angry, thinking that these women are promoting an ideal that is not attainable for most women and is, frankly, unfulfilling for me. Then, I feel guilty. I should be spending more time cleaning everyday, I think. Or, does it make me a bad wife that I ask Nathan to help with Ashley's care? After all, he's gone out to work and I've stayed home all day.

Today, after seeing such a "supermom" on the Rachael Ray show, I vacillated between the extremes for a bit but then decided to think more critically. Is my anger justified? Do I think "supermoms" need liberation from the traditional role they've chosen? No. Some women choose to throw themselves into their household work as seriously as others pursue their careers. Many others balance family and career quite successfully. (I hate the term "full-time mom." I was no less of a mom when I worked, and I still maintained a clean home and cooked balanced meals.) Some stay-at-home moms, like me, love staying at home but would rather use some of the time at home not for cleaning baseboards with a toothbrush but for intellectual pursuits. And, of course, there are stay-at-home moms with neglected children and dirty homes. Every woman, and every couple and family, is different. I cannot feel angry that someone else has a different makeup and desire than I do.

What about the guilt? I'm not going to give in to it anymore. There are far too many sources of false guilt out there for women as it is, and no woman seems immune. A few times when I was working full-time and tried to make small-talk with women I'd just met, I asked, "Do you work?" "Not outside the home, but it is work," they told me. It's sad, but almost every woman feels the need to justify her choices. When I worked and someone assumed I stayed at home with Ashley, I usually made some explanation such as "My husband's in seminary full-time, so I have to work." We care too much about what other women think.

Another reason I won't feel guilty anymore is that a "supermom" is not my husband's ideal. I know he wouldn't be satisfied with an immaculate housekeeper who neglected her mind or ran herself ragged. My home is clean, my child is happy, a pregnant woman needs rest, and God gave me a personality that craves more than cookie-baking, vacuuming, and playing at the park. (And I think the same is true of most stay-at-home moms I know. I can't think of one who really fits the "supermom" profile, though they are all good moms in their own right.) Is there more I could be doing around the home, yes. Instead of feeling guilty today, I took action by vacuuming the stairs and around the baseboards. Then I baked some cookies (the kind you break off in pre-cut squares, yes, but they taste good).

I think there's a happy-medium between the two extremes I usually feel: accept who God's made me and work to improve myself where I'm not meeting up to my potential. Now, time to get a little girl up from her nap . . . .

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Favorite Teacher

Sunday is my husband Nathan's twenty-ninth birthday (Ugh! Still another year before he joins me in the thirties.). As my husband and the father of our two children, I love him for many reasons: I love him not only for who he is but for who he has helped me become.

I've had dozens of teachers over the years, most of whom I've liked and several who've shaped me as a person and as a teacher myself; but Nathan is my favorite teacher. When I met him, I was satisfied with the level of education I'd attained and the knowledge I currently possessed, and I typically accepted what I was told by those in "authority" without much independent thinking. Those who know Nathan know he's certainly no rebel, but he's not content to blindly accept whatever a teacher or preacher asserts. From Nathan, I learned to think critically, to think for myself, to remember that biblical passages must be read in context and that Scripture itself is our final authority. I learned that it was okay to listen to those intuitive doubts I had about doctrinal positions I'd been taught most of my Christian life and to search out the answers. (Together we've listened to sermons on Eph. 1 and lectures on hermeneutics; Nathan's even passed on articles about textual criticism and a book about the proper application of Christian liberty.)

Unlike most teachers I've had, Nathan doesn't always answer my questions for me. Instead, he points me to a reference in which I'm likely to find the answer. During our first year of marriage, I was teaching college-level American literature for the first time. As Nathan headed out to a night class at Pensacola Theological Seminary (PTS), I told him I'd be studying nineteenth-century evangelist Charles Finney for an upcoming lecture.

"Oh, that heretic," Nathan replied.

"What? He was a heretic? Why? How?"

"Look it up."

And so I did (and found my first soap box; though, except for Nathan, to my dismay, I couldn't find an interested audience). I appreciate that my husband respects me enough not to give me a quick answer with a "you're-just-a-woman-so-you-don't-need-to-know-all-this-deep-theological-stuff-just-trust-me" attitude. In fact, he's encouraged me to learn far more about the Bible and theology than I ever knew I could.

When Nathan came home from PTS classes taught by Dr. Jerry Hullinger, he'd tell me what he'd learned. Not only was the content of the courses interesting, but Nathan's enthusiasm for learning was contagious. I decided that I wanted to know more myself and so enrolled in the Liberty Home Bible Institute (LHBI, part of Liberty University). Though the certificate in biblical studies I'm working toward is a far cry from the Th.M. Nathan's currently pursuing at Dallas Seminary, LHBI is shaping me into a better student of God's Word and has given me at least a partial understanding of many topics Nathan's studying at DTS (and, thanks to Nathan, when my teacher references authors such as John Walvoord and J. Dwight Pentecost, I know whom he's talking about).

Without Nathan's influence, I wouldn't be studying feminism in the church or developing my thoughts into blog posts. I wouldn't be learning the Greek alphabet or planning to tackle a theology textbook this summer. I'd be stuck in an intellectual, academic, and spiritual rut, thinking that, since I know enough to get by, why learn more? My husband has made me realize that when it comes to learning, there is no limit. I look forward to his future ministry--be it in a Bible institute, college, or seminary. If he's had so much influence on me, I can only imagine his impact on the masses.

Happy Birthday, Babe! "I'm your disciple."

Saturday, June 12, 2010

To Tell the Truth

For years I’d been satisfied with the Christian history education I’d received: evil revisionists were rewriting the past, smearing the splendor of America with outright lies of oppression, male chauvinism, and racism; the Confederacy wanted simply to protect the states from an early vision of Big Brother (I never could completely agree with this claim but often felt guilty for continuing to believe the Civil War to have been about slavery); and westward expansion was our Manifest Destiny, so move over Indians!

My time at college overlapped for two years with my younger brother’s. Since I was pursuing a B.S. in English education/history education, and he a B.A. in English/history, we took many of the same history courses and had the same professors. John repeatedly warned me that we weren’t being educated so much as we were being indoctrinated. I didn’t believe him. “But they’re telling us the truth,” I’d say. I didn’t mind being indoctrinated with the truth.

After graduating, I took a job teaching junior high at a small Christian school. I taught a variety of courses that first year, including one U.S. history class; but the next year, the school grew, a history teacher was hired, and my fate was sealed: I’ve taught English ever since. I still had an interest in history (and my history training certainly helped as I taught chronological presentations of American and English literature) but didn’t read any history until my husband went to the spring 2009 Friends of the Pensacola Public Library booksale. For a dollar, he picked up a book that opened my eyes.

Written by revisionist historian James W. Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong asserts that American history textbooks are full of hero worship—making men such as Christopher Columbus, Abraham Lincoln, and Woodrow Wilson look almost infallible when, in actuality, they were like all people: flawed, having both good and bad qualities, making both good and bad decisions. Loewen's book related neglected (suppressed may be a better word) tales of Columbus’s savagery, early British settlers’ unwarranted attacks on Indians, and racism among both Confederate and Union leaders. These stories—supported with quotations from primary sources—certainly hadn’t appeared in the Christian history textbooks I’d learned and taught from. Coming across such knowledge disturbed me. No doubt, some secular historians emphasize only the negative: that’s not the whole truth. But Christians, who believe Jesus’ words that “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32 NRSV), aren’t telling the whole truth either.

Reading Lies My Teacher Told Me gave me my first impression that something was wrong with Christian history texts,* but over the next year, I didn’t give history much thought. Then I read a book by conservative biblical scholar Wayne Grudem. Grudem demonstrated that the Bible clearly condemns slavery by quoting Ex. 21:16: “And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death” (AV). He also referenced I Tim. 1:10 where Paul includes “slave traders” in a list of other law breakers such as “murderers, fornicators, [and] sodomites” (NRSV).^ I was stunned. First, I fault myself for not being a more careful reader of Scripture, but, secondly, I fault the Christian textbooks I’d learned and taught from for not mentioning these verses in discussions on antebellum slavery and the Civil War. In nine years at Christian day schools and four in a Christian college, I’d never seen a statement indicating that slaveholders and supporters of slavery were biblically wrong. No doubt, the moral depravity of slavery is a given, but I’d always inferred that slaveholders were unenlightened since slavery was a societal norm, perfectly legal in the South, after all.

Maybe my recollections are wrong, I thought. Perhaps I’d made inferences from my textbooks that I wasn’t meant to. Not able to let the matter rest, I dug a Christian U. S. history book out of our storage closet. Feeling every bit a scholar, I looked up each reference to slavery. What I found disgusted me even more than my recollections.

A few statements in United States History: Heritage of Freedom actually seem sympathetic toward the slaveholders. Students are told that “’King Cotton’” shackled the South with the seemingly permanent institution of slavery.”** Yes, many field hands were required in order to harvest the large cotton crops, but to say that the South was “shackled” is a startling verb choice. When one is shackled, he is under the power of another and has no choice in the matter. Later, readers find more sympathy for slave owners: “A Northern factory owner could hire or lay off workers as he pleased, but a Southern planter had to provide for the welfare of his slaves and bear the expense regardless of a poor harvest or other temporary circumstances.”^^ Are we to believe that the South was a victim? Are we to do right only when it is convenient but are free to ignore biblical injunctions when our economy is at stake?

Additionally, the abolition movement gets little coverage in this textbook and most that it does get is negative. While radical abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and Nat Turner are given four paragraphs, Harriet Tubman gets two sentences. The Civil War chapter is no less biased, including extended biographies of three Confederate war heroes but none on Union military leaders. (It could be argued that Grant gets his due later in the book when his presidency is discussed, but the absence of Union biographies is unbalanced at best.) In the biography of Robert E. Lee, the debatable statement that “Lee opposed slavery”*** is made. While Lee never owned slaves in his own name, he did inherit dozens of slaves upon his father-in-law’s death. Opinions vary regarding this ownership and his treatment of the slaves, and I do not pretend to know where Lee really stood on the issue; however, in the interest of the whole truth, the fact that he did inherit these slaves should be mentioned in the textbook. Lee’s biography closes with “Throughout his life, Robert E. Lee displayed the admirable characteristics of leadership, humility, compassion, and dedication to duty.”^^^ In this remark, I see the same hero worship that Loewen mentions. A man can have these very traits and still have a blind spot. We cannot neglect the fact that he fought to protect a right that was morally and biblically wrong. (Many will say he was not fighting for slavery but for states’ rights. But the particular right that ignited the conflict was slavery. In my opinion, there is no getting around the fact that fighting for the Confederacy was in actuality fighting to uphold slavery, an institution that the Bible clearly condemns.) Just as the Bible details King David’s heroics and devotion to God while also including his failures, should not a Christian history textbook present the whole of a man like Robert E. Lee?

What is my point? Certainly, I’m not trying to attack the Christian publisher (whose parent company I worked for and wish no ill upon) or to undermine parents’ faith in the quality of their children’s Christian education. Instead, I’m calling for a return to truth—the whole truth. When my daughter goes to school, above all, I want her to learn the truth. Many times it will be uplifting and inspiring, triumphant and glorious, and make her proud of her identify as an American. But other times the truth will be ugly, embarrassing, heartbreaking, and maddening. Perhaps those blemishes on America’s record will encourage her generation to make fewer mistakes, to reach out in greater Christian love to people of other races, to see where America needs improvement in her own time. I simply ask for honesty, for we have nothing to fear from truth.
* I am referring to books by the two largest Christian textbook publishers. Having been educated in high school with books from one and in college by the other and teaching eighth grade history from both, my experience is limited to only the two. I know there are several smaller Christian curriculum publishers. If we choose to homeschool Ashley and hersoon-to-be sibling, I will acquaint myself with the other companies in hopes of finding a history text I’m comfortable with.

^ Grudem’s book, Encountering the Claims of Evangelical Feminism, as evidenced by the title, is not about history or textbooks. His chapter on slavery refutes certain connections evangelical egalitarians try to make between slavery and the barring of women from particular
roles in the church.

**Michael R. Lowman, George Thompson, Kurt Grussendorf, United States History: Heritage of Freedom, 2d ed. (Pensacola: A Beka Book, 1996), 240.

^^ Ibid., 273.

*** Ibid., 291.

^^^ Ibid.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Are We Meant to Cross the Threshold of Every Open Door?

Since Nathan began classes at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) in August 2009, we've received many blessings--friendships with his fellow students, a free Christmas dinner from the President's Council, Nathan's expanding knowledge in preparation for greater ministry opportunities--but the greatest benefit to me has been the Student Wives in Ministry (SWIM) organization. Led by Carolyn Hannah, wife of professor and respected scholar Dr. John Hannah, SWIM's purpose is to "equip [DTS students'] wives to be competent servants alongside their husbands in ministry" (quotation found on most SWIM literature). This equipping comes through Bible study groups, seminars, retreats, and an independent study program known as Triple S (SWIM Self Study). To receive a Triple S certificate, the seminary wife selects sixteen books (four per category--Bible/Theology, Ministry Skills, Personal Development, and Marriage and Family Skills) from a lengthy bibliography. After completing each book, the wife writes a summary and application which she presents to her faculty adviser (a professor's wife) for review and discussion. Additionally, the enrollee completes a project of her choosing for each of the four categories. As soon as I learned of this program, I jumped in with both feet. What an opportunity to expand my knowledge and skills and delve into areas of study I may never have otherwise been motivated to investigate! For three of my Ministry Skills selections, I read books on developing women's ministries within the local church. Below I've reproduced my paper on one of those books. Though I'd originally planned to post only the paper, I became aware of additional information just this morning that I feel needs attention. I've included my further comments below the text of the paper.


Edwards, Sue and Kelley Mathews, New Doors in Ministry to Women: A Fresh Model for Transforming Your Church, Campus, or Mission Field. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2002.

I. Summary

Sue Edwards and Kelley Mathews assert in New Doors in Ministry to Women that the "transformation model" is the best form of women's ministry, be it in the church, on a college/seminary campus, or on the mission field. Traditional women's ministries are not geared to the postmodern woman's needs, but the transformation model seeks to attract the postmodern, without losing the moderns. Edwards and Mathews discuss implementing the transformation model, including the suggestion that a church consider a paid position for the women's ministry director which would allow the woman attendance at pastoral staff meetings.
Additionally, the authors describe the team approach to women's ministry.

Bible study is the core of the transformation model. Advice and examples from Edwards's own program at Irving Bible Church (in Irving, Texas, a DFW metroplex suburb) vividly demonstrate how a well-run Bible study functions. Though Bible study is the most important element of a women's ministry, churches should offer other events such as retreats and meals. Suggestions are offered for organizing such events. The book ends by explaining how the transformation model can be adapted to a campus or overseas setting.

II. Evaluation

Though I appreciate the excellent information about developing Bible studies, I take exception to much of the philosophy behind this book. Without meaning to attack the motives or integrity of a respected member of the DTS faculty, I believe that Sue Edwards's title at IBC, "pastor" to women, is dangerous. The term connotes certain duties and authority reserved in the Bible for men alone. Some may argue that I am straining at a gnat of semantics, but I believe (whether a church's motivation or not) that getting people comfortable calling a woman "pastor" may be the first step in weakening their opposition to a woman assuming a true pastoral role within a church.

Additionally, I disagree with the logic of Vickie Kraft in an incident recorded in the book:

On one occasion, while addressing a seminary class at the invitation of the professor, [Kraft] told the men, "Women can teach and apply the Bible to women better than men [can]." As the men struggled to understand her argument, she continued. "How many of you understand your wives completely?" No one responded. "How do you expect to understand half of your church's population if you can't understand your wife?" (86).

At first, this logic seems valid, but applying it to another situation shows that it just does not hold up. For instance, if a pastor married at twenty-two, can he really understand the struggles of a fifty-year-old bachelor? Probably not, but should the church hire an "aging-singles pastor"? Surely, Vickie Kraft and Sue Edwards would find such a position unnecessary. Clearly, God thinks men can effectively teach the Bible to women, for he gave the role of pastor to men. Can women be used as Bible teachers? Certainly. (See Titus 2.) But is the female Bible teacher an essential member of the church leadership? No, because God did not command that she be present in the church.

Lastly, I was troubled by the suggestion that communion could be served in a women's Bible study (141). While the Bible does not specify who should officiate communion, it is an ordinance of the church; thus, the implication would seem to be that it is reserved for pastors/elders to officiate. If one ordinance is allowed to be performed by women, what is to stop a women's ministry director from performing the other ordinance, baptism? And from there, where would the woman's role ever end? Again, I think Edwards's philosophy is a slippery slope with potential damage to the Biblical doctrine of male-only pastors.

* * *
When I wrote this paper a few months ago, I was unaware that Edwards's church, Irving Bible Church, had already moved toward an egalitarian position. (Egalitarians believe equal ministry opportunities should be open to both men and women. Those who believe the Bible forbids women to assume certain roles are known as complementarians. I proudly claim the complementarian title.) Though IBC's position at this time states that the New Testament "seems" to limit the role of elder to men (, in 2008, their current pastor to women (I have yet to learn when and why Edwards ceased to fill the position or if she still attends the church: I hope to interview her eventually) was permitted to preach to the entire congregation, thus disobeying Paul's command "I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man" (I Tim. 2:12, NRSV). IBC's word choice, "seems," seems to leave the door open to further development/amendment of their position. After all, you don't throw a frog into boiling water.

Reading Dr. Edwards's book sparked my interest in the changing ministry roles of women. I plan to research the issue (which will expand to include a study of feminism) for a lecture series as a project for Triple-S. I believe every Christian woman must be concerned about feminist interpretations of the Bible's clear limitations for women. This problem is not isolated to IBC or the Dallas area. If it can infiltrate a church that was theologically sound for decades, we cannot assume that our evangelical (fundamental, if you prefer) churches are secure. The undermining of the Bible's authority on the issue of women teaching men in the church can never be taken lightly, for who knows what other biblical doctrines will come under attack as a result. What is really at stake is the Bible as our authority in faith and practice.

I do believe the staff position of a women's ministry director beneficial to churches large enough to warrant and financially support it. Our church, Scofield Memorial, has a paid director of a vibrant women's ministry and shows no signs of egalitarianism. (I hope to hold a similar position someday once Nathan returns to full-time ministry and am preparing myself theologically and practically for such a task.) I plan to blog more on this pertinent issue as I continue my research. Who knows? Maybe I'll present my lecture series to your church's women's ministry someday.

(I include the following quotation lest my readers associate IBC's policy with DTS's: "The Dallas seminary, which supplies pastors to Bible churches around the country, has long had close ties with Irving Bible Church. But Dr. Bailey [DTS president] said that he and his wife, Barby, were amicably distancing themselves for 'personal convictions and professional reasons' [Sam Hodges, "Woman's Turn in the Pulpit at Irving Bible Church Brings Buzz, Beefs," Dallas Morning News, 23 August 2008, (accessed 9 June 2010)].

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Right Timing

I created this blog a few weeks after my first child, whose name the blog bears, was born, yet at that point I didn't have a clear focus for writing and, as a college English instructor, knew I couldn't produce quality blogs without a purpose. Now, two years later, I've found a purpose and the time in which to write.

In March, I resigned my position as first-grade teacher at Meadow Oaks Academy, Mesquite, TX, due to an unethical situation I could not participate in. Two days after Nathan and I decided I should resign, we found out we are expecting our second child. Though I tried fervently to find a Christian school position for the 2010-11 school year, the Lord hasn't opened any doors. In fact, it seems that He's firmly shut the door for now. For a variety of reasons--pregnancy nausea lingering into the second trimester, Ashley's being on the cusp of complete potty training, and the horror of putting a six-week old into daycare--we've decided I'll stay home until the 2011-12 school year. So here I am, plenty of time on my hands to read, study, and write about things that matter to me.

The four years I spent teaching writing at Pensacola Christian College gave me confidence that, whatever I have to say, I can say it effectively. I used to fear writing, but now I believe it's exactly what I need. I've got so many ideas in my head these days that I can't settle down to nap, even when the pregnancy is wearing me out. It's the right time to get those ideas out of my head and onto "paper." So, whether anyone reads my blog or not, I've given expression to my thoughts and used those writing principles I've tried to instill in hundreds of students.