Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Feminism and Materialism

Feminism and materialism dominate our culture - including the culture of the Christian Church. I believe that on a visceral level, people know things aren't as they should be. I believe we're seeing the fruits of this human attempt to topple the divine order of creation, one that substitutes female equality (if not outright domination) over and above the created order of female submission and male headship - which is helped along by plain old human greed.

As a result of this cultural revolution, in its most benign form we see families that no longer eat together, children who spend more time with peers (or movies, video games, and the internet) than their parents, a value system that cherishes material goods over and above "treasures in heaven," and a rat-race mentality that is never satisfied, but results in ever-increasing demands for workplace advancement. It also manifests itself in more dangerous ways: latch-key children (who may end up sexually active or on drugs), workplace affairs, divorce, and a general contempt for submission to authority on any level.

The overwhelming presence of women in the workplace has lowered wages by glutting the labor market, has increased taxes on the average family by moving families up the tax brackets, and has created a booming "child care" industry. It has also made natural nursing of children the exception rather than the norm (artificial food in plastic bottles has made it possible (not to mention convenient) for babies to be cared for by people other than the mother), thus "freeing" mom up to put on a power suit and attend to more important things than suckling (and bonding with) her own flesh and blood children. Women who do stay home and nurse their children, run the household, and cook for their families are denigrated by our anti-woman feminist culture. They are demeaned as wasting their talents, and their husbands are portrayed as tyrants.

Christians often simply accept the secular paradigm as "normal", and instead of seeking to be "in" but not "of" the world, they largely capitulate, join the same rat-race, and deprive their children of a traditional family life. This may explain why Christians experience divorce at the same rate as non-Christians. The Christian life takes a back seat to "keeping up with the Joneses" and making sure women are "empowered" and "fulfilled" ("did God REALLY say...?).

One of the greatest acts of rebellion, one of the most striking expressions of counter-culture, one of the most shocking statements against the current misogynistic paradigm that families can make is for wives and mothers to quit their jobs, for families to downsize their dependence on luxuries, and to "store up their treasures in heaven" (as well as on earth in terms of family time).

I believe there is a small, but growing movement to do just that. And a lot of women (as well as their husbands, and ESPECIALLY their children) are simply much happier after they have thrown off the shackles and experienced true liberation - having come into harmony with the order of creation instead of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Anyway, check out this article from the Homeliving Helper blog.

12 comments:

Margaret said...

Hi Father Hollywood,

I couldn't agree more with most of this post. I think it is crucial for moms to stay at home with their kids. My mom did so with me, and if/when I become I mother I plan to do the same.

I read the linked post at the Homeliving blog and the many responses. I am interested to find out how far "backward" (for lack of a better term) a Christian woman is supposed to want to go in order to comply with the order of creation that you mentioned?

Should Christian girls and women not desire to pursue academics, play sports or perform civic duties (voting, jury duty, etc.) so as to encourage submission to the created masculine role?

While I understand that the ideal is for a husband to love his wife as Christ loves the church, fallen males will struggle with this bit of Law just as much as modern fallen females struggle with the command to submit.

Advocating that I should quit my job (though I do not yet have children) because being employed in and of itself makes me less of a godly woman is disturbing. According to the author of Homeliving, my time can be better spent moving furniture around, making scrapbooks and whole grain bread, and ensuring that my windows are clean day in and day out rather than use my God given talents in gainful employment.

Can there be a happy medium here, or should I invest in a burqa and start organizing my appliance manuals?

Thanks for your insights on this topic and I hope you can help me understand these things a little better.

Margaret

Father Hollywood said...

Hi Margaret:

This is a great line:

"Can there be a happy medium here, or should I invest in a burqa and start organizing my appliance manuals?"

Classic! Anyway, you raise some good points.

I'm glad you raised the issue of sports. I find them to be over-emphasized in our culture - to the point where churches alter their schedules to accomodate football season, where universities are more about sports than study, and where harried parents shuttle their school kids from one practice to another with no time for family dinners and spontaneous play.

I find sports turn girls from being feminine into being snarling, competitive wanna-be boys. And now we have situations like boys and girls playing contact sports against each other - like high school wrestling (thank you, once again, Title IX and feminism). So, boys are taught to fight against girls, to physically try to defeat them, that to dominate them gives you a prize, but to defer to them makes you look weak.

I believe it was a very bad thing when the military academies began to admit women. When the Citadel started admitting women, the men initially balked at screaming at a girl in the rat line. They were raised to be gentlemen, and were forced to accept a new paradigm.
Men no longer know how to treat women, and women no longer know how to act like ladies. I'm generalizing to be sure - but that is the nature of culture.

I'm a big believer in education - rigorous, classical, and geared toward the liberal arts - not the kind of supercifial slop dished out in public schools or football colleges. Women make the best teachers of the young - and the better educated they are, the better trained our children will be. Women tend to be the most gifted in language - which is crucial to civilization. Too often, homeschooling mothers are accused of "wasting" their bachelors and masters degrees. My goodness! What could be a better use of that education than to teach and train your own flesh and blood? But the current culture would rather have the wife go to work with the guys, and send the child into an overcrowded classroom to learn how to put a condom on a banana and listen to Christianity being ignored if not denigrated.

What a perfect role for the Christian mother - to provide a one-on-one classical, rigorous, Christian education for her children!

There's a great website called "ladies against feminism" that addresses a lot of your concerns. Neither Scripture nor the order of creation say a woman may not work. In fact, Proverbs 31 describes women as being industrious and involved in moneymaking - just not in the same way as men. Women have been running home-based businesses for millennia.

Katie Luther is a great historical example - she ran all the family businesses and farms. But she did not work for a boss who was not her husband. She didn't take business trips away from her husband and children. And she didn't mind that she didn't get equal billing as her husband.

But the model today is for women to "go out" into the workforce and rub elbows (and sometimes other parts) with the men. It doesn't take a membership in MENSA to see how this has effected family life. How 'bout that divorce rate?

Most people live rather artificial lives - eating lots of chemicals, staring at a TV, and making the workplace the center of one's life - with mom at the beck and call of her boss (her "other" husband). I'm the exception that has a wife who cooks meals - actually bakes (not merely buys cakes and bread from the store). She assures that our house isn't just a convenient place to have a shower and flop down for the night before we all bustle out to spend most of our time elsewhere. The role of the woman to make a house a real loving home, a place the family actually wants to be, is nothing to sneeze at or find demeaning. It takes real skills - which, unfortunately, many young girls just don't learn any more.

I think voting is a waste of time for either sex. I think I'm really becoming a monarchist. ;-) Jury duty is not something that men or women typically strive after. I do believe men have surrendered a lot of what God designed them to do, leaving women in many cases to do the heavy lifting - which is a disgrace to the men.

Our culture brainwashes women to believe their lives only count if they work outside the home. Remember Hillary Clinton's quip about "staying home and baking cookies" - as though that were something evil (unlike having your husband sharing a cigar with his career-minded female intern on the floor of the Oval Office, I suppose...).

I certainly don't know your situation, but in that of my wife and myself, her previous career was disincentive for us to have children. The money is just too good in a Dual Income No Kids (DINKS) situation. Being fruitful and multiplying took a back seat to being self-fulfilled and multiplying our money. However, biology forces women to make a choice at a certain point. I regret that we waited so long to have a child. We were duped.

So, Margaret, far be it for me to tell you how to live your life - you'll have to figure that one out. But I don't think the life of a Christian family means wearing a burqa. And don't knock fresh-baked bread and clean windows. Things like that make home worth coming home to. I find so many men (and women and children)only want to get away from home - which is funny, because typically the wife's income only assures a bigger house (that people don't want to come home to)!

I look at that kind of a life as a squandering of women's God-given talents and abilities - all for the dark pottage of a promise of self-fulfillment and earthly mammon.

Once, a female friend of my wife (who works outside the home) was stunned that Grace bakes bread and makes breakfast for me. She remarked: "I need a wife like that!" My wife bit her tongue and avoided the temptation to tell her that her husband is actually the one who needs a wife like that.

I guess I'd rather have a small home than a big house. I know my wife is much happier since taking the plunge: no boss, no yearly evaluation, no work-related stress, no being "on call," no worry about being "downsized," and we are not dependent on a second income to pay bills. And if we do run into financial problems, she could return to work temporarily and her income would be "gravy" instead of expected income that we've already spent.

It's just such a nicer arrangement for all of us.

I know this is a brutally long answer, and I hope I didn't bore you to death!

Pax!

Margaret said...

Thank you so much for your response. I wasn’t bored in the least! I agree wholeheartedly with so much of what you said. I don’t think that allowing women in combat or at the academies has done the military or the females any favors either. In that same vein, neither do I think it appropriate that girls participate in contact sports with boys. However, I don’t think that Title IX or sports themselves are inherently detrimental simply because they have been exploited to the extreme by a relative few (and disproportionately loud) radical feminists. I learned many valuable lessons by participating in girls’ athletic teams both inside and outside of school. If not for Title IX or other programs like it, it is very possible that those opportunities would not have been available. My parents made it clear however that whatever extracurricular activities I chose to participate in would not usurp the importance of keeping the Lord’s Day. The fact that this happens in so many churches today just goes to show the pervasiveness of idolatry in this culture. And I think it can be said that any ideology or activity can easily become a golden calf – that goes for feminism, work outside the home, sports, and yes, even the domestic arts – the story of Mary and Martha comes to mind.

It also saddens me that consumerism and materialism run rampant as they do, but I suppose any capitalistic society will run that risk, and I’d much rather deal with the residuals of a free market than be constrained by other repressive economic systems. (Not to say that American economics doesn’t have its problems, but my point is I’d much rather live here than say, Cuba.) I wanted to stand up and cheer when I read you advocating for living in a not-so-big house. It has never been a desire of mine or my husband’s to have our own McMansion. I find most of them devoid of personality, and we would not be able to afford one on his income alone. We are working and saving (we bank most of my paycheck) to put a modest addition on our 850 sq. ft. home. I feel that God is providing for us in that we can use the resources that He gives us wisely to lay a good foundation for any children He might give us in the future, one that will ensure I will be able to stay home and raise my kids instead of shipping them off to relatives or daycare. Could we have made it solely on my husband’s income had we started having kids 5 years ago? Sure we could have, but it would have been a financially precarious situation even with us living below our means as we do. However ideal it may be to get married young and start popping out babies like a PEZ dispenser, it must be acknowledged that with the cost of living today (not to mention the real and opportunity costs of education in order to secure good employment) it is not always the most prudent, especially when God blesses us with the opportunity to be good stewards of His resources and talents, in anticipation of the expansion of His family. In short, I am wondering if there can be God-pleasing discernment in this aspect of life - does God’s provision have to come only after the children arrive, or can it begin long before with good stewardship on the part of the parents-to-be?

That having been said, it is also very true that most young women, myself included, have endured both inward and outward struggles with the more misleading tenets of feminism. It was through much heartache and prayer that I arrived at a point where I could write what I did above. For a long time, I was one of those girls who absolutely did not want kids for what I can now admit were selfish reasons. Raised by Calvinists (Orthodox Presbyterian Church) and schooled by Lutherans (and currently a member of the LCMS) you would think that I should have been immune to the mindset that having children would ruin my life and make my existence a misery. It was the detrimental effects on my physical and mental health wrought by the Pill that eventually led me to give my struggles over to the Lord. (Again, you would’ve thought I’d have figured that one out sooner as well, but we all sin and fall short of the glory of God in our own ways.) He has brought me a long way, to the point where when I think about having kids in the future I can look forward to it, rather than feeling myself come unhinged. I still struggle with feeling guilty about “wasting” my education by being on the so-called “mommy track,” but I just have to keep reminding myself that He has a plan for me, even though I don’t know what it is. Perhaps it is as simple as homeschooling any children we may have. (I had to smile when you mentioned that women are generally more gifted with language – it just so happens my college major and minor are foreign languages.) Perhaps He will have other designs for those abilities as well. I must find peace in knowing that they will be revealed in His time, not my own.

Thank you for opening up discussion on this particular topic. I think it is something that needs to be addressed, especially within the church. It would have been edifying to me as a young girl and teen to have received the message that there is no shame or disappointment in desiring to be a mother, and to have had the worthiness of that particular role reinforced. At the same time I think we need to be careful that we don’t strangle our girls with apron strings or shame them into shying away from society either, as the more unsavory aspects of feminism have shamed them into shying away from motherhood and domesticity. It is a difficult balance to strike to be sure, but an important one nonetheless.

I hope this one isn’t an exercise in boredom for you either!

Maragaret *takes off burqa to go make some tortillas* : )

P.S. – What kind of monarchy are we talking here? Constitutional? Divine? Who would be in the running for King of America? (See? I’m getting better at submitting already – there can’t be a ruling queen because she’s busy cleaning the castle.) : ) Queens of England, pah. Just goes to show you the Anglicans haven’t gotten things right for centuries! Hehehe.

Beth said...

I find myself in agreement with many points in the original post. However, I do not agree with burdening Christian women with laws which God does not. We must be careful not to overgeneralize without regard to a person's context.
I am a homemaker, a classical homeschooling pastor's wife. I am also the director of our city's library. My vocational responsibilities and privileges are all gifts from my Father. I perform none of them without the grace of God to cover me daily. My job is as much a first article gift as the books my beautiful children read and the bread (homemade or store-bought) which my family gratefully puts in their mouths each day. As far as sports and girls are concerned, fitness and having a healthy body are good stewardship---a woman may retain her femininity and pursue all manner of sports. Again, the overgeneralization and legalism are a bit much, in my opinion.

Latif Haki Gaba said...

Beth,
I agree that overgeneralization ought to be avoided, in which case I wonder if you really mean that "a woman may retain her femininity and persue all manner of sports." You think this is true of wrestling, or tackle football? I am neither an athletic expert nor a woman, but I would like to challenge you on this. Also, I agree that legalism is "a bit much" for Christians. When you detect it, though, you ought to spell it out, and not be content with merely alluding to it. Ie., was there some legalism in Fr. Beane's comments? LHG

Father Hollywood said...

Hi Beth:

I'm not sure where the legalism is. I see the role of women not as "thou shalt not...," but rather "thou hast been created to..." and "thou hast a holy vocation."

It's not legalism to suggest that men can't bear children or that women can't be pastors - it's a matter of ontology, not legalism. Those who argue for women's ordination (and this in no way suggests you do) make the same argument, that denying women a spot at the pulpit and altar is legalism, that they have gifts that the Church is denied for the sake of laws.

All I am saying is that there is an order of creation. The woman was created to be the husband's helpmeet - not the helpmeet of another man for 8 hours a day. She is to serve her husband for the good of the family, not serve herself for the sake of her own ego. She was created to suckle her children - not to hire out others to stick a bottle in their mouths while they go find fulfillment and empowerment in a career.

Our culture (even in Christendom) is so geared toward women working on a basis of equality and interchangeability with men outside the home that my post actually comes across as "radical" - when this has been the norm since biblical times right up through WW2.

Obviously, everyone's situation is different. A single mother has to work to take care of her children. A family racked with debt and bills may have to endure the wife/mother working - but this ought to be something to endure, not something to celebrate. When we start tooting the horns of married women who work outside the home, maybe we should ask ourselves some hard questions about how much of the brackish water of feminism we have swallowed while swimming in a neo-pagan culture.

It's one thing if the family's financial situation truly requires it, but something else entirely if it is done for the sake of a bigger truck or a bigger house or a plasma TV. Ditto if it is done to provide the wife with a sense of self-worth that she feels she is denied by being a stay-at-home wife and/or mother.

In addition to the order of creation, we have God's specific judgment for the fall: the man must sweat in the field and the woman bears children in pain. How cruel our society is to women when we add to their burden by making them join the men in living by the sweat of the brow!

Again, I don't see pointing out that woman was made to be man's helpmeet to be legalism, any more than Proverbs 31 is a kind of law that Christ has freed women from.

This is an issue of vocation, not justification - so I think the charge of legalism is kind of misplaced here.

Father Hollywood said...

Beth:

One more thought on vocation and women:

I'm sure you're an excellent librarian - I know that is a career that requires a lot of specialized training and meticulousness. But having said that, if you got hit by a bus tonight, the library would still be open tomorrow and would not miss a beat. The same is true for my church. If I got hit by a bus, they'd get another pastor, and life would go on. The president could be assassinated, and Congress would still meet, and life would go on with a new president. No-one in the workplace is irreplaceable.

But in your vocation as wife and mother, you *are* irreplaceable. Your husband and children are bound to you by love and by the gift of God. Your job is not rooted in love, but rather in commerce, an exchange of services for payment.

While the world glorifies the working woman and mocks the mother, the reality is that being a wife and mother is the most exalted and glorious vocation a woman can aspire to, and anything else is just a job.

Beth said...

You cannot accurately say that either a woman is at home 24/7 serving her husband or she is serving her own ego. Scripture does not say that--that is a man's opinion.
A Christian woman is not necessarily sinning because she holds a paying job. This is what I am referring to when I spoke of legalism. There is a sense in which, without taking away from husband and children, a woman may serve others as well.
I am a total advocate of homemaking, not in favor of daycare, and I don't consider myself a materialistic person. I homeschool my children and when I work, they are in the care of my husband. God has provided my extremely flexible job that has enabled me to care for my family as well in a very hands-on way. It is not always either/or.

As far as your comments on girls and sports (sports turning girls into snarling, competitive wanna-be boys'), that is quite an overstatement. Competition, fitness, hard work are not unfeminine things. Of course girls should not be competing against boys in contact sports--but that is a completely different topic. Sports in and of themselves are neither good nor bad--it is the abuse of them in the hands of sinners that is bad.
oops--suppertime---better go feed the masses!

Father Hollywood said...

Beth:

With all due respect, you're putting words into my mouth. I never said a woman is *always* sinning by working for a living.

There are certainly situations where that is necessary (and I thought I was pretty clear about that). I'm not speaking of those instances.

On the contrary, it is our culture that says a woman is *never* sinning by holding a job outside the home. In fact, the secular culture holds a stay-at-home wife (especially if she has no children) in contempt.

Christianity is counter-cultural, in that it is a life of submission - man to God, female to male, children to parents. I just don't see a whole lot of this going on in our 21st century version of Christianity in which Christian families (when they're not wrecked by divorce and remarriage) hardly eat together, in which wives work as many hours as the husband, and in which children are shuttle hither and yon. There is very little difference between Christian and non-Christian families, as well as very little difference between the typical secular feminist family and a typical Christian one.

Typically, the wife works outside the home - whether Christian or not. And both Christians and heathens defend it as a "choice."

This isn't a matter of pointing out specific sins (who am I to look at anyone's personal life and family paradigm to judge whether or not the wife *really* needs to work or not?) but rather to point out what God's loving order of creation says over and against what modern Christianity preaches and practices.

As far as the sports issue goes, I'm going to post an article that really began to change my way of thinking on it. Please stay tuned!

Thanks for your comments! Blessings on your dinner!

Beth said...

My wonderful husband and beautiful children are the nearest, dearest neighbors and the ones that I serve in the most intimate way. I do, however believe that in all of the things that I put my hand to each day, God is using me to serve my neighbor. This includes my job--it is not simply commerce--but service to neighbor.

Our service to neighbor is fraught with sin, no matter what the location in which we find ourselves. Sadly, I have known mothers staying at home, even 'homeschooling' whose hearts were far from their husbands and children . Where love is, there is a true miracle.

I think that we have to be very careful not to give people the impression that there is only one possible way to be a faithful wife and mother.

Father Hollywood said...

Margaret:

You raise great points, and your posts are far from boring!

Your remarks remind me of an incident that happened in a traditionalist Catholic homeschooling family (very dear friends of ours). The family has five children (all very bright). The youngest daughter was asked what she wanted to do when she grew up. She said she wanted to get married and raise children and horses. "Oh, dear, don't you want to be a doctor or lawyer?" was the reply. Without missing a beat, the girl responded: "No, that's what YOU want me to be."

As far as sports go, I'm going to really offend a lot of people by posting a link to a very thoughtful and controversial piece on this topic from Ladies Against Feminism.

Anyway, I think a good constitutional monarchy beats democracy any day. I think democracy inevitably becomes mob rule, and then becomes totalitiarian - which happened in ancient Greece, and which is why the U.S. founders despised and feared democracy, and instead went with a republican model. I believe the U.S. had good intentions as a Republic, but like Rome, has since become an empire (though an empire that has become quite democratic in the 20th century).

But that's another topic for another day.

Pax!

Jeff said...
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