Monday, September 18, 2006

Women and Traditional Christianity

In the previous discussion about the role of women in our church body (from a Traditionalist perspective), a guest to this blog, Norma asks:

"where do traditionalist Lutherans go?" Hmm. Now maybe some of you understand the frustration of women, wondering if there is any place for us?

This is a poignant topic, and I'm grateful that she raised the issue. Traditionalist Christians are often typecast as misogynistic, that women are seen as inferior - and this is inferred by the traditional, biblical Christian doctrine of the order of creation, that women are to be submissive to men. In our culture, submission is synonymous with degradation - and this is simply an error in logic.

My own dear wife is a great example. Like most North-American women, she was bombarded with the feminist ethos. After we were married, she retained her maiden name, and sought a career. She is a graduate of the prestigious Bryn Mawr College, which is a bastion of radical feminism. She also was certified as an MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) at a time when there weren't a whole lot of folks with that certification. We had a two-income family and no children.

At some point, Grace had an epiphany. The life she was living was unnatural. She didn't want to be at work. The cultural pressure for women to work outside the home is what is in fact misogynistic, hostile to the family, and contrary to the divine order. She had broken the code.

Long story short: She left the corporate rat race and is today a very happy stay-at-home mom. She is a submissive wife, covers her head in church, dresses modestly as a lady, cooks all of our meals, and runs the household away from the limelight and the accolades of our materialistic society. There are feminists out there who would cast her as a put-upon victim, or worse yet, a traitor to her sex. Some are actively seeking to manipulate the tax codes and social policies to pressure her to get a job, to make it economically difficult to be a traditional housewife and stay-at-home mother (as if the social pressures and current economic challenges were not enough). But Grace is unbelievably happy, as is our family. We are now in harmony with God's creation.

We eat together as a family every day - real home cooking. My wife makes breakfast every morning - including homemade bread. She lovingly prepares my lunches, and we eat nice dinners every day. She manages the house well, takes care of all the bills, and my son has never seen a babysitter - let alone a "child development center" (a cute euphemism for a "tot drop" to salve the guilty consciences of greedy mothers).

Yesterday after church, we had homemade black forrest cake dessert (with real whipped cream, not chemical white fluff), and sipped Gevalia coffee (arguably the world's finest) sweetened with raw turbinado sugar and whipped cream in cups and saucers. Now that's living!

Of course, there are sacrifices. We live in a little bitty house, and I drive a 1995 Saturn with 150,000+ miles on it to and from church every day. We don't go on cruises or trips to Disney or fancy resorts, and we don't eat out a lot. We don't have a swimming pool. We don't have cable, and our TV is a relic from the 1980s. In spite of these limitations, we are happy. We are no longer fighting against God's created order, but have submitted to it.

So, that's where women fit into a traditional Christian family and society. They are the caretakers of home, husband, and children - not merely another androgynous income-producing unit. Traditional Christian women are faithful laymen, who pray, attend Divine Service, teach the children, and take care of the holy things at the altar. Traditional Christian women are not deacons or pastors.

The reason women are frustrated is because they have been lied to by our abortion-mad culture of death, and our money-grubbing ethos of materialism. They have been deprived of their birthright to be the caretakers, the dominae, of hearth and home. With contraception, they have been reduced to sexual playthings by their husbands and potential husbands (not to mention financiers of their husbands' or boyfriends' plasma TVs and big trucks, all paid for by the "sweat of the frau"). With the "sexual revolution", they have been reduced to a virtual state of prostitution that parades under the banner of "liberation" (only a man could have dreamed up feminism!).

Obviously, there are situations when a woman must work. Single mothers must become the breadwinners of their families. My wife put me through seminary by running the computer network at CTS Ft. Wayne. My great grandmother worked like a slave as a domestic as a young widow with three young children. But what we have in today's culture is an anti-family, anti-woman, and anti-tradtionalist paradigm that enslaves women and forces them to downplay their femininity, as well as encourages men to treat women as equals (which is to degrade women).

Women are not our equals. They are to be treated as queens and cherished as those who make a house a home. Men ought to treat women with chivalry and deference, holding open doors, offering a helping hand, and curbing displays of vulgarity in their presence. The current culture of equality has only dragged women down to our level, and turned them into something our Lord did not make them to be.

I believe the frustration you feel, Norma, is a result of "kicking against the goads" instead of submitting to God's order.

A really helpful resource for women struggling with overcoming the years of brainwashing, the Big Lie that there is a better way to live than to submit to God's created order can be found at: Ladies Against Feminism.


larry haga said...

Thank you for this post and many others, I find myself in agreement with just about everything you write. The post on tradition should get an award. Could you explain what you mean by your wife's head covering and her rationale?

Favorite Apron said...

Mega dittos. Your wife is very blessed to be so cherished.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Larry:

You are all together too kind. In 1 Cor 11, Paul addresses the issue of propriety of women's attire in worship. In verse 2, he praises the Corinthians for keeping "the traditions" (paradoseis) which he "delivered" (paradoka) to them.

But he goes on to remind them of a tradition that they had been slipping up on: the propriety that a woman cover her head in church.

We're pretty quick to rule this a quaint middle-eastern custom that no longer applies to the modern world. But I'm not so sure.

Paul appeals to nature (verses 13 and 14) as well as "the angels" (verse 10). (And note that we would almost certainly tell a man to remove a hat in the sanctuary even to this day, while we no longer hold women to a similar standard).

For nearly 2,000 years, women covered their heads in church - whether with a veil or mantilla, or some kind of hat. It was (and is) a symbol of submission (per the order of creation).

However, in the 1960s, women of the same generation that brought us the "sexual revolution" quit covering their heads as part of their "liberation." (Thanks again, baby-boomers and -boomettes! Keep doing us "favors!")

Today, many women dress for church as though they were going clubbing (if not, pardon my crassness, getting ready to walk the streets). Somehow, I just don't think exposed midriffs, skin-tight jeans, and cleavage are adiaphoristic cultural norms that may or may not be proper at any given time.

While I'm not prepared to treat head covering as a "law" - and certainly a pastor would be foolish to demand that every female head be covered next Sunday or "no communion for you!" (God forbid!), I do think it would be a salutary thing to roll back the clock on this one, gradually, and with patient catechesis.

There is something very godly about seeing modestly dressed ladies in church with heads (and certain other parts) covered. It is, well, er, traditional (not to mention respectful of our Lord and of the Divine Service).

So, there are some women who opt to cover their heads as a symbol of submission and modesty. Grace (my wife) also points out the practical sides of the mantilla - she used to use it as a covering for nursing my son discreetly, it veils the face of a woman worshiper and gives her a sense of privacy in prayer and in receiving the sacrament - not to mention emotional times such as weddings and funerals. Modestly dressed ladies in the congregation also help to keep the minds of the gentlemen on Jesus.

I hope this helps answer your question!

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Mrs. Apron:

I think we can all agree that Fr. Hollywood gets the far better deal in the bargain!

Susan said...

I love it that you referred to Christian women as "laymen." I hate that "laywoman" term -- blech!

Abbey said...

Wow. I am blown away by the confidence you claim in speaking about the role of Christian women. Do you honestly believe that women who have babysitters are "greedy?" If something were to happen to your wife would you care for your children or would you have a babysitter so that you could continue working? Why should a woman have to stay at home and prepare meals? If you didn't have children would you still want your wife to be a house wife? Why does preparing meals and caring for a house equate with women? Priscilla and Tabitha were active leaders in the early church, and I don't think they would have very much time to pack their husbands lunches.