Thursday, January 01, 2009

Father Hollywood Recommends...

Passionate Housewives Desperate for God

Today was a nice "day off" for the Hollywoods, a lounge-around kind of day that enabled Father and Mrs. H. to do a lot of reading together. We enjoy reading aloud to one another, typically alternating chapters, though time usually doesn't permit us to spend hours in lectio continua, though God's gift of the Kalendae Januariae and a holiday for the Annus Novus provided us opportunity to do so today.

Mrs. H. had previously read Passionate Housewives, and really enjoyed it. She recently started re-reading it, and suggested that I read it as well. So, we went ahead and read it together.

The book is paperback, 206 pages, and was published in 2007. It retails for $16.00, but is currently offered for $10.88 and is highly-rated by reviewers on Amazon. The authors are both Christian wives and mothers.

Jennie Chancey is a mother of eight and editor of the Ladies Against Feminism website and also runs a home-based business called Sense & Sensibility Patterns. She is an outstanding wordsmith, has traveled extensively, and is also the daughter of the first American women to ever fly in a Soviet Mig-29.

Stacy McDonald has apparently "gone metric" as a mother of ten children, and is the wife of Pastor James McDonald of Providence Church (Presbyterian) in Peoria. She has also authored several other books on Christian family life (e.g. Raising Maidens of Virtue), and having family ties to South Louisiana, knows that making pralines from scratch calls for bourbon.

The intended target reader of the book is a Christian woman. Obviously, I only meet one of the two criteria (and I know I'm leaving myself wide open to all of my smart-alec pastor friends here, especially given my admitted fondness for fruity beverages that sport little umbrellas...), but being a parish pastor in the midst of a culture that is heavily influenced, if not completely overtaken, by a feminist, egalitarian, gender-bending worldview, I would include Christian clergymen as good candidates for Passionate Housewives readers. Look, guys, you need to know what is going on in the culture - Christian and secular. This kind of a read is just as important as poring over Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. In fact, I believe the book to be a salutary read for all Christian husbands, for I think Christian women and men alike would benefit by examining the countercultural role of the Christian wife. The issue of sex and its God-given roles has, in fact, become the front line of the battle in the Church's current firefight against heresy - as evidenced by worldwide ruptures in Christian communions over women's ordination and the issue of homosexuality. Anyway, I read the book in the role of a polite, quiet, and privileged observer of a dialogue between Mrs. Chancey, Mrs. McDonald, and their sisters in Christ.

Several things impressed me. Both of the authors display an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the Scriptures as encouragement for the Christian life and as exortation to the living-out of the vocation of godly womanhood. The authors apply the Word of God to their own real-world experiences as Christian family women living a lifestyle that is scorned by the world, and sadly, patronized even by many Christian women. The book is not a theology tome, though it clearly has a theological underpinning as a work encouraging Christian women in their vocation as women by virtue of the divine order of creation (over and against the pop-culture's "me-ology" in the words of Mrs. McDonald). Though one might expect such a book to be "preachy" or even legalistic, it is neither. Its tone is sisterly, gentle, encouraging, theologically evangelical and rooted in God's mercy in Christ. It is patient and sympathetic yet without compromise. The prose is candid and conversational without being sloppy or overly colloquial. You will feel like the authors are sitting with you in the parlor sipping a cup of tea and simultaneously tending to their children while carrying on an intelligent discussion about Christian womanhood.

Passionate Housewives is a kind of manual for Christian wives who want to know what biblical womanhood looks like when lived out in the real world. And far from a life of drudgery, Chancey and McDonald present the life of Christian wife and mother to be glorious and joyful. Between the two of them, these ladies have enough children to field two complete baseball teams, so they do have real life experience. Passionate Housewives is far from theoretical and speculative - and the incarnational reality shines through in their references not only to heaven and angels but also to wiping noses and changing diapers.

Here are a couple samples from the book, one from each of the authors:

Mrs. McDonald writes:
"I remember once counseling a young woman who was having difficulty submitting to her husband. When I explained to her that Scripture required her to submit to her husband as unto the Lord, she insisted, with more than a little indignation, that it was impossible to submit to a man who wasn't even trying to meet her needs. It was actually his fault, she explained, that she was forced to sin by not respecting him.

"She went on to describe how her pastor had told her that Scripture didn't require her to even love her husband (ignoring Titus 2:4); only her husband was given that mandate toward her. The neglectful minister also told my friend that she was only required to submit to her husband as long as he 'loved her as Christ loved the church.' To make it even more confusing, she believed that she was the one who was to decide what 'loving her' meant, which in her estimation included (among a long list of other things) how well he fathered her children.

"I asked her pointedly, 'So, are you saying that you believe you are only required to submit to your husband on the days when he 'loves you as Christ loved the Church?'

"'Yes,' she said resolutely. 'When he shows me that kind of love, I will have no problem submitting to him.'

"Her resolve quickly diminished when I pointed out to her that by her logic, her husband also would only be required to love her on those days when she submitted to him as unto the Lord. On the days when he viewed her behavior as unsubmissive, he was free to ignore and neglect her. I explained to her that if they both continued to insist on 'loving for self' rather than 'dying to self,' neither would ever see success in their marriage....

"Thankfully, my friend was more interested in hearing the truth than having her ears tickled. She repented and purposed to submit to her husband regardless of his response or the amount of love and attention he showed her and the children. Her husband eventually came around as he saw the slow and deliberate change in his wife" (pp. 13-14).

Mrs. Chancey writes:
"So, if a housewife isn't that stereotype of 1950s perfection in pearls and heels, than what is she? Down through the centuries, poets and artists have often idealized womanhood and created 'pictures of perfection,' as Jane Austen famously wrote. The nineteenth century gave birth to stacks upon stacks of domestic 'bibles' - books that detailed the duties of virtuous housekeeping and child training. While there is much to applaud in these poetic and practical paeans to femininity and domesticity, we are not attempting to resurrect old-fashioned ideals for the sake of 'the good old days.' What we really desire to do in this book is to present a full-orbed picture of biblical womanhood in all its beauty and complexity - and demonstrate why that picture is realistic and timeless rather than impractical and culture-bound.

"Rest assured that biblical homemaking isn't about shiny appliances or weed-free flowerbeds (though these certainly might be some tools of the trade). It isn't about perfect children in neatly-stitched clothes. It isn't about mealy-mouthed 'yes-women' who never offer an opinion or share an original thought. Far from it! Biblical womanhood is challenging, intelligent, adventurous, kingdom-building, whole-hearted hard work. It encompasses all kinds of gifts and talents and provides us with an outlet for genuinely purposeful creativity and effort - all within the realm of the fully functioning Christian home" (pp. 159-160).
I suspect that Passionate Housewives is the kind of book that will both anger and inspire Christian women - by challenging the dominant worldview that eschews wifely submission, and by encouraging Christian women to be a helpmeet to their husbands and to serve the Lord by the holy vocation He has given them - an honorable and crucial station for the continuance of God's Kingdom. I also suspect that it will be to many Christian women what The Hammer of God is to a lot of Lutheran pastors, a beloved companion to be read, re-read, dog-eared, and marked up as a practical affirmation of our priestly vocations in service of the Kingdom - vocations often hated by the world and sadly scorned even within the Church, but vocations nonetheless established by the Lord Himself for the salvation of mankind.

Well done, ladies! Thank you for your work and insights and for your faithful devotion to your holy callings, and blessings to you and your families in this new year.

4 comments:

Stacy McDonald said...

Glad you liked the book, good sir! What an encouragement to be directed to your review today!

I must correct one thing though. I am not actually from Louisiana. I grew up in Southeast Texas. My father was from New Orleans, so our dinner table was often filled with Cajun cuisine and we visited my grandparents and other relatives in New Orleans (and Gretna!)regularly. Do you know any Trouts (as in the last name)?

Anyway, I felt guilty; as if I were somehow impersonating a Cajun. :-) Can't be havin' dat.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Stacy:

I'll correct that toute suite, but I don't think you be gettin' no impersonatin' a Cajun ticket in da mail when ya daddy wuz from da Big Easy, Chere. Just the same, they need the revenue in Baton Rouge, so better to err on the side of prudence.

I can't think of any Trouts off hand, but I'll ax around. :-)

Thanks again for your book. I know it was a labor of love and I also know it is a beloved book to many women who feel like square Christian pegs in round circular holes.

Jennifer said...

I may disagree with Jennie Chancy a great deal, but from these two excerpts, I really like what I see! Look forward to perusing through the book.

Just as a note of interest, I have yet to see any Christian women putting down SAHM's. The only contempt I've ever seen towards homemakers has been from secular men. You wouldn't believe some of the things they've said.

Jennifer said...
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