Sunday, September 2, 2007

Baptist Leader: Women Hardwired for Housework

Works out well for men, don't you think? According to Gary Ledbetter of the Southern Baptist Texan, women are just "temperamentally better equipped than men to manage the home and nurture children." And, those who suggest otherwise? They're just sexist.

This is a continuation of the "Sex in the Seminary" debate about the "homemaking" classes offered at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary in Louisville chimed in with a progressive position. He said that he did not believe that it is actually wrong for women to work outside the home, but that "a woman that does work outside the home is likely to miss something that is happening inside the home." Apparently there is nothing at home for men to miss.

There is something talibanesque about the basis of the SBC argument that there is an "appropriate" role for women. We can begin with the fact that there is little if any respect among this sect for the separation of church and state. They have no issue with legislating morality-on their terms. They do, as we have seen with Craig, Vitter and Foley, have trouble with hypocrisy. On the website of Southwestern Seminary, there is actually a statement that it is good for women to learn biblical exposition because that way they can teach other women. That's right. The seminary does not support women teaching men no matter the woman's level of expertise. They fired a female professor because of the rule. "Women-to-women" teaching, they say, is the biblical way. And, the president's wife has prepared a guide for how women should dress. There are no burqas involved but what is clearly implied is that it's up to women to make sure men control their sexual impulses. Wow.

Look, in all seriousness, the problem with this, and the reason that it's on a political blog, is because the issue is not whether or not a women should be able to make the choice to be a stay at home mom. The issue is that for centuries men have used religion to exert control over women by fostering economic dependency and limiting choice. They use their religion as a basis for discrimination and oppression, and then they make rules limiting women's roles in denominational decision making. What a trap. These are the SAME evangelical fundamentalists who propelled George Bush to power. Ordering society so that (frankly) rich white men are on top is the agenda, and they have crafted a theological position to support it. It really is that simple.

Conversely, Jesus, as described in the gospels, was revolutionary in his approach to women. He provided them rights, status, and most of all: access. Where's WWJD when you need it?

13 comments:

Vic said...

there are going to be some dirty houses in macon after the word gets out on this.

Tina said...

It takes more than one person to make a house untidy and it takes more than one person to clean it up. Men of the younger generation are much better about pitching in around the house and doing stuff with the kids than men of MY generation were (I'm 70 now), and a INFINITELY better than men of my father's generation. My son-in-law is a super dad and a super husband, leaving this old lady to wonder, "Hey, where were the guys like that when I was younger?" :-)

Amy Morton said...

I think I could make a better case that men are hard-wired for sex. Can you imagine where the argument would flow from there?

Vic said...

that would lead down the blatant sexist river off the coast of blatland.

Button Gwinnett said...

My mother was born to a mother and father in 1934 that believed this. And so she married a man that believed the same way. Yet my mother was salutorian of her high school class. She had a very technical mind and could figure out how things worked very well. And she could outwork 2 men in the field if she wanted.

But when it came to important matters in church, she wouldn't speak her opinions. Instead, she waited to grumble to me in private. When I'd say, "Mother, why don't you stand up and speak your peace," her response was always, "Because I don't have a husband to speak for me."

She made a great life for 72 years being a wife, mother, devoted daughter, clerk at her church, etc. But when she had no one left to care for, I suppose she didn't think she had much reason to live on.

I think my mother's life was good, and I'm thankful for that. But as an adult I found that she was unfulfilled in several areas of her life. I think she secretly wanted more. But she accepted and lived by the views of our small southern Baptist church.

I hope other women aren't listening to that outdated, sexist pile of you know what.

Amy Morton said...

Button, thanks for sharing your mother's story. I can't help but think of how much the church lost because your mother's voice was silenced.

You know, my mother was 75 when she died in 2002, and we were members of a similar Baptist Church. She fought the last decade or two of her life to get them to allow women to serve on the deacon board. She was not successful, but she did effectively raise the issue. Everytime the church was asked to vote for deacons, she and some of the other women always included the names of women-names the men then discarded. It is ironic that this is the same little Baptist church that ordained me to the ministry, yet women could not serve on the deacon board that decided I was, indeed, called. My great grandfather helped to build that church, and while the men who sat in the room 'deciding' might've thought they were the 'deciders,' the truth is, it was, and probably is, the women who ran the show. For example, I would've hit junior high before I ever had a male Sunday School teacher, yet to this day, I can see Mrs. Myrle Biggerstaff standing in my preschool Sunday School Class, teaching us "This Little Light of Mine," a song that says as much about how I would hope to live my life as anything else could.

Thanks, again for such a personal glimpse into the impact of such "rules."

Vic said...

i really, really enjoyed both of your stories about your Mothers!

Button Gwinnett said...

Amy, your mother sounded like a ball of fire! I wish that she had gone to my mother's church. She might've been the shining example that my mother needed to see. And by the way, I'm sure you feel the same way about this. As bad as the attitude towards women (amongst other issues) sounded, that little church helped us through many hard times. I always think its unfair to criticize them without saying that. Even though I doubt they much approve of me and some of my views, if any one of them needed help, I would and will do anything for them that I can. It's just what we do.

But my mother is definitely my source of inspiration for equality for women. Only after my father's death did I find out that my mother had been married once before marrying my father. I was helping her with the social security claim and she rather ashamedly, told me she needed to find the date of death of her first husband. I was floored because I never knew. So early one Saturday morning, we went out to a little country cemetary off the beaten path in Seminole County and found the man's headstone. We recorded the date of his death.

Back then divorce just wasn't acceptable, at least not in our rural community. But the truth was she that was 20 years old, her father had just died, and she married a man that turned out to be an abusive husband. When she tried to leave him, no one would help her. They told her she had to "make it work." When she did divorce, she got the cold shoulder from even some of the ladies of the church. For a while it didn't matter that she would be one of the first to show up at their house with a plate of food or to clean up for them if they were sick or had a death in the family. It took time for people to come around. When she married my father, in 1957, that seemed to do the trick. But even to that day, she was ashamed of that divorce. All of my life, I had known that she had self image issues and had periods of depression. Shame kept it all in. It kept her from getting help. So it's painful to think about how old attitudes (many of which were spawned in our churches) affected her life.

Before we left that country cemetary that morning, my mother held my hand as we knelt together and prayed for forgiveness for that man. I think she got some peace out of that experience.

Men have a place in the equality of women too. We owe it to the women that we love to make sure they aren't mistreated, or held back in any facet of their life because of their gender. When you see discrimination and recognize it for what it is, you don't forget it.

I'm glad more and more churches have come around. We still look to them for guidance. They need to lead right from behind the pulpit.

Amy Morton said...

What a powerful story. It is easy to see how your experiences with your mother shaped your values. That's where we all begin, right?

My mom was forceful in her own way, and did a lot of good things, but she was not St. Mary (that was her name, Mary). Divorce was not a subject she was flexible on, at all. That became a bit of a problem when I got one. Her brother had gotten a divorce years before, and that, after much front porch rocking chair conversation at Granny Watson's house was rationalized as "she" ran off and left him. That perspective, that divorce is never an option, was a product of both the culture and a certain interpretation of scripture. That's ironic, I think, since Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, bestowed upon women rights in marriage that did not exist at the time. Then, women were property and all men had to do to end a marriage was say "I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee." And then the women was on the street without so much as her identity. So, when Jesus proclaimed that marriage was forever, he was doing so, in my humble opinion, as a liberator of women.

Still, regardless of opinion, there is grace. Many years ago, when I was in the middle of my divorce, and had two young children, I went home to NC for Christmas. My mother's side of the family was gathering at the home of her brother-the one who had gotten the divorce. The grandchildren rotated year to year who read the Christmas story, and it was my year to read. When I opened the big family Bible to read, my grandfather's (who died before I was born) divorce papers fell out into my lap.

That's right. It was as if all the shame and secrecy about divorce in the family literally dropped in my lap. He had been married before marrying my grandmother. My mother told the story about being a very young girl and having this women and child come to her house (in very rural NC). She was sent, with her five brothers and sisters, to a back room while where they heard voices tense and raised and then angry. The people who had come were my grandfater's ex-wife and his daugther-my mother's half-sister.

Later on, really after my mother retired, she reached out to her half-sister who began to come to some family reunions. I don't know much about what their relationship was like and have never met her, though I think my sisters have. The point is, that it is easy to hate, fear, or worse, dismiss someone until they have a face-until they are real.

Amy Morton said...

One more note. For example, it was easy for my home church to make the proclaimation that women could not be deacons but impossible for them to look me in the eye and tell me God had not called me to serve.

Button Gwinnett said...

Wow Amy, isn't it amazing how far we've come? You and I are connected to people we knew and loved who held such different beliefs from us on certain things. Not out of malice or the desire to hurt anyone, but out of what they thought their faith required of them. That's why I can never turn my back on any of those people that I grew up with. No matter where I go or what I do, I'm always one of them. And even though we disagree on some fundamental things, I don't view that as a bad thing.

You spoke of Jesus as a liberator of women. I think that's just another example of how we as Christians have at times gotten some things wrong. We used the church to justify certain attitudes that Jesus himself did not keep in his life.

Amy Morton said...

That's right, it's where we come from, and I could walk into that church on Sunday, feel completely at home and be embraced by the congregation. That's just the way it is. It's all much less about doctrine and much more about relationships.

family_man28 said...

Sounds like you are very bitter towards men.
I see in Scripture that women are not to hold authority over men.. likewise I don't think that gives men a free treat you like crap card either. I help my wife around the house, I stay up late at night when the baby wakes up and still get up and go to work the next morning. We both agree that her staying home with the kids teaching them what we believe is much better then sending them off for someone else to teach them things we don't agree with. Some can't afford that in todays world, but if you can afford it, then do it for the kids sake. As for Women Pastors, I don't agree with it, Scripture seems to lend more towards "not" having women pastors. That does not make men more glorified, does not make women any less useful or important or of status. It's not about what seems fair in our eyes...it's what does God want... He created Adam first then Eve... For whatever reason, He wants the responsibility to be laid at mens feet, which quiet honestly, I wish it was at you ladies feet...

The problem is you guys seem to think we are trying to hold you back, nope not at all, please do all that you can, as long as it is scriptual.. as long as God is ok with it...then so am I..

For the record, I grew up with parents of the 30's, there view was much like what I read in here, women have their place and men have their place.....

It's a choice, I'm not like this at all, in our house, my wife and I make the decissions together, but we do believe that I will be held responsible for those decisions when I stand before God.

Any way, have a nice day.