A friend of mine forwarded to me a link to a blog post that stunned me. The author of the blog received an email from one of her readers. Here is a portion of the email:
“… you know God calls women to take care of the home. Proverbs 31 says: She watches over the affairs of her household.….You always seem to be on the computer or reading or studying … Maybe … God’s…telling you to give it all up and be a stay at home wife. As a stay at home wife myself I know the rewards of making dinner for my husband every night and having a clean house…I see Mr. Newlywed does the cooking. That isn’t really his job. ….Corinthians tells us we are not to be concerned with the matters of the world and just with our husband. You seem to concern yourself with many things outside of your marriage.…You are obviously concerned with things other than your husband….Do you even think about what he wants for the two of you?
“…sometimes what we love doesn’t matter. God doesn’t want women to work outside the home. Women just do it to prove themselves and show they can be like men. Why do so many women feel they need to be masculine?…I think you need to step back and think.…Don’t you want to be home and watch your children grow up?…
“I’m just asking you to pray on it. You seem sensible and a good Christian. This is just my chance to preach the Word to you. Maybe even help you understand your calling. You can always email me with questions…I can help you fill your idle time with chores, volunteering, and cooking.”
There are two issues that come to the surface with this email: 1. “helpful advice” is a form of judgment; and, 2. there is a pre-determined ethic of “womanhood” being assumed. I’ll briefly address both issues.
1. While I can give the author of the email the benefit of the doubt and say, “Sure; I’m sure you meant this in love”; I cannot agree that this is what the author did in the end. Rather, an email like this cannot come across as loving because it is heavily drenched in judgment. The gist of the email: “You are not doing this…You are failing that…You are missing the mark” and, my personal favorite, “You should be godlier…more like me”. Judgment and accusation cloaked as love. “Preaching the Word” as pointing out shortcomings. Self-promotion and pride disguised as “I’m here to help.” Advice, specifically unsolicited advice such as this email, will have the opposite effect intended by the advice giver. While the giver will claim, “I did it in love, to correct your path, to set you straight”, the receiver will feel that biting wound of judgment, failure, and shame. The giver feels better, and the receiver feels worse (props to A. Zimmerman for his awesome sermon on Sunday).
2. The author of the email has a pre-determined ethic of womanhood; it is clear that there are certain characteristics that comprise what a Christian woman is: she is a stay-at-home-wife/mom, she does the cooking/cleaning, her primary concern is her husband and home, and she volunteers. Anything that strays from this “norm” is “masculine”, selfish, inconsiderate, misguided (meaning, not guided by the Holy Spirit through prayer), and insensible to the point of being a “bad” Christian.
This type of ethic isn’t limited to the “Christian sphere; it’s a universal experience that imposes itself on all women. I’m left asking: where is this ethic of womanhood coming from? Was woman created for the previously mentioned assumptions? Or, is there more to her creation? Is submission, in Christ, just a reiteration of the curse Genesis 3:16? Or, is submission something else completely, resembling Genesis 2:18-24? Does Jesus affirm this archaic, assumed ethic of womanhood? Or, does He do something radical by means of restoration? Is Paul promoting a stringent boundary on what a woman can do? Or, is he more progressive—though not a feminist—in his understanding of woman and woman in Christ? It is these questions that I would like to discuss in a four part series: “Are you there Jesus? It’s Me, Woman.”