July 2007


Over the years, my husband and I have met many Christians who are not interested in being a part of any church family.  Most of them read their Bibles and even are open about their faith with others.   But many have been so wounded by failed relationships within the body of Christ that they cannot imagine going back to church.  Do you have any suggestions how we can encourage these dear brothers and sisters in Christ? 

It is a fact that many of our blog friends know us better than our neighbors and the people we share a pew with at church. The blogosphere has opened the doors to relationships, friendships, and networks never seen before. While for the most part I think this is a great gift from God, I also think it has some serious potential pitfalls.

Because the blog world is so fluid and lacks the accountability of real life situations, it is easy to “drop” a friend or a blog when something no longer meets our need or a difficulty arises. I think it also makes it easy to gloss over differences that in real life might make friendships much more challenging.

I’m wondering what people think about how the truth, primarily as it relates to the Gospel, should be a factor in online friendships. Both online and in person, I relate to a variety of people – some who claim Christ as Savior and some who don’t. I enjoy reading blogs written by brothers and sisters in Christ and I enjoy blogs that have no faith content at all where I have no way of knowing if the blogger is a Christian or not.

My concern is blogging relationships that explain away or even laugh about fundamental differences of primary doctrines of the historical, orthodox Christian faith (the deity of Christ, salvation through Christ alone, etc.). I’m not talking about secondary issues (mode of baptism, spiritual gifts, etc.), but the very doctrines that define what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Is it easier to ignore those differences online? Do we have the same desire to share the Gospel with our blogging friends as we do with our real life ones? How should we relate to bloggers who we would claim as online friends, but are committed to a religious system that we know is false?

Now, some might retort that, since it’s a bad thing to appeal to men in the first place, it would be better if those women who used their virtue and modesty to catch men’s eyes didn’t in fact possess such qualities at all. However, this argument is utterly worthless: one shouldn’t refrian from cultivating things which are good and useful because some idiots use them unqisely. Everybody should do their duty by acting well, no matter what happens.

I’ve been thinking about the idea of modesty since our last thread, and I really think we’re missing something in the discussion in Christendom. My first comment got cut off in a very unchivalrous and, I might add, rather immodest fashion. And frankly, that’s what got me thinking.

So I pulled out the most lady-like Christian I know: Christine de Pizan. If you don’t know her, you’d enjoy her. The quotation above is from The Book of the City of Ladies. She wrote that book to earn money to feed her ailing mother-in-law and her family all suddenly without male breadwinners. And she highlighted what she knew best–courtly life–and wrote the first manual of feminine rhetoric for Christians.

Reading the text points up the fact that historically, modesty is not about pantyhose and necklines. It’s not about checking in with an arcane and arbitrary standard (all of which did exist in the Medieval French court). It’s about unselfishness–pure and simple. It’s immodest to pick your feet at the table because no one wants to see you pick your feet at the table. It’s immodest to wear a bathing suit to a wedding because it calls attention to yourself in an egotistical way. And it’s immodest to wear a ball gown to the beach too (even though you’re probably more covered than those around you).

And if you read more of our French lady, you find that speech can be the most immodest thing of all. Gossip, tattling, conspiring, and shaming talk are all more daringly immodest than a sleeveless blouse or a bare ankle. If modesty is less about attire and more about unselfishness, I wonder how often our rhetorical petticoats are showing.

(True Womanhood commentator, Songbirdy,  shared these thoughts with us because she thought they might be helpful to some of the discussions we have been having on the roles of women.  We agreed and hope anyone else who has studied this topic will share more of what they understand.  It is longer than our usual entries but well worth the read if you are interested in the historical OT views of women.)

In our ‘quest’ to eschew man-made definitions of the role of women, I find it might be helpful to take the time to do a small study into the Biblical role of women.  I recently read a blog post that talked about art and ‘negative space,’ in other words, what the artist choose not to include in their work.  When applying ‘negative space’ to our discussions here I interpret this to imply that we study the things that Christ and the Apostles didn’t feel it necessary to discuss or write down because, like the Constitution’s writers, they were truths held to be self-evident.

Having been blessed with the friendship of two Jewish women at various points in my life, I have a very minor understanding of the Jewish role of women and have found it to enrich my understanding in the topics we discuss here on this blog.  While I no longer have contact with my fellow University friend, I have enjoyed the wisdom, friendship, and straight forward advice of a fellow homeschooling mother who is a Jew.  Both of these women have shared with me insights into what it means to be a Jewish woman.  I asked my friend Ber to please read over my following article to help insure accuracy.  She added some points in italics that I have found very helpful.
 
To me the most striking thing is that in the Jewish tradition there has never really been an issue of feminism.  The question, “What is a woman’s role and what is a man’s role?” is not really asked.  Their tradition, and Christianity’s heritage, holds that man and woman are equal but created differently, not that woman is created lesser than man, but equal and different.

When speaking of God, Jews don’t assign a gender to God.  The Hebrew language does not have gender neutral words so you will find God referred to as ‘He’ or ‘Him.’  In fact our desire to ‘genderize’ God likely comes from the influence of the Latin language on translations of the Bible.  Historical ignorance to this influence has gone on to really effect how women have been treated by later generations.  We have lost a very significant part of our heritage.

Just an added thought here is that a great deal of solid nouns are male but most actions are female, especially future tense.    An example is Dalet, door, is male but the action of opening is Patakh, female.  Most all of the items through which we enhance our worship are female mezuzah, menorah, Mizbaiakh (the alter), and even the Torah itself, the five books of Moshe and the Tanakh the complete Bible )  Through this you can see an equal and different, however absolutely interdependent relationship exists. The Torah is a power source and wisdom but without the man to read it the value is still present but the joy is missing.  What is that power worth without a conduit?  In Hebrew any multi or group takes the masculine ending.  For example you have Yeled, boy, Yaldah, girl, and then Yeledim, children.  The –im ending is used not because the male is greater but the male protects his hidden treasure and power source, the female.

To be truthful, having been brought up in our American culture I had a very hard time adjusting to the above fact.  My nature said surely they must have had a time when the Patriocentric model I have been told is so Biblical was the norm.  Surely that was the norm in Biblical times!  

The truth is no.  What is being taught as a Biblical norm is in fact not the norm.

In the Old Testament, women’s status under the law was the same as men.  That is not to say their role was the same, but they were equals under the law.  For example, a divorce was not given until both the man and the woman agreed to the divorce. 

In 1000 CE Gershom finalized and protected women with a halachic decision that a woman cannot be divorced without her consent.  At that time the Hillel ruling was being taken too broadly.  So even in the midst of the Medieval World., Christianity was limiting woman more, Jews were strengthening the woman’s role and rights.
I
n our American culture much is made about women’s sexuality.  In the Hebraic tradition, the woman controlled her sexuality.  She was the one who knew her menstrual cycle and when she was clean and unclean.  It was her responsibility to go to the temple and bring the required offerings so that the Priest could make atonement for her after menstruation and after giving birth, not her husband, but the woman herself.  See Leviticus 12 for further details.

While doing research for this post, I was thrilled to find out that in the situation of rape there is no talk of “well she asked for it” and that the woman is generally held to have not consented to the act.  Period.
Also we have made much of fact that the Old Testament laws have very little role for women at the Tabernacle.  Yet our lack of understanding of the Jewish traditions has left us with a very shallow understanding of the area in which the women had a great role and influence.  We don’t make much of the Jewish practice of Shabbat.   

Without Shabbat you do not have the sign of the covenant.  It is the Highest Holy day within Judaism and the woman’s territory.  It is when God gives us his portion and establishes us for another week.  This is also why it is on this day that once she has ushered Shabbat in, choosing the times to light candles, the governing factor, the husband then blesses his wife and reestablishes her position of power and honor in the family.  Then he blesses the children and commands them to be faithful.  Even this is used to remind him, the man, of his absolute dependence upon his wife and his children.  It is not to effect the true positions.

This is a great error on our part.  There were many times in history when the Jews have had to live without their land and Tabernacle.  Synagogues were found in Christ’s time but were not always in existence.  Yet, from the beginning Jews were called to rest on the Seventh Day.  From this command comes the practice of Shabbat.  A very cursory glance at the Shabbat traditions will tell you almost instantly that it is the woman who holds the pivotal role and leadership in Shabbat. 

The Jewish Mother is also a very respected and honored role.  My personal understanding here is very limited but I have come to see that a traditional Jewish mother is not under the thumb and rule of her husband.  

He is actually dependent on her for his very continuation, within synagogue life and the generations to come.  Deuteronomy 25:5-10 are the passages where the woman was given the power to demand marriage to a brother and the child be named the son of the dead husband to continue that husband’s lineage.  Even when the husband diad, she was insuring his continuation.  This also can be seen in the story of Tamar, she is seen more righteous than Yehudah, even though she was forced to play the harlot.  [Judah and Tamar; Genesis 28]
The impression I get is that a Jewish woman is glad not to have the additional responsibilities at the Synagogue.  At times that would require her to abandon her first role of Matriarch of her family and leave her duties unfinished at home.  In Biblical times, the average Jewish mother would not be able to leave her crying children at the daycare to go and help fulfill the daily worship requirements as listed in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.  If she had to attempt to fit those things into her day, she would neglect very important things like cooking and caring for her family.  Daily living tasks were such a huge responsibility!

It actually has more to do with that women are constantly reminded of their Godly responsibility, must constantly give a good example, teach the children, and the role of a woman is more spiritual in nature and not so much physical.  She is the spiritual breath or wind of the family and the man is the sail, the wind will still blow with power and has an effect but with the sail there is a funneling of this power.   The sailor thinks he controls the wind but truly he has only learned to work with the wind.  A wise sailor knows this to be a fact.

And yet the woman was not without influence in the synagogues.  A man could not be a Rabbi if he was not married.  The man was not whole without a wife.  There are many instances where the Rabbi’s wife was known to have great influence in the work of that Rabbi.  Wives were not belittled as unknowing.  Nor were they left uneducated if the family could afford the time and effort required.  Esther was an educated woman.
A woman doesn’t have to even speak her thoughts to her husband to be effective.  This is due to the echad natur, oneness, of a marriage.  The husband who loves and honors his wife often knows her thoughts and she definitely knows his thoughts.  Similarly as we know our parents thoughts, would they approve, what would they have us do, how would they have acted.  A Rabbi’s wife, a Rebbitzin was usually just as busy as her husband because of her status in the community with the women.  Have you ever heard anyone say, “I know just what she is going to say…”  They truly do.

Nor were Biblical Jewish woman prevented from conducting business.  The Woman of Valor in Proverbs 31 is praised for her business sense.  A careful reading of that passage also tells us that her husband was alive.  From that we can conclude that the idea that a widow, or woman without a man to speak for her, was not condition required for her to conduct business.  No, indeed her husband and children praised her business sense!
All of these things mentioned above were the norm for the listeners of Christ, the disciples and early church.  Not only were they the current norm, the roles of women were very defined and accepted.  Jews had many years of working out a model for the roles of men and women, roles designed to compliment and fill the ‘negative space’ found in the opposite gender.  God, who was one whole being, ultimately created two beings in His image so that together they might make a better picture. Following are some links that do such a good job explaining Jewish thoughts on this topic that I had such a hard time writing this post!  

A good summary:

http://www.jewfaq.org/women.htm

Article refuting the idea that Jewish women are inferior to the men:

http://www.aish.com/societywork/women/Chauvinistic_Judaism$.asp

Article on Gender Differences:
http://www.aish.com/societywork/women/Men_and_Women_A_Jewish_View_on_Gender_Differences.asp
Article about the role of Women in Worship:

http://www.aish.com/societyWork/women/Seeking_the_Sacred_Feminine.asp

About Shabbat:

http://www.aish.com/shabbat/ 

Some of you may have noticed that your comments are not always showing up where you think they will be. This is because of the spam filter we have on the blog, which sends comments in question into a spam box. I will do my best to keep up with checking for real comments in the filter, but you can help by letting me know if this has happened to you so that I can republish your comment.

We are not censoring anyone, just so you know, 🙂 and want to make sure that anyone who wants to be heard has that opportunity. You can email us with any and all comment issues at millenniumwoman@gmail.com

Tonight on NPR I heard this interview with Barbara Kingsolver concerning her new book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I only caught a few minutes on my way home from working out, but I hope to find time to listen to the entire interview.

In discussing the different ways we approach food, she mentioned cultural and generational differences among how we as women approach the art of cooking. She talked about professional French women in Prada heels who will move smoothly in a conversation from postcolonial literature to types of mushrooms, while professional working women in America have somehow digested that discussing food and cooking is below them, generally speaking. We have somehow inheirited from the previous “I am woman, hear me roar” generation the idea that the kitchen and cooking was a type of slavery.

How often do we women describe cooking as a “chore” or meal planning as something that “has to be done”? I know I have felt this way many days, and I’m currently a SAHM!

 Obviously, there are multiple exceptions to these ideas, and I do enjoy cooking and making creative meals. I get a little thrill when I’m able to make something at the last minute from whatever we have in the pantry and it turns out delicious. And I try to make something new at least once a week (though now I’m working on actually rotating meals more often, since I usually can never remember what it was that we like so much the week before!). Of course, there are some of us that don’t like to cook at all, and that’s fine.

However, what really caught my attention was her discussion of food and eating in “sin” language. That somehow, sitting down for a good meal has become something “bad.” She spoke of how cooking should be a joy, a pleasurable experience that is healthy and good for us and that doesn’t have any negative connotations. She, of course, discovered this when her family began living a more agrarian lifestyle and harvesting their own food, raising chickens and growing crops.

I live in an apartment in a city where I have to drive to a Farmer’s Market if I want to get locally grown vegetables (and another trip with an infant in tow is always interesting). I’m thinking of growing some small things in a container garden on our porch, even if it is just herbs and some tomatoes. Kingsolver mentions that when our produce is grown locally or in our own gardens it just tastes better. Would you agree?

How do you make meals more pleasurable? Do you grow your own food? Do you purposefully buy locally? How do you make cooking more enjoyable? Have you thought about repenting from the “sin language” we use to desribe our food choices?

Some of our friends live in suburbia, but their church offers land on which the members can grow vegetables to share (with 10% going to a local co-op). I think that’s a great way to become more in tune with where our food comes from, and hopefully, helps us enjoy it more, while also giving back to the community. I wish more churches would do this instead of building gymnasiums! I know when we go to a potluck with these friends and others who have small garden plots, I always look forward to fresh squash, green beans, or cobbler with fresh berries from someone’s backyard. Soon, I hope to be bringing some of my own, apartment patio-grown delicacies!

This past week, I was chatting with my friend who is interviewing for the job of director at a Crisis Pregnancy Center.  She has been away from this sort of ministry for the past 8 years and just recently took a refresher course in CPC counseling. 

She expressed to me her concerns about her naiveté after listening to how even more promiscuous the CPC clients appear to be than they were 10 years ago.  She said that when a positive pregnancy test is confirmed, typically the girl has to pull out her calendar to see which guy is probably the father.  She also went on to tell me of a new trend for young women to have what they call “sex buddies,” though they have a more colorful word for it.  These are guys to have sex with whenever necessary but without any sort of romantic relationship at all, kind of like calling up a friend to play tennis.

As discouraging as her information was, today’s article by Suzanne Fields on young women she is calling the “New Victorians,” seems to say that they are doing a 180 degree turn and are making commitments to both monogamy and children.  She references the new book by Wendy Shalit called Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It’s Not Bad to Be Good.  (Wendy wrote A Return to Modesty a few years back.)    In talking about Wendy’s new book, Fields says “Shalit tells how teenage girls suffer from sexual revolution fatigue and “hook-up depression.” Raised as children with seductive dolls like the Bratz Babyz “Nite Out” doll, decked out in fishnet stockings and hot pink microminis, they were left with nothing to rebel against except the cheap and easy sex that was supposed to make everyone free. She has tapped a nerve, and receives hundreds of e-mails from young women who thought they had to hide yearnings for marriage and children behind a veneer of super-sexed sophistication. They grew weary of having to get drunk to “hook-up.”

Do you think young women in our culture are rejecting the “sex in the city” lifestyle?  If so, do you see Christianity as being responsible in any way for this new revolution?  Also, in what ways, as Christian women, do you see opportunities for evangelism because of this movement?
 

Next Page »