Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Feminism Isn't ALL Bad

One of the biggest complaints that I hear against patriarchy is that it demeans women.  According to the complainants, women are browbeaten into a mousy type of submission.  This is not an apt description of the women in monogamous and polygynous marriages as revealed in the Bible.  They are women of strength and character.  The Bible is our first resource for information on every aspect of the Christian life. 

Before we look at the Bible, let’s identify what we are talking about as “Feminism”.  If we mean the movement to secure for women the right and opportunity to develop their personhood, to experience the rights of citizenship in our country, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, I am for it.  If we mean that women should expect the same opportunity under law as their male counterpart, to expect equal wages for equal work, I am for it.  If we mean that women shall be able to expect the opportunity to express themselves on an equal level with men, I am for it.  This is a feminism that any man with his wits about him would gladly endorse and even battle for.

But, if we mean a feminism that provides for women privileges and opportunities that are not also extended to all adult citizens, then I am opposed to this brand of feminism.  If we mean that men are to be debased for the purpose of giving women an unfair competitive edge in business, law enforcement or the military, then I oppose it.  If we mean a feminism that has as its goal, to subjugate men and women that disagree with their philosophy to the ash heap of humanity, accusing them of impure motives and injustice, I am definitely against such.  If we mean a brand of feminism that has the avowed objective of erasing the God ordained gender distinctions between men and women, then I am vociferously opposed to such a travesty.

The latter, I will call militant feminism.  The former, I will call civil feminism.  Civil feminism has a legitimate foundation of equity and justice, based upon some Biblical principles as well as sound logic and compassion.  Militant feminism has no foundation in equity or justice, but rather desires supremacy of women over men.  Militant feminism is in direct rebellion to the Word and will of God.  I believe it has its roots in Satan’s deception of Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Looking into the Bible
Many impressions that permeate our culture are assumed to be Biblical, yet when they are sought for, they are nowhere to be found.  One of these is the relationship between husbands and wives, the image of the domineering, abusive husband and the cowering, mousy wife.  While the Bible does contain the teaching of God regarding the roles of men and women in marriage, it bears little resemblance to the many concepts floating around our western culture.  I would like to explore the Biblical teaching with you.  I am excited about the surprises you may find.  I would like to watch your face as we explore this and see the truth dawn in your eyes.
There is a term, based upon Greek vocabulary, which is used to describe the type of family structure God has designed.  Before we say that word, let me caution you to understand that I, in no way expect our culture, society or even most churches to accept this truth.  Reason?  Our world has had an un-Biblical view become so ingrained in our thinking that the truth is too preposterous to accept.  Change, for truth’s sake is not for the faint of heart.  It requires a brave heart that loves God and truth, to behold truth that is genuine, but uncommon.  Somewhere in God’s dealing with me, He has planted within my heart a love for His truth that will not let me be comfortable with anything less.  If He has given you the same gift, you are blessed indeed, though it may have you standing alone occasionally.

The Word Is Patriarchy
Patriarchal family structure is based upon God’s relationship to His creation and particularly to His family of faith.  It is evidenced with His dealing with people before the flood and through Noah, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as well as with the nation of Israel, the descendants of Jacob and his 12 sons.  It is displayed in the New Testament scriptures by the Father’s relationship with His son Jesus and their relationship to believers.  Jewish and Christian culture is solidly based on God’s patriarchal pattern.   In both cultures, before they were contaminated with secular and ungodly ideas, husbands and fathers were the uncontested leaders of the families, synagogues and churches.  This is what patriarchy means in its simplest terms, “father rule”.  It does not mean oppression, meanness, bitterness, selfishness or brutality.  It does not mean in any way that women do not count or are less than valuable members of the family of God or their human families.
Before we look at civil feminism, let’s look at what the Bible really says about the role of men in a godly culture.  Keep in mind that we do not have this kind of culture today except in microcosms of church and family situations where the members are sincerely seeking to know and do the will of the Living God.  In God’s design, the husband is responsible for his family’s physical, emotional and spiritual welfare.  This does not mean that he can make everyone healthy, happy and holy.  But it does mean that he is responsible for giving them information, direction and motivation to help them on to the goal of maturity and health in all these areas.
The husband is answerable to God for providing the means and leadership to his family to enable them to become all God intends for them to be.
Family members are answerable to God for being the man or woman that He has called them to be.
Both parents have responsibility for the education of the children, spiritual, social and scientific, yet it is the father that will answer to God if it is lacking.  Patriarchy does not give men the right to enslave the minds, bodies or souls of their families.  Men do have the authority of God to lead their family aright, under the auspices of the Word and Spirit of God.  Neither the family of God nor the human family, as designed by our Heavenly Father, is a democracy.  Rather, both are a theocracy, with order and structure, according to God’s design.
Here is where the rub between patriarchy and feminism begins to chafe.  Secular culture has contaminated Judeo-Christian teaching with an un-Biblical philosophy of family.  Secular culture has conceived the idea that each family member is autonomous and only dependent on each other so far as such dependency serves to fulfill the individual’s goals and desires.  It has created a nation of self-centered loners that live their lives in confusion and frustration.  Even Christian institutions and churches have bought into this self-defeating philosophy.  When God designed the first family, Mr. & Mrs. Adam, He made them the prototype for the entire human race.  Changing His design results in flawed reproductions of God’s desired product.  As mentioned above, one of the changes that result in skewed families and dissatisfied people is the relationship between husbands and wives.  A proper understanding of the benefits of civil feminism will enhance our understanding of God’s design.

Harmony Rather than Strife by Understanding
God has created every man and woman with certain potential that may be reached with effort and direction.  God Himself has provided most that is needed to reach our potential.  He has given us intellect, the opportunity to become a child of God through faith in Christ, His Holy Spirit to dwell within us, to empower us and teach us His Word.  God has given us the resources of this world that are available to us that we may use them to make something useful of our lives.  One day we who are sons and daughters of God in Christ will give an account to Him of what we have done with the tools, resources and opportunities afforded us.  As Christian men, we are familiar with this concept and would do well to use them to the greatest advantage possible, that we may please our Lord.  But, do we afford Christian women the same opportunity?  Usually not, because we misunderstand the roles established by God in the godly family unit.  We understand that men are to be the patriarchs in our homes and that wives are to be in submission to the husband’s leadership as they would to Christ Himself.  Where the misunderstanding comes in is regarding the submission to the husband.  We assume that she is to do so because he is the patriarchal leader, but this is in error.  She should be in submission to her husband because she is serving the Lord and that such a relationship is God’s will for her life.  Wives submit to the husband, not because he says so, but because Christ says so.  Husbands are frequently unworthy of such a submissive trust, but Christ is always worthy of the same.  This understanding frees men and women to develop their God given potential without trampling on each other.  Every man that will love his wife as Christ loves the church does so, not because she is lovely and loving, but because that is God’s will for his life.  Every woman that will submit to her husband as unto the Lord does so, not because he is worthy, but because that is God’s will for her life.  When each partner in a marriage strives to please the Lord by doing His will and takes their God given role and responsibilities as their service to the Lord, harmony and joy is the result.

Nagging is Negative
Often people marry with stars in their eyes and those romantic stars obscure the clear light of reality.  The stars restrain us from seeing our partner as they really are, as well as the issues that will later bring about conflict.  When the stars begin to fade as the light of reality dawns, it is not uncommon for women to think that they can change the man and “help” him become what she knows he is really capable of being, forgetting that this is the Holy Spirit’s job.  Men tend to ignore the conflicts that emerge in realities clear light.  Just assuming she will come around or that it is just a mood she is experiencing.  When the desired changes do not take place as expected, nagging is the next step (ignoring the Holy Spirit’s ministry).  We must learn to let the Holy Spirit of Heaven work in the life of each of His children.  We cannot do His job, but we are called and taught to co-operate with His efforts, by loving and submitting as God’s Word instructs.

Civil Feminism
Civil feminism is the means whereby a godly woman becomes the woman that God created her to be.  She will be a woman that a godly man would be proud to have for his wife.  No man in his right mind and spirit would want a wife to be diminished in her potential to make him look better.  A godly man will love his wife, desiring her to reach her potential.  I have long said that nothing makes a man look good like a lovely woman on his arm.  Nothing makes a husband more successful in his ministry before God than a godly woman that is striving to reach her God given potential.
“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.  The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.   She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.”  Proverbs 31:10-12

The woman of Proverbs 31 is often held up as an example of a good wife and rightly so.  But please look at some of her characteristics.  She is of good character, intelligent, industrious, decisive, determined, strong, creative, attentive, gracious and generous.  She can function without spousal oversight because she is trustworthy and is aware of her husband’s desires and goals and has his best interests at heart.  She has cultivated all the best traits to make her not a good wife, but a great wife.  Her husband trusts her and he is in a place of prestige partially because of her faithfulness.  What she is not is independent.  She is able to accomplish all the great things she has done because she operates under the umbrella of the security of her husband’s love, protection and authority.  Who is going to trouble her when they know they will have to answer to her husband?  Read Proverbs 31 again and notice that there is not one verse where she is on the defensive.  Her husband is a blessing to her and she to him.

Lettuce For Men (let us)
Men, let us encourage the women in our life to attain God’s potential for their them, whether she be wife, daughter or sister in the flesh or in the Lord.  Let us not be afraid of God’s potential for them, it will only enhance their blessing to us in the family of God.  Let us not try to do the Holy Spirit’s job by micro-managing their time, efforts and activity.

Traffic Signs For Women
Change lanes from the secular understanding of feminism and merge with the Holy Spirit to reach your godly potential.  Stop operating independently of your husband.  Yield to the blessing that God designed him to be in your life.  Slow down and enjoy being a godly woman following the Lord’s leading in co-operation with your husband.    Keep right and you will avoid many of the road hazards ahead.  Stay on the roadway and the trip will be joyful and your destination sure.  Women drivers are among the most capable and safest on the road.

God has blessed us all with the wonder of His creation, both in ourselves for who He designed us to be and in the uniqueness of the opposite gender.  It is high time that God’s people stop complaining about the opposite gender and be thankful and praising Him for His unique and marvelous design.  God is glorified and we are blessed.  You just can’t beat that deal!