Thursday, July 7, 2011

If Wayne Grudem needed a feminist,

then he might find one in Michele Bachmann:

"Bachmann is seldom described in those terms; the conservative Minnesota congresswoman and Tea Party darling might cringe at the feminist label.... [S]he exemplifies an evangelical feminism that is producing more female leaders in ... politics, even as more traditional gender roles prevail in evangelical homes and churches. 'It’s not that evangelical feminism is entirely new,' says R. Marie Griffith, ... 'But this lack of fear going into top positions of power is new and astonishing and exciting for this segment of the population.' ... Even as more evangelical women pursue top jobs in politics, there is little sign that they will be invited into similar roles in evangelical churches, which continue to be led by men, with some exceptions. Some evangelical denominations, including Southern Baptists, have recently moved to put more restrictions on women serving as pastors."


"While evangelical feminism has taken a number of different directions since then, it typically leans moderately left on most political issues, which is one reason why it has captured the wrath of hardline complementarians like Wayne Grudem and John Piper. ('Complementarianism' is the view that God designed men and women not to be equal but to be complementary, with men as the leaders and women as helpmeets.)

[Sarah] Palin and Bachmann decidedly do not lean left. What is 'feminist' about them, for those who want to use that descriptive, is their belief that God calls women no less than men to fight His battles against Satan on earth. Women hold awesome power as spiritual warriors, in this worldview; they're not doormats, nor should their godly duties be confined to the domestic sphere. This is its own sort of egalitarianism, to be sure, but it is one far more compatible with the complementarian theology of arch-conservative Protestantism than with the feminism of liberal religion. After all, Bachmann and Palin have both made much of their roles as wives, mothers and churchgoers in a way meant to show that their political leadership will not upend the gender hierarchy so crucial in the conservative evangelical home and church sanctuary."


"Michele Bachmann explained her decision to pursue tax law. It wasn't her choice, exactly. God had already told her to go to law school; God had also told her to marry a fellow named Marcus Bachmann. Now Marcus told her 'to go and get a post-doctorate degree in tax law.' This was not a particular desire of Michele's ('Tax law? I hate taxes!'), but she was certain God was speaking through her husband.

'Why should I go and do something like that?' she recalled thinking. 'But the Lord says, "Be submissive wives; you are to be submissive to your husbands"'....

This apparent contradiction—how you can be leader of the free world and yet subordinate to some guy —has proved no less confusing to the nation's conservative evangelicals. For them, the justification for a Bachmann presidential run lies in a very careful, some would say tortured, theological interpretation that emerged during Sarah Palin's vice-presidential candidacy in 2008.

The solution to the 'Palin Predicament,' as it's been called, is laid out on the website of the influential Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The council, which was established in 1987 to fight 'the growing movement of feminist egalitarianism,' espouses something called complementarianism—the idea that while men and women are equal they nevertheless must play different (read: unequal) parts. Men are destined to occupy leadership roles at home and at church, while women are obliged to 'grow in willing, joyful submission to their husbands' leadership.' But the civic sphere is distinct from home and church and governed by different rules, these evangelicals reasoned, and if the Bible didn't explicitly 'prohibit [women] from exercising leadership in secular political fields,' neither would they."


"She is clearly a trailblazer for women, throwing her hat into the highest ring in politics. But while Michele Bachmann became the first female presidential candidate of the 2012 campaign this week, she does not, interestingly enough, view herself as a feminist.

Unlike Sarah Palin, who has brandished the feminist moniker and spoken of an 'emerging conservative feminist identity,' Bachmann told me in an interview Tuesday that she wouldn’t call herself a feminist....

Bachmann seemed loath to engage in the kind of girl-power rhetoric utilized by Palin and Hillary Clinton, who both invoked the perennial—and so far unbreakable—presidential glass ceiling."


"From the perspective of her religion, Republican candidate-to-be Michele Bachmann is something of a conundrum. Although she draws much of her strength from her evangelical Christian roots, the strict gender roles that accompany these same roots would seem to preclude her serving as the United States’ commander-in-chief."


Theophrastus said...

Kurk -- it seems you have not read Rod Decker's analysis. (I am going to post this comment on your other Wayne Grudem post too.)

J. K. Gayle said...

Theophrastus - you are right; hadn't read Rod's analysis until you provided this link. Thank you.

Wow. Here's Wayne's world of writing with the male-oriented details erased! Look how "human" (a quotation of Wayne from Rod's blogpost):

"In cases where the ordinary human personality and writing style of the author were prominently involved, as seems the case with the major part of Scripture, all that we are able to say is that God’s providential oversight and direction of the life of each author was such that their personalities [not his personality], their backgrounds and training [not his background and training], their abilities [not his abilities] to evaluate events in the world around them [not him], their access [not his access] to historical data, their judgment [not his judgment] with regard to the accuracy of information, and their individual circumstances [not his individual circumstances] when they wrote [not when he wrote], were all exactly what God wanted them [not him] to be, so that when they actually came to the point [not when he actually came to the point] of putting pen to paper, the words were fully their own words [not his own words] but also fully the words that God wanted them to write [not the words that God wanted him to write], words that God would also claim as his own."

Now the TNIV and the NIV 2011 (sounding just like Wayne, the mortal human with male details erased):

(2011 NIV) John 14:23 Jesus replied, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them [not him, and we will come to them them [not him and make our home with them them [not him." (same as TNIV)

Paula said...

Bachmann epitomizes what I see as the galling cognitive dissonance between "not so among you" and "I permit not a woman". Just as the belief in karma results in people thinking it's immoral to help the suffering, so also a slavish worship of the "letter of the law" (which is badly and inconsistently interpreted and practiced) leads to violation of the core principles of our faith.

As I mentioned here in quoting Civil War era preacher Henry Ward Beecher, "‘I came to open the prison-doors,’ said Christ; and that is the text on which men justify shutting them and locking them. ‘I came to loose those that are bound’; and that is the text out of which men spin cords to bind men, women, and children. ‘I came to carry light to them that are in darkness and deliverance to the oppressed’; and that is the Book from out of which they argue, with amazing ingenuity, all the infernal meshes and snares by which to keep men in bondage. It is pitiful."

It seems that even when Christians have no way to deny the full humanity and equality of women in the secular realm, they still view women as little dormant Jezebels who have to be kept on a leash held by a man. That the women can believe God would order such absurdities is more a testament to a long tradition of the poorest "Christian education" than piety or great faith, the latter of which I wrote recently here. The Christian women is truly excluded by such teachings from all the promises Jesus made, from all the NT in fact, beyond those few precious (in the Lord of the Rings sense of the word) proof texts.

J. K. Gayle said...

First, just a couple of powerful quotations of you from the two compelling posts you wrote and link to in your comment above:

"But I want to focus on two things right now: how these very arguments for slavery in the US could be lifted almost without alteration to support the resurgence of patriarchy / male supremacy in the Christian community at large, and also the charge that it is elitist to insist that accurate interpretation of scripture does require the expertise of scholars at some point."

"If the churches had been more concerned with real teaching and less groupthink and control, there would be far fewer lemmings jumping the cliff after every strong personality that comes down the pike."

Second, thanks for your compelling analysis of how Michele Bachmann "epitomizes" a "galling cognitive dissonance." There is subtle and abusive power in the logic of whites over blacks, in men over women, in literalistic/ legalistic readings of the Bible over the spirit of freedom and of egalitarianism breathed in and through the text.

Paula said...

You're very welcome, and I am honored by your compliments. It would seem that the saddest commentary about the current state of the church is that such things need to be written at all.

Kristen said...

Amen to that, Paula.

Kurk, one thing about the article you linked to in your first link: I think they are mistaken in saying that "evangelical feminism" was sort of invented in 1970, lagging behind the secular feminist movement. There's a very real sense in which all feminism can be traced directly back to the Women's Missionary and Temperance movements in the late 1800s (which gave rise to the women's suffrage movement and so on). I believe the roots of feminism are fundamentally Christian (though of course there have been women in every age and culture who have asserted some form of right-to-personhood). Would you agree?

Paula said...

Absolutely, Kristen. "History is written by the victors", and the modern male supremacist movement is no exception. It truly is only HIS-story. The truth is that the MMSM wants Christian equality to be smeared with the relatively new radical, godless feminism.

J. K. Gayle said...

There's a very real sense in which all feminism can be traced directly back to the Women's Missionary and Temperance movements in the late 1800s (which gave rise to the women's suffrage movement and so on). I believe the roots of feminism are fundamentally Christian (though of course there have been women in every age and culture who have asserted some form of right-to-personhood). Would you agree?

There's no question that first-wave feminists in the USA were concerned with missionary work and with temperance. Nonetheless, the Seneca Falls Convention held in New York, July 19–20, 1848, is an early marker of the launch of a movement that more opposed slavery and that even more promoted not only suffrage but also rights for American women. Joy Ritchie and Kate Ronald in their anthology, Available Means: An Anthology of Women's Rhetoric(s), suggest that the organizers of the convention were as much influenced by matriarchy of Native Americans in New York as they were by the Bible. And these first-wave feminists did not all agree on the Bible. Susan B. Anthony parted ways from Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others when the latter began to publish The Woman's Bible.

(There are feminisms earlier than the first-wave USA feminism. F. A. Wright, for examples, chronicles the feminism in Greek literature from Homer to Aristotle. A good bit later, Christine de Pizan (writing The Book of the City of Ladies and The Treasure of the City of Ladies) and Laura Cereta (writing her letter to Bibolo Semproni) exhibit and write early European histories of feminisms. Much later Olympia de Gouges led the way for Elizabeth Cady Stanton's rewriting of the Declaration of Independence (i.e., the co-writing of the Declaration of Sentiments, which she read aloud in Seneca Falls); de Gouges had the audacity to re-write the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” in France. And she got her head chopped off in a guillotine for writing it as the “Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the [Female] Citizen.” So I do think feminism in the USA had roots in Christianity, deep and firm roots there. But there are many influences, and earlier ones, as well.

Kristen said...

Kurk, thank you for your input. I am, it appears, quite Ameri-centric. I appreciate the eye-opener.

Paula, good point. What is the "MMSM"?

Paula said...

Sorry Kristen, MMSM was just my abbreviation of "modern male supremacist movement". :-)

(I've also been known to use "patriarchy/male supremacist" or PMS.)


J. K. Gayle said...

Please know I didn't mean even to imply that you were any-sort-of-"centric." Since Aristotle, however, I do think most of us in the West now really have to struggle with and under his legacy of the sort of logic that puts females below males in Nature. Even our histories, and our history writing itself, struggles. How we tend to read the Bible, to look at Judaism and out of it Christianity struggles. The interactions of feminisms, whatever the context, are no doubt interrelated. So very much in the history of women is buried that recovery work can be very very difficult now. Thanks for suggesting that our "centric" perspectives (mine, yours, anybody's) need to be negotiated in the recoveries.