My father, a strict, retired Marine forbade us from watching BET (Black Entertainment Television) or listening to hip-hop.
I was generally fine with that rule, I didn’t get black culture anyway so why would I need to listen to Kris Kross attempt to make me jump, jump or Bone Thugs harmonize. So, I obeyed without hesitation.
My sister, on the other hand hated that rule.
Which is why as soon as she moved out of my father’s house, she made a popular hip hop song both her ringtone and her ring-back tone. Do you remember that annoying phase in cell phone history where you could impose your musical tastes on your friends when they called you? Well imagine picking up your phone to call your dear sister who you love and having to listen to fifteen seconds of this:
Yes, my sister made Brooke Valentine’s anthem to girl drama her ring tone. It’s sad…but true.
This was during a year when she began calling me daily in an effort to rebuild our friendship. Since I was caring for my kids-- all four and under at that time, I almost always missed her calls, would have to call her back and hear, “Girlfight”. Every. Single. Day.
This song is so embedded in my brain that it comes out anytime my subconscious sniffs conflict of the female persuasion.
That’s why I can’t watch, “The Bachelor”, “Real Housewives (of any location)”, or “The View”. As soon as the voices begin rising and the heads get to wagging, “Ohhh we ‘bout to throw them blows” starts up in my mind and I'm sick to my stomach.
Which is exactly what happened when I began reading reviews of Rachel Held Evans book , “A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband "Master" before deciding if I should use one of my precious Audible credits on it.
Reading the reviews was heartbreaking. Christian women began polarizing themselves on the end of the “biblical” womanhood spectrum with which they most identify. They defended their positions with passion and at times, hurtful words. They proclaimed that they threw books written by good and godly women across the room and summarily attacked each other’s hermeneutics.
Ohhhhhhh they ‘bout the throw them blows!
This is an ongoing battle between Western Christian women that I’m so over. I’m tired of being a casualty of their ideology flinging. I'm tired of having to chew up the meat and spit out the bones. I’m tired because I don't completely identify with either “biblical” woman. I'm stuck in the middle.
Stuck in the Middle
On one end of the spectrum we have the Elisabeth Elliot reading, Sarah Edwards emulating, John Piper quoting Reformed woman who submits gladly to her husband, is busy at home, views her children as her primary calling, and trusts in God’s meticulous providence. I get her. I love her. I want to be like her…except I don’t believe God controls every single detail of my life. I trust him to guide me in using my free will.
So where do I fit in on this end? Sometimes I fear I don’t, even though I try to make my home the bedrock of our ministry—hoping as many people are brought to the Lord through my cinnamon buns as through T.C.'s sermons (see the reference for this quote here).
On the other end we have the liberated, Christian feminist. She loves the rebellious Jesus who taught women when the patriarchal culture of the day reduced them to property and not intellectual equals, she fights for the oppressed and champions social justice, her husband is her partner—not her leader, and her children are just one part of her life—not her calling—not her mission field—just one more facet of her complex identity. I get her. I love her. I want to be like her…but I do affirm role distinction in my marriage. I see Christ submit to the Father and the Holy Spirit submitting to Christ and I think, ‘a servant cannot be greater than her master'. I love the idea of being a helper to my husband, especially as we plant this church. Sure, call me an Ezer Kenegdo! I’ll embrace that wholeheartedly because the Holy Spirit operates in that role magnificently.
So where do I fit in on this end? Sometimes, I fear I don’t, even though I care deeply about social justice, want to bring dignity to the oppressed, and allow women freedom to bless the Body with their gifts in leadership.
So what does that make me? Unbiblical? Unstudied? Unintelligent?
I wonder is there another way to be a modern, Christian woman that doesn’t force me to toe a party line? I wonder is there a way to affirm my husband’s leadership in our home and applaud a woman’s leadership in the church? Can I love me some Pinterest and John Perkins? Can my children be my calling for this season, without being viewed by women enjoying their seasons of leadership in the Body as simple or irrelevant?
I think so.
I think there is a third way to be a believing woman in this culture. Third Way Womanhood, if you will.
I want to explore what is means to be a woman who doesn’t identify with either type of “biblical woman” through a series of posts called, “Third Way Womanhood”.
In the next post I’ll share what I experience as a woman stuck in the middle trying to connect with the Fearlessly Feminine camp, but not quite jiving with the assumed acceptance of Reformed theology. The next post I’ll share my experiences as a woman stuck in the middle trying to connect with the liberated Christian woman on issues of social justice and women in ministry, but not quite agreeing with the assumed acceptance that there are no differences between the sexes or our roles in the home. The final post will be how I’ve attempted to reconcile the two and my hope to move forward in a third way of being a Christian woman.
Keeping the Peace
I don’t think any of the prominent women at the ends of the "biblical" womanhood spectrum mean to cause conflict or frustrate women like me who affirm different, seemingly opposite perspectives. I think we breath deeply the confrontational, polarizing climate of this culture and it comes out in unintentional ways. We’re simply trying to communicate our hearts and we end up deeply offending our sisters.
So, I want to promise that I’ll try my best to be fair and respectful of both sides. Because if I know the enemy, I know he loves to take well meaning posts, FB statuses, and books to cause conflict.
I'm reminded of first time I saw the video for, “Girlfight”. I was most impressed (in a bad way) by L’il Jon. Hovering off to the side as two beautiful women fight, egging them on with his obnoxious growl and nasty gold teeth. I sometimes think of the enemy this way, hovering off to the sides of this biblical woman debate, egging us on with his obnoxious growl and nasty accusations of our beautiful sisters in Christ.
I’ll try my best to honor both sides in hopes of encouraging other women like me.
Women stuck in the middle. Women looking for a peaceful way of being in the Body. Women who identify with a Third Way Womanhood.
So, what ways do you feel stuck in the middle of the “biblical” womanhood debate? I’ll read your comments, pray for you, and use them to help me process these posts on Third Way Womanhood.