Musings on being a Christian girl in Scotland today

It’s tough. I’m not disputing that it must also be tough to be a Christian male, but here’s one Christian female’s view.

On one hand, I wish to try to honour God in all areas of my life, and doing so I look to His word. When guys constantly bandy about labels such as “feminist”, and make “jokes” about how women should be in the kitchen, however, things are not made easier, especially when society gives girls from youth such utterly confusing mixed messages about on one hand how we should like dolls and playing in toy kitchens, but on the other hand should aspire to high-power jobs, and maybe be the breadwinners while our husbands (or in society’s view, partners/”significant others”) stay at home looking after the children.

I don’t think the paucity of strong [young] Christian guys which your average Church of Scotland girl is likely to have come across in her upbringing helps (not a comment necessarily on quality, just on quantity – guess same goes for girls!), and nor does, I think, the stance of churches in general that I’ve experienced (not saying in any way that this is the view of all ministers, just ones that I’ve heard) when encountering passages such as 1 Corinthians 111 Corinthians 14:33-351 Timothy 2:8-15Titus 2, and 1 Peter 3:1-7 – so often passages such as those pertaining to a wife submitting to her husband, not speaking in church, and wearing head coverings are completely skimmed over with a “that was really only in a context where women were the weaker vessel and not educated and doesn’t apply today”, or even a “hurhurhur, I’m going to be spoken to by certain members of the congregation if I go on about this!”. As a result, one could easily think that such passages completely don’t apply to Christians today.

Conversely, in the past year or so such verses have been discussed – by those around me, at any rate – much more seriously, yet more rarely brought up are other passages which denote more well-rounded women than *just* being a wife and mother, such as the words of King Lemuel’s mother in Proverbs 31, which describes (to paraphrase the ESV study bible’s footnote) a married woman, devoted to the well-being of her family, who has an outside business, and teaches others wisdom and kindness – and even in the Titus 2 passage, the older women are charged with teaching the younger.

From a combination of these factors, and from having a trainee woman minister when I was younger, women in ministry wasn’t even something I’d considered as potentially problematic until about 18 months ago, nor had I thought about gender roles including submissiveness to one’s husband and being the primary caregiver for one’s children. Since then, the proliferation of jokes and opinionated people has led me to evaluate (rather than re-evaluate) my views, and I’m still working out what a Godly way of living would be. I enjoy challenging guys’ views in such areas, though am often trying to do so from a devil’s advocate perspective rather than actually putting forward what I think, which may be a formless opinion in any case. An additional point to note: obviously it’s never ever ever something you want to have to anticipate, but what about cases where a husband leaves his wife? If she’s been not working in order to devote herself to the household and children, that would just compound the awfulness of the entire situation.

When I posted a similar but ultimately less-directed post before, Anna P had this to say, which I thought highly interesting:

Basically really like this post Sarah – and have tonnes to say on the subject! I have also got the title of “feminist” too, and I don’t really know why…well, I guess I do, basically I protest against those “you should go back to the kitchen” jokes. (I saw a postcard that once said “People call me a feminist whenever I differentiate myself from anything other than a doormant.”- sometimes feels true!)

I think most people do not mean any harm by it, but how is it building up and encouraging their spiritual sisters? It’s saying that all God has called us to do as women is to make them sandwiches…how demoralising. It completely undermines a woman’s role in God’s eyes..which is to serve, and to support, and to submit, but it is also to have her own mind and her own uniqueness and her own role.

As soon I as question anything that is the norm…ie, taking my husband’s name when I get married (which is something I have to think about now!) I get shot down by guys and called a feminist. I’m not saying I don’t want to take his name, just that I would like to know why I should take it, whether it is biblical, and I think I’m still allowed to be a little bit sad that I am losing that part of my identity.

I’m willing to change my name and submit to David, because he’s going to be my husband, but does that mean I need to submit to every other man who comes my way? And the banter is all fine and well, except when it leaves people feeling like they are less than what they really are in God’s eyes. Guys should be seeking to build their sisters up to realise the full potential of what God wants to do through their woman-ness..not making them feel belittled. And girls should be doing the same for the bro’s.

Sorry if that was a rant. I suspect it was and I also suspect that I will be called a ‘feminist’ even more for this post. But for the record: I really like making sandwiches.

As for me, at the end of the day, I do hope to get married if that’s what God has planned for me (and be content with singleness in the meantime!). I do, actually, love cooking and baking and seeing people liking what I’ve made; and knitting; and enjoyed helping to lead the pre-schooler’s Sunday school at my church. I’m also intelligent, and don’t want to have put myself through the shedload of work that is a law degree for no ultimate purpose. I’ll be continuing to try to discern how I should behave, and will look to the Bible and to older Christians for advice. In the meantime, though, it would help if guys wouldn’t just throw about labels such as “feminist” all the time, or constantly harp on about how girls should be cleaning and in the kitchen.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29

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14 thoughts on “Musings on being a Christian girl in Scotland today

  1. I absolutely love this post! I recite Ephesians 4:29 to myself and to my friends pretty much everyday because we so often let out ‘unwholesome talk’ (or ‘corrupting talk’ in the ESV) in the name of ‘banter’ and forget that we should be aiming to edify each other in the name of Christ. I confess that I do get caught up in the banter from time to time, but hate that I have been so insensitive towards the subjects of my jokes. I do apologize if I have offended you at all in the past. Please do not refrain from rebuking me or any other guy when we engage in such humour.

    Love and blessings,
    James

    1. Normally I’m up for a bit of banter, but sometimes certain bits can be so repeated that it’s hard to tell what’s being said lightheartedly and what’s actually at the root of things! This post isn’t directed at anyone in particular, I actually just found it in my drafts when I was scheduling some posts and thought I’d publish it. The Ephesians verse is such a convicting one, for this and for all areas; I know I too am often guilty of unedifying talk! Another set of verses to throw into play:

      [3:1] For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
      [2] a time to be born, and a time to die;
      a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
      [3] a time to kill, and a time to heal;
      a time to break down, and a time to build up;
      [4] a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
      a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
      [5] a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
      a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
      [6] a time to seek, and a time to lose;
      a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
      [7] a time to tear, and a time to sew;
      a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
      [8] a time to love, and a time to hate;
      a time for war, and a time for peace.
      (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV)

  2. love this post sarah, i must confess I have been one to make sandwich-esque jokes (actually more so about the right to vote…) – apologies….but I think this is very interesting, particularly from your CoS background which can at times appear to be Mr macho and mrs doormat. So many of my church family at home who i would define as heros are older women ( many married unfortunately)

    I ❤ WOMEN!

  3. Thanks for posting this Sarah, its good to know someone else thinks the way I do, I’ve been struggling recently with what women’s role is in the church and how this is expressed biblically – its nice good to know someone else has been thinking about this as well.

    1. As I also said to Sanstrom (someone I don’t know commented on my blog; *squee* :P) Glad you liked the post! Writing it kinda helped me process some of my thoughts, so if it is in any way helpful to others then I’m so glad 🙂 I guess being called to be counter-cultural was never going to be easy…

  4. Thanks for the post Sarah! – just came across it on Facebook. Good to get your point of view. I think it’s fascinating how much of an effect somebody’s upbringing can have on their views about such matters. Coming from a CofS background myself – up in Skye – I’ve (like Ian) been privileged to get to know many strong Christian women.

    The Eph 4:29 verse is great too. Such a challenge in a time and place where ‘banter’ – which so easily becomes unwholesome – is the norm. Wouldn’t it be so noticeably different if all we chatted about was “only what is helpful for building others up”?

    Blessings,
    Alan

  5. Hi Sarah, good to read your thoughts. I think the other thing to remember is how incredibly “tough” it was to be a women in Old and in New Testament times. Many prostitutes would be in that situation because they had been divorced and chucked out on the streets, and then were rejected again by having to resort to prostitution, a female child would be the lowest of the low (I like to think the child that Jesus brought into the middle of the disciples was a girl!). Jesus turned all this on its head – sitting with the Samaritan woman, allowing and praising Mary for anointing his feet, having women as the first witnesses at his resurrection (women? their testimony was worthless!) .Paul mentions women and includes them in the lists of people who are leading and serving the new churches in his letters. That was radical. So what about us? Male and female? Who are the ones who are “outside” in our society? Who do we need to sit with and bring Christ’s love? Maybe it’s the guys who our society has marginalised, and they aren’t sure of what it means to be a man any more – because our society has taken that away from them? Just some of my thoughts in response to yours!

    1. Yes, very true… I think the key thing to be drawn from this is perhaps that it’s never easy to be a human or a Christ-follower in any culture!

  6. I enjoyed this post although it made me feel old… I’ve been married for 12 years – and chose to say “obey” in the vows – which caused a sharp intake of breath all round!
    Eph 4 29 is also one of my all time favourite verses.
    On my anniversary I posted about Christian marriage, a little, as well as reminiscing about the ‘understated chic’ theme….
    You are welcome to drop by.
    http://weescoops.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/that-is-like-so-last-century…/

    1. Glad you liked the post! Writing it kinda helped me process some of my thoughts, so if it is in any way helpful to others then I’m so glad 🙂 I guess being called to be counter-cultural was never going to be easy…

  7. I have never had a problem with gender roles – a man is a man, and a woman, a woman… We have our unique roles, in not only our families and society, but also in the worldwide church, and our biological gender does have an effect. That is not to say that I believe that woman are automatically submissive to men, because I have so rarely seen that being acted out as a reality: maybe it is coming from Yorkshire where the woman definitely rule the house, the family and the church. But we are unique genders, and it is plainly obvious that we were created for separate purposes – I trust I will not upset anyone when I point out that men cannot bear children, but that there would be no children without them (and I’m referring to traditional methods only here… and even still, it does boil down to both a man and a woman’s genetics). So how can we say that one is more important than the other, when some things just don’t happen without both. God created both man AND woman in his own image, so He must have had a plan for both to put so much effort into both.

    St Paul is an odd character, and he does somewhat contradict himself. Woman are portrayed strongly and positively as characters, yet he has – as you so eloquently pointed out Sarah – called for them to submit to man and be silent. Maybe this is a suggestion towards the conflicting thoughts that plague the bible, or maybe towards each discerning their own position in life, maybe even both. Perhaps it was just the place that they were then, and was not meant to be read in the same way 2,000 years later (given that the early church preached an apocalypse that was imminent, we can assume they had no intention of it being read so far in the future…).

    I feel like quoting Matrix Reloaded: “Some things never change…” “And some things do…” We CAN change some of the roles that we perform, but others cannot and we just have to accept them. Whichever you choose, please do try to ensure that it makes you happy.

    Thanks for posting such a thought provoking blog, Sarah; I hope my comment is not too confusing – I was trying to cut it down, because I could have said so much more.

    xxx

    1. I’m so glad this post has struck a chord with so many people and generated some discussion! It’s also very interesting to read other’s views on the matter; I’ve been reading the rather persuasive John Piper on the issue (darn his free availability of his eBooks! [http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/online-books/biblical-foundations-for-manhood-and-womanhood]) but this is a reminder it’s good to hear from other sides.

      I’d be wary of dismissing anything from the Bible out of hand merely due to cultural context – after all, eg 2 Timothy 3:16 does state that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”. So even though the authors might not have thought it would be read 2000 years on, God knew. There are some things which might change with culture, but God is not one of them, and we shouldn’t try to make Him. (See also my reply to the comment below on this.)

      In His love,

      Sarah x

  8. It seems to me as if some people have selective literalism when it comes to interpreting the Bible. Very few of these people insisting women belong in the kitchen, women can’t preach, women should submit to and obey their husbands… are also insisting they should cut off one of their own hands to keep the other from sinning, or that women should never show their hair in public, or that it’s okay to own slaves.

    It’s very clear from the way Jesus lived his life on earth and from what he considers the two greatest commandments (neither of which speaks directly to gender roles, homosexuality, abortion, or any other current hot-button issues) that the biggest problem God faces is humans being legalistic, judgmental, and haughty instead of loving, humble, and understanding.

    I’d highly recommend Rebecca Groothuis’s Good News for Women: A Biblical Picture of Gender Equality to any Christians feeling conflict over wanting to be Biblical Christians but having trouble figuring out how that fits in with the apparent sexism in the church.

    By the way, some people may use the term feminist as an insult, but I think it’s great to be a feminist, and even better to be a feminist Christian.

    1. Thanks for the book recommendation; it looks interesting!

      And a good point, too, that love is meant to be the centre of everything we do: love for God and love for others. Those that speak of submission and leadership do best when they emphasise the intended loving nature of each. I’ve just started reading Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood by John Piper and Wayne Grudem (available as a free eBook
      here) and it’s interesting, espousing a complementarian rather than egalitarian view… I’ll need to read further to see if I agree!

      I think there are reasons for everything that’s in the Bible as God’s word, and it’s a bit presumptuous of us to pick and choose or dismiss anything out of hand; especially, perhaps, the issue of gender roles as it is so intrinsic to our lives. I don’t know if the examples you mention are necessarily representative of people picking and choosing – “wives” covering their hair when praying and prophesying would then have been a symbol of marriage which could be translated today to wearing a wedding ring. And Jesus’ cutting off of hands was *probably* an exaggeration for effect to emphasise how bad sin was. While slavery in the OT and even NT was a far cry from that which we saw in the past 300 years, with Jews meant to release each other from bondage every 7 years, and many slaves being well-provided for by their masters. (I think, anyway, I’m no heavy historian so may be wrong!). Whereas gender roles are more strongly emphasised from the Fall right through to the Epistles.

      But at heart, it and other questions are, as you say, peripheral to the main goal of Godly love. 🙂

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