I saw this meme on twitter and was able to download it. There is no web site on it, so if you know the source, let me know. It matches the theme of a book I will soon be reviewing. The book is actually a 1919 master’s thesis that was published in book form in 1927. It was reprinted in 1999, and I obtained one of those. This post will be a preamble for the book review.
The point is that women, rather than being seen as individuals, are viewed by their connection to another – generally a male. A woman’s position or privileges have been determined by her being the wife, mother, daughter, concubine, or mistress of a man. For much of history women were property, first of their fathers and then of their husbands. While women have gained much freedom, remnants of this remain.
This is not how things were meant to be. In a previous post, I share some comments from a commentary on Genesis. After the Fall in Genesis 3,
“marriage would gravitate towards the sub-personal relationship foreshadowed in the terms ‘desire’ and ‘rule‘…Polygamy is partly to blame for this, but polygamy is itself the symptom of an unbalanced view of marriage, which regards it as an institution in which the wife’s ultimate raison d’etre is the production of children. Where God had created the woman first and foremost for partnership, society made her in effect a means to an end, even if a noble end, and wrote its view into its marriage contracts.”
In regards to the creation of the woman in Genesis 2:18-25, the commentary further states:
“So the woman is presented wholly as his partner and counterpart; nothing is yet said of her as childbearer. She is valued for herself alone.”
Isn’t that wonderful? The woman is valued for herself alone. Don’t misunderstand. We were designed for relationship, and men and women need each other, but women (and men) have value and worth as individuals alone. Men and women are both made in the image of God, and reflect God in this unique way that other creatures do not.
In the past and present, it is not a problem for men to be perceived as individuals in their own right.
But for women? No. As stated, a woman’s position or privileges have been determined by her being the wife, mother, daughter, concubine, or mistress of a man. While women do have many freedoms today, even women themselves often view themselves in regards to their status as a wife or mother. A woman’s identity can get wrapped up almost entirely in her status as a wife or mom.
Again, don’t misunderstand. Being a wife or mom is important.
But it is not everything.
Some women, for a variety of reasons, may never be a wife and/or mother, yet these women still have worth and value.
More importantly, as Christians, our identity should first and foremost be in Christ. Not in our status as wife or mother.
Family can become an idol. When I delve into the master’s thesis in a coming post, it will be pointed out how Jesus called women to higher things – their relationship with HIM. Yes, their families were important, but remember Jesus made some rather strong and startling statements about priorities, and the spiritual taking precedence over family.
A marriage book I recently read gave me some thoughts and observations. An egalitarian approach to marriage and the Christian life frees us to truly make Christ our focus. I do not mean to insinuate that complementarians do not have a focus on Jesus, but nonetheless their approach can lead to distraction, with the so-called distinct roles of men and women taking precedence. A woman can be seen primarily as the helper of a man, in the negative sense of that word helper. *
I heard a seminary professor say, “Our truest masculine and feminine selves happen when we are pursuing Jesus.” – Amen! Complementarianism can create a reversed focus, where cultural gender roles become the lens through which everything else is viewed. This contributes to the problem of women anchoring their identity in their status as wife or mom, rather than in Christ. Jesus should be the focal point of our lives.
Finally, I will close with a quote from the master’s thesis. I am still debating how to handle the next posts: a single book review or divide it into several parts. Likely the later.
“The women of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries who have been striving to do away with differences of opportunity based upon sex have had no desire to repudiate the relationships that are normally theirs because of their sex. Their protest has been against being considered as primarily creatures of these relationships. They would first be persons, then wives and mothers, as men are first persons, then husbands and fathers…It is the purpose of this treatise to show that, in spite of the obscurantism and misrepresentation of which the Church has been guilty, this was exactly the attitude toward woman of the Founder of Christianity Himself.”
The thesis is entitled “The Attitude of Jesus Toward Woman” (by M. Madeline Southard) and it very successfully demonstrates that Jesus treated women, not as creatures of their relationships, but as persons in themselves. You are someone!
Join me next week!
*Note I said that a complementarian approach can…Not always or definitively, but I see it as a very real weakness.