Last week I posted the beginning of this email exchange between Loretta and me about my article Woman to woman: Answering the call of Titus 2. Thanks to those who shared their thoughts. Here's the rest of it, starting with my reply to Loretta. Tell me what you think!
Do you know, I think you're right, and if I could go back and rewrite the second paragraph in the biblical womanhood section, I would! I’d keep the emphasis of the article on Titus 2:3-5 – these are the clearest verses in the Bible about what women should teach to women – but I think you’re right about the overall tone of the biblical womanhood section. I do think the qualifications need to be there (although the sentence on work was originally in a footnote) but I agree that I should have talked more strongly about the positive content of teaching on biblical womanhood. Ah, well, that’s the nature of writing: you do your best, but it’s never perfect!
Now, as to your question about examples of teaching which (unintentionally) encourage “home idolatry”: I’ve listened to a lot of talks and read a lot of books about godly womanhood coming out of America, and while they've been of immense help to me and I think Australian Christians have a huge amount to learn from them (especially about the practical implications of biblical womanhood), there's sometimes a tendency to make single women feel like their whole life should be a preparation for marriage and motherhood. I find this very disturbing. There’s also a tendency for married women to be encouraged to create a beautiful home, which I think smacks more of materialistic Western culture than of Christianity. I don’t need to be encouraged to idolise my home: I’m already tempted to do this!
I’m not sure you’re right when you say, "If you are married, then there's nothing more valuable than motherhood" – not that I think you’ll disagree with me once I explain. There are childless women who desperately long for children; and if you’re married with children, marriage is your primary human relationship before motherhood. But even marriage doesn’t come first. The same thing is of first importance (1 Cor 15:3) for mums as for any other Christian: God’s kingdom and the glory of Jesus.
For married women with young children, the focus of this service will be husband, children and home. But if I make motherhood the central value of my life then I risk making my children central, and loving my family more than God (which Jesus warns us against - Lk 14:26). For example, I might not become a missionary because of the risk to my kids, or I might use my focus on home as an excuse not to do ministries that make me uncomfortable. For me, the temptation is the opposite – to do too much ministry at the expense of my family. I think it depends on our personalities and on the tendencies of the Christian culture we live in. (I tried to nut out some of these issues in my posts on balancing homemaking and ministry. You might enjoy the extended discussion in the comments!)
Thanks for your constructive feedback. It’s very helpful to me, and will help me to write and teach about this more clearly in future.
The third and fourth paragraph in your email really clarified for me a woman's priorities. I'm just trying to make sure I really understand this: Can you look at the following paragraph and tell me if you agree, and how I can refine my logic better?
For all women our priority is God's kingdom and Jesus' glory. This expresses itself in different ways according to our stage in life. For those who are married, we are to focus on submitting to our husbands and [if we have children] raising godly offspring. Not saying that these are the only things you are ever to do with your life, but these are important things that married women can do in service of God. The purpose of raising your up godly offspring is so that you as a family can serve others. So it wouldn't make sense that you be so absorbed in family life that you neglect those outside your family, because the purpose of your family is to serve God by serving each other and also those very people. Also, it would make sense to become missionaries and take your kids to a dangerous/backward place to live because that could be useful in teaching your kids how you can love others and desire their salvation so much that you are willing to sacrifice comfort and friends.
I think your paragraph is spot-on.
Once again, I'd love to hear your thoughts: about biblical womanhood, about my article, or about "household idolatry".
images are from James Paterson Art and 'karen' at flickr