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Southern Baptists and Gender Roles

Okay, Megan and Melissa (and anyone else), thoughts on this?

They love to do their homework: At this Southern Baptist seminary, women who serve God also serve their husbands. Baking, sewing and laundry are part of the curriculum.

My thoughts: At first glance, I am enraged for several reasons. Not only does this sort of clear gender inequality rankle me on a basic level, but it also perpetuates the popular misconception that all Christian thought and practice is blatantly patriarchal and misogynistic. (Just to clarify to my non-churchy readers: there are several denominations that ordain women, including the ELCA and Episcopal churches, the two I most closely identify with.)

But taking a look a second time, I of course can't go around telling other people how to live their lives. If these women are truly fulfilled and feel that they are living the Gospel and following in Christ's example by living this way, who am I to argue? They probably get along much better in their backwards Southern communities this way. There's value in that -- albeit, at the expense of shaking up the status quo and perhaps working towards some true gender equality -- but in lieu of that?

Also, the idea of people learning how to keep a household is not inherently a bad idea. It just saddens me that this seminary recognized that their students aren't learning that stuff from their parents and larger family group (the best source of such knowledge) and need to actually offer formal instruction.

What do you think?


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Comments (6)

What I think: GAAAAH. The problem with it is that, like you, it's hard to argue with it, since I don't want to be guilty of telling other people how to live their lives. What I LOVE, though, is that a chunk of the American society thinks this is ok, maybe even commendable, while they're likely horrified by attitudes towards women espoused by, say, the cultures of the Middle East. Is there really that much difference? I wonder.

There is an absolutely cut-and-dry difference: everyone in this situation (the American one) is given a choice.

The fear that these people are making you look bad, Wick... not sure I buy that one either. There's a lot of 400 lb. programmers out there; there are quite a few Kenny G fans with black hair; there's a whole lot of male rapists. I can't hold any of them accountable for what people think of *me*. If someone judges me based on the qualities of others who share some of my same characteristics -- my gender, my faith, my race, my name, my hair color, my favorite television show -- that judgmental person is the one who is acting wrongly. It's not the person who shares my characteristics who is out of line.

Gang, this entire situation is not offensive in the least. These are adults, making decisions that don't harm anyone else. If there were a sect of the church that taught that parents should eat from their infants' diapers, I would be absolutely okay with living and letting live. Not something I'd want for myself, but if that's what they want, so be it.

Peace and Love.


I attended a wedding this summer where the pastor told the bride she was to submit to her husband as Christ to the church. It would have been okay had the word not been "submit" which automatically, to me, gives a tone of dominance to the position of the man. It also didn't help that the pastor knew nothing about the bride, but knew the groom well. He went on and on about how Tom was a genius and studying astrophysics was complicated and he must be really smart, and smart to marry Wendy,(good points for the pastor) but then asked Wendy, as if for the first time, what she was studying. She replied with astrophysics, the pastor brushed it off completely. I'm all for everyone doing what they wish as far as the educational path they decide to take, and I'd hope that women who wish to be ordained would find a denomination that would allow them to pursue that path. I do not like that a professor was fired from her teaching post because apparently the "man in charge" felt he was justified by a bible passage that says women shouldn't teach theology to men. Personally, I'm pretty happy with a smattering of religious beliefs that I've taken from an education in world religions and knowing when I was confirmed as a catholic, it was for my grandfather, and not for me. I would be able to let minor things go that I didn't agree with. But we all pick what's major that we battle for with our personal and religious views. I don't believe priests should have to remain chaste and not have wifes and families, I believe women should be allowed to preach, I don't think using birth control is a sin, nor is living with someone before you marry them. I also don't believe my role in life will consist of making a "happy home" by my lonesome. I see it as creating more conflict and resentment that good for me personally. But I suppose there is a sense of female empowerment in women that want to learn the so called status-quo traditional roles, because nowadays it pretty much IS against the norm to do so.

The point you make about the word "submit" is what Andrew & I decided was a big sticking point for us, as well. For all the article's talk about how "men and women are still equal", for my part, the minute you stick that word in there, equality goes out the window.

As a chick in one of the denominations who ordains chicks, currently studying with a denomination that does not, having recently been married in a specifically requested "no submit and obey" wedding, and living the double-standard expected of working wifes... I got nothin'.

The feminist in me reels. Why would these women think all they can do is make the home? Men can do that too, and sometimes need help - by one interviewee's one admission. If you're smart and capable, clearly God made you that way. Aren't you denying God's will by chaining yourself to the stove?

The theologian in me also reels. Indeed, SOME scripture says women should not speak in assembly and submit to their husbands. Do any of these quoted people know why? Do they have the cultural background for it? Do they compare it to other epistles, especially Paul's, that radically destroy gender barriers? No. Of course not. They take the verses that support their antiquated societal views and run.

At the same time, I'm with Andrew Kasper - there's always a choice. Truly, if a woman feels fulfilled in a career in the home, then why shouldn't she? If she feels she's truly doing God's will and serving her family, why can't she? And if a school wants to offer courses to fill in gaps left by busy families, why can't it? I might not like it, but then, I didn't get a concentration in homemaking.

When the world is made black and white, life is so much easier. If the Bible says men lead and women follow, that clarifies a whole damned lot. Thing is, it doesn't... not exactly... just like it doesn't exactly give a clear statement on a lot of things. People don't like shades of grey, it seems. So instead of grappling with faith and truly discerning God's will, they'll take what they're told by white men in cowboy boots. Which is, I guess, their prerogative.

Me, I'm super-pumped to preach from a pulpit, teach men, lead a household, and let my husband cook seeing as he loves it anyway. I don't personally think God minds. We're cool like that.

There are a lot of things I could say about this.

But it's an early to bed night for me, so I'll leave it at this:

It'd be one thing if this were a program open to everyone at the college (in which case I'd have to agree with others here who take on a "live and let live" sort of attitude about people making the choice to enter the program). But it's ONLY open to women, correct? That's where I have a problem. It's making a poor statement about what what women "should" do simply by making a statement about what men don't need to do. Does that make sense?

Ok. Sleeptime. I'll continue to ponder this and contribute later. :)


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