So, I’m sitting in my living room at my sofa table/ writing desk, sun shining, casting shadows all over my writing screens, animals pestering for attention. It’s Chicago in February! My body is also feeling enough pain for a decade. Moving is for the young in body and while my mind is ever young my body??? It’s seen better days. So far so good, Chicago is welcoming us with mild winter weather and minimal fuss. The wood floors are cold, windows uncovered, pictures placed-yet to be hung, most of the boxes are unpacked (books still to come and that could take awhile). My catch phrase for city living is “Conveniently inconvenient”. Everything is handy and near, yet a royal pain to get to.
While we’ve been moving life is going on in the outside world. The Grammys happened–eh, Beyonce’ and her tribute to oppressed and fruitful women, Adele and her pipes, Bruno and his multi-instrumental talent notwithstanding. Can’t remember when I’ve seen so many women’s mid body skin and side breasts in one evening…it’s like a cult.
Another thing that happened is the IF Gathering. From what I can tell it’s a new (3 yrs old) ministry movement of women in their mid 30s to early 40s who feel a call to empower and raise women from all walks of life to new levels of freedom. They believe the Nicene creed, they believe in financial transparency, asking only for donations in an amount affordable to each. They are passionate, well photographed, bestselling authors and bloggers and soooo pretty. It’s Christian (in case you didn’t know about the Nicene creed and such) so it’s message is Biblical. Most of them were raised in Christian homes, have attended college, some have divinity degrees and all are more literate than Tolkien.
I’m a longstanding avoider of all things Women’s Ministry. I can’t tell you how many retreats I’ve refused with the response, “If I’m going to retreat for a weekend it’s with my husband and room service”. I attended a women’s meeting in our large Foursquare church when we first married-1981. I was so turned off by the speaker who felt like she had to apologize for being angry at her children’s messy feet making marks on her clean floors, that I never went back. Mind you it was Portland Oregon in winter, messy feet are going to happen but in my economy teaching your kids to wipe their feet just seemed normal, nothing to apologize for. I couldn’t relate.
Years ago (many many years) my mother was deeply hurt by women in women’s ministry. She organized herself to go and help the women serve at a men’s dinner. She labored all day long to set herself up so she could be there. When she arrived she was told she wasn’t needed. Though she may have heard incorrectly about the official requirements for participating, it seemed snotty for them to turn her away. Kind of like the Martha club didn’t know how to welcome a new member. Mom’s life story is one of immeasurable pain and wounding so fitting into a women’s ministry organization might have unconsciously seemed like a way to surmount that background. It could have been validation that she not only survived but she overcame it. This became a flagship event in family church experiences.
Paul was the consummate NT commentator on women’s roles in Scripture, decidedly patriarchal in his tone. I have no issue with him, I see him in context and I understand his motives, his teaching never made me feel subservient or less than men. Churches needed organization, life was chaotic for new Christians in a foreign culture. Church culture was being established for the very first time and culture at large was patriarchal. Historically, the organized church has always leaned patriarchal, taking it’s cues from Scripture and the culture of the day. Not until the women’s movement here in America and abroad has the dynamic of women’s ministries evolved into what it is today. This generation of women leading women and their husbands were raised under the influence of feminism (indirectly if not directly) and their expectations of marriage, church involvement, life and careers are identified by it. No issues here. My own marriage and life have been decidedly patriarchal (as most currently demonstrated by our latest Bruce adventure here in Chicago), but it’s never stopped me from pursuing my interests or developing my skills, with full support from my husband.
While I believe in older women teaching the younger women to be content in their homes, I also believe that women growing as individuals is as important as the former. In past generations I think women’s ministries focused on the home component over the individual one leading this current generation to reject their mother’s version of women’s ministries. It’s unfortunate that both generations aren’t represented in current day women’s ministry events. Believe it or not, my generation is still teachable! And we have a lot of wisdom and experience to offer the younger generation, even if it’s simply practical life experience. But then, you can find most of that on YouTube these days.
I love women. I have long time women friends whom I have forged bonds with that will never be severed. Some are even non-Christian. Some are full time homemakers, others have careers, some have been abused and others have lived sheltered and secure lives. Sisterhood isn’t how I identify them, they are simply my friends. I value them as people and women all at once. I avoid language that smacks of “female empowerment” I think it’s cheap. Rising above is something all of us have to do as we progress in life, it’s not unique to women. And while I grieve the struggles of women around the world from various oppressive cultures, and though I wish they could have better opportunities, I feel strongly that every culture has it’s version of oppression and struggles. Even privileged, middle class, white, Evangelical, church raised, college educated cultures. Painful stories abound everywhere and pretty women’s ministries aren’t going to solve them. Often I find they exaggerate problems, turning otherwise contented women into dissatisfied ones. The celebrity of women’s ministry leaders leaving them feeling–less.
So while I dip my toe into women’s ministries from time to time, read a book by a current author and appreciate her gorgeous blog and family, I think I’m going to stick to my longstanding code of women’s ministry conduct–avoidance and skepticism. It’s served me well for 35 years.