If In Doubt, Blame Feminism

Recently Denny Burk, a professor at Boyce College of Southern Seminary, wrote an article that essentially blamed feminism for Elizabeth Wurtzel’s fall from glory and arrival at a low spot in life.

I do not believe feminism is to blame for all women who find themselves single. Nor do I think that feminism alone accounts for all the moral pathologies on display in Wurtzel’s article. But I do believe that feminism has provided the social context for women to be congratulated by the culture for sad choices that they make. Third wave feminism in particular–and especially its tendency to ape male promiscuity–has left many women desolate and alone. As one feminist put it, these women have become the shocked victims of their own sex lives.

He did not make us unisex. He did not make us genderless humanoids with no direction for our intimate lives. He made us male and female. And for those to whom it has been given, He made us to give ourselves away to years of finding stale Cheerios in every hidden crevice of the minivan, to seasons of graduations and of anniversaries and of empty nests, to gray years with the love of your life who is your best friend, to lifetimes of covenant love.

Feminism is the killer of that dream, even though precious few seem to notice.

Burk, among other popular conservative evangelicals such as John Piper, is a complementarian. This term is defined in Christian-dome as someone who believes that the Bible requires women to submit to male leadership in the household, marriage, church, and possibly beyond. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is a complementarian group dedicated to promoting the idea that men and women are equal in God’s eyes, but have separate and complementary roles in the home and church. Men are to lovingly lead and women are to intelligently submit in the home AND there are some governing and teaching roles in the church which are solely restricted to men. There are many, including myself, who would classify this line of thought as patriarchy.

Burk’s post is not surprising coming from an outspoken proponent of complentmentarianism and anti-feminism, but it is quite troubling. It’s troubling that leaders in conservative evangelicalism have such disdain for feminism. Granted, the term “feminism” has encompassed many different faces through the years, yet at the very core of the definition, is female equality, not superiority. Burk seems to blame feminism for Wurtzel’s woes. It’s feminism’s fault that she doesn’t have a family, money, investments, real estate, etc. It’s feminism which congratulated and encouraged her to live such a life and it’s feminism which has left her alone and desolate in 2012. He then calls feminism the “killer of a dream”… the dream of seeing children graduate, searching for your kid’s lost cheerios in between the minivan seats, and going gray with the love of your life.

There is something very alarming in Burk’s logic and his words. Granted, in the blogging world you seek to create articles that will ruffle feathers, so I understand that aspect, but what alarms me is that he really believes this about feminism. And he is not alone. Patriarchy is a popular idea in evangelicalism and has spent many unfortunate years lingering in the moral framework of American households, businesses, and churches. It is a vile thing that continues to create imbalance in the places it pervades. The truth of patriarchy is that it doesn’t help men either. One person being the head of another based on fixed gender is equally as damaging and awful for the head as it is the foot. An imbalance is created when women give life through birth and men take it over. I strongly believe that gender equality is a prerequisite for peace. So to suggest that feminism (the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men) is to blame for this woman’s life choices and subsequent disenfranchisement is completely unfounded and actually, quite illogical. Her choices were her own and I cannot speculate on her life choices as I have very little knowledge of them. It is very possible for a woman to promote women’s equality AND have a loving, stable, egalitarian marriage with a man. AND have children in that marriage. Children who require her to clean cheerios out of the minivan and children who will eventually graduate from college and leave an empty nest.

Remember that it is possible for both a man and a woman to be feminists, to promote women’s equality. It seems like one Jewish man did it a few thousand years ago and he changed the world.

Does complementarianism/ patriarchy have a place in marriage, the church, or society? Do you agree that gender equality is a prerequisite for peace?

6 thoughts on “If In Doubt, Blame Feminism

  1. Gender equality a prerequisite for peace…the world will not find peace until people rid themselves of their ego and selfishness…i fear the world will never no peaceFp

  2. I agree that ego and selfishness fuel matters of gender inequality… also misinterpretations of the Bible. Working for equality and balance… this is the way to peace, but you are totally right, it takes selflessness and working for the good of the whole and not one's self all of the time. Thanks for your voice here!

  3. *sigh* You're not gonna like this, Kate, but a brief (or thorough, for that matter) review of the history of Christianity will show that Christianity is virtually synonymous with patriarchy. It's not just in the tradition or the dogma either, it's in the canon. I've commented before on the apostle Paul's mysogyny, but he is far from the only one who devalues women in the Bible. To be fair, it comes from thousands of years of cultural tradition from many different cultures. It's one reason that the early church fought so hard to stamp out old religions: many of them had a philosophic orientation that was the polar opposite of the power structure in Christianity. Many of the old religions valued women for their fertility and considered them sources of creation and power, thus revering them. Matriarchy as the seat of spirituality (and the power that such a position wields) was one of the things Christianity sought to overthrow. It should be noted at this point that I am speaking of Christianity and the early church, NOT the actual life and teachings of Jesus as we have come to understand them.No doubt at this point I will have been pegged as a pagan by some readers. Not so. My spirituality is uniquely my own and I refuse to be so easily categorized. But that leads me to my next point: far too many seek, like Mr. Burk has, to oversimplify and unjustly label other people who they have never known and about whose lives they know very little. It's human nature. We don't like things to be complicated, we like to have a handle on things. Not understanding is not being in control, and not being in control is being (your favorite word) VULNERABLE. You find it in every facet of our lives. It rears its head every time someone posts their opinion about why (insert any misfortune covered by the media) happened. Unless I was actually a part of the situation, the chances are very good that I don't understand all the relevant factors involved, and very, very good that my ill-informed opinion and smug answer will do absolutely no good and actually may do some harm. As a counselor, people remind me every day that they are wonderfully complex beings that do not fit into pigeonholes and are not easily categorized. After all this time, it turns out that the cliche of the old (supposedly) Indian Prayer holds a great deal of truth: God grant that I might not judge my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his shoes.

  4. Of course, I love the depth and history of your replies as they always offer me a deeper, more all-encompassing perspective. I’m happy to have your voice here on the blog! I too draw a large distinction between Jesus’ teachings and some of our modern Christian practices, such as patriarchy. And I completely that Prof. Burk seemed oversimplify a woman’s life that he knew very little of and then blame it on an ideology. It seemed like he had an agenda and didn’t mind making sweeping generalizations to achieve it.

    I completely identify with wanting to organize and label things and people because it’s so much simpler. I confess, I catch myself doing this, but really, you are completely right. People are much more complex and often do not fit into the boxes we create for them to fit into in our minds.

    Love, love your perspective. Thank you!

  5. it bothers me to think that this Dr…. whoever from Boyce college feels that it should be every woman’s dream to pick up food in a mini-van and grow old with their husband. What about her career? her education? is there anything outside her family and husband she cares about? I feel that if a man chose not to get married and start a family because we was pursuing other dreams and passions, it would be fine. There would be no blaming or sad glances at the poor man who was making ‘sad choices’. But for women, it becomes some type of malfunction in us when we are single. No one looks at what else you have accomplished in your life. It’s just, oh you’re single? No worries, there is still time… it’s annoying…

    • Right… he seems to innately know and claim what my desires/ life goals must be simply because I am a woman. I find that insulting and belittling. When I commit to someone for the rest of my life, it will not be because it is expected of me, it will not be because it is the next major goal in my life, it will be because I know deep down that life will be more joyous, more beautiful, more difficult, and yet deeper and enhancing with this person. Believing in women’s equality means that I believe in women’s equality, not that I am incapable of having a family or watching my children graduate. I don’t know why conservative evangelicals are so scared of women’s equality… they seek to control us because of this fear, and it’s just as detrimental for the inflicters as it is the recipients.

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