The Conservative, Christian Case for Working Women by J. Merritt
Some of the few complementarian Christians I follow on social media did not like this article at all. They seem to find any criticism of their position, or any suggestion of other options for women, to be a great affront to complementarianism itself, or to God or the Bible. Why do they feel their movement is so fragile?
Christian women who reject complementarianism – some of them may go by various labels, such as “Jesus feminists,” or “egalitarians,” or “mutualists,” don’t seek to limit women the way complementarians do. Non-complementarian men and women do not mind if a woman chooses to be a stay at home wife and mother.
However, complementarians do not truly afford all women, and especially not non-complementarian, women this same courtesy.
Much complementarian content will pay “lip service” to respect a woman’s right to choose to work outside the home and so on, but often times, from what I’ve seen, that very same site, or authors on some other complementarian site, will cry and clutch their pearls in sorrow or grief that more and more Christian women are choosing to stay single, not have children, and/or to work outside the home.
Notice that in this article, at one point, complementarian Owen Strachan, who is a spokes-head for complementarian group CBMW, comes right out and says egalitarianism, or any departure from complementarianism, is supposedly a sin.
Egalitarians are all about giving women more choices, telling them to go after their dreams, and doing whatever they feel God has led them to do.
Complementarians really chaff at that. Complementarians want women in boxes. I wrote a much older post saying that (Link): this is one reason of several I really have been struggling with holding on to the Christian faith. I was raised in a Christian family that bought into many of these complementarian ideas, and it’s not something that worked out well for me in my life.
(Link): The Conservative, Christian Case for Working Women by J. Merritt
- An evangelical Christian and avowed feminist argues that God intends every woman to work.
- The final episode of Leave it To Beaver aired in June of 1963, but many conservative Christians still promote a vision of womanhood reminiscent of June Cleaver. When Tobin Grant, political-science professor at Southern Illinois University, analyzed General Social Survey data from 2006, he found that nearly half of evangelical Christians agreed with this statement: “It is much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family.”
- Forty-one percent agreed that “a preschool child is likely to suffer if his or her mother works.” For these evangelicals, a woman’s place in the world is to get married, bear children, and support her breadwinning husband.
- Katelyn Beaty—the managing editor of Christianity Today,America’s largest evangelical Christian publication—has set out to change this notion of gender. Her new book, A Woman’s Place, claims to reveal “the surprising truth about why God intends every woman to work.”
- This declaration may surprise many of her magazine’s 80,000 print subscribers and 5 million monthly website visitors. And it may also rouse many of her fellow evangelicals who believe her ideas defy the Bible’s clear teaching, if not qualifying as outright heresy. While Beaty knows criticism may be coming her way, she is making a conservative Christian case for working women.
- “I’m wanting to tell wives and mothers that there is so much inherent goodness in the call to work and that we needn’t pit certain types of roles against each other,” Beaty said. “There are ways to be a devoted wife and mother and a devoted CEO. In the church, we need to make space for women who feel called to both at the same time.”
- …In meetings with Christian men outside of the company, she often feels invisible. Sometimes it is as subtle as the way someone establishes eye contact; other times, she is blatantly ignored by her male peers.
- …“No one’s explicitly said to me, ‘I don’t want to talk to you because you’re a woman,’ or ‘I don’t value your insights because you’re a woman,’” she said. “It’s all in body language and subconscious symbols of who has the power in a room and who doesn’t.”
- …“All women are called to have influence—cultural influence outside of the private sphere of the home,” Beaty said. “It wouldn’t necessarily have to be a career track, but certainly all Christians, including all Christian women, are called to have cultural influence outside the home.”
- …This begs a question: What about stay-at-home moms? While Beaty said she wants to affirm the value of the labor of motherhood, she considers it a separate category. While she isn’t willing to call full-time mothering “sinful,” she encourages women with children to assess their talents and put those to use outside of their households.
- …Much of Beaty’s thinking might sound uncontroversial to those outside of her religious community, but her ideas may rankle many insiders.
- While (Link): most Americans support equality of rights and opportunities for women in every social sphere, many conservative Christians have resisted this view.
- One such Christian group is the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), which was (Link): founded in 1987 to combat feminism and promote the idea that God has assigned men and women have “distinct and complementary roles.”
- Part of the (Link): rationale for their work is what they perceive as a “widespread ambivalence regarding the values of motherhood [and] vocational homemaking” within American culture. CBMW believes husbands are to be the primary providers for their families and offer leadership as the heads of their homes and churches. Wives are called to be submissive to their husband’s leadership and “ (Link): forsake resistance to their husbands’ authority.”
- Owen Strachan, the president of CBMW and co-author of The Grand Design: Male and Female He Made Them, agreed with Beaty that God intends both men and women to work.
- But he said the work they are called to do is distinct. Men are to be the primary breadwinners—Strachan once controversially called stay-at-home dads “(Link): man fails”—who should not be “(Link): working at home” like women. He said the Bible teaches that a woman’s “(Link): intended sphere of labor” is the home. Deviation from this model is sinful, in his view.
- …“Egalitarian” views like Beaty’s have been labeled heresy by some prominent (Link): Christian leaders. Many conservative Christians are suspicious of anyone who calls him or herself a feminist.
- …Tens of millions of Americans hold … [sexist] views [which they defend using cherry picked verses from the Bible, or from distorted interpretations of the Bible]. Evangelicals may be one of the last pockets of resistance to gender equality in America, and they remain one of the country’s most influential and politically active groups.