So here we go, part three of “Third Way Womanhood”. Last week I wrote about my experiences with what I called, “The Fearlessly Feminine” camp (and can I just say, even with a whole week of working on that post and consequentially writing the word “feminine” like a billion times—I still manage to misspell it. Thank God for spell check!). This week, I’m going to share my experiences with what I will call the “Liberated Christian Woman” camp or LCW for short. The titled “liberated woman” comes from Rachel Held Evans, a leader of this group, who identified herself as such in her recent New York Times Bestseller, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How A Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof and Calling her Husband “Master” (emphasis mine).
“At first I was afraid; I was petrified” Gloria Gaynor
The only thing I knew about this camp of women who asked hard questions and didn’t take platitudes as viable answers, was that most of them were (gasp) egalitarian which means that most of them were (clutch my chest in horror) feminists. Feminists were so vilified by the other camp as women who have rejected the Word, that in the beginning of my foray into liberated Christian womanhood, I was incredibly nervous.
Confession: the first few months of learning from Liberated Christian Women, I made sure to wear my Targét bras instead of my fancy Vicki S. brassieres, just in case the power of their words caused me to break out into a bra-burning fit of ecstasy.
Just kidding. Maybe.
In any case, I found that stereotype to be untrue, so I settled in (fancy bras and all), added their blogs to my RSS reader, and sighed with relief. I thought I had finally found my home with the Liberated Christian Women.
These women are impressive. Truly. As Elizabeth Bennett says in the 2005 version of “Pride and Prejudice”, such accomplished women are “…a fearsome thing to behold”. They are scholars, intellectuals, activists, writers, and professionals. They are plucky, strong-willed, rebellious, and courageous. They are the stuff of legendary heroines.
Which is why I gravitated towards them when I realized I didn’t quite self identify as “Fearlessly Feminine”.
“All of me, why not take all of me?” Billie Holiday
When I think of these women, I think of Jesus’ teaching in the first part of Luke 10:27 where he gives us the “Cliff Notes” on a life that pleases God.
“Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.”
This holistic approach to faith that Jesus teaches is a game changer and the Liberated Christian Women do this incredibly well.
I love the way they’ve married intellect and faith—worshipping God with their minds and not just their mouths. I love the way their passion to reject social mores in the same way as Christ causes them to seek God’s Shalom in this broken world. They are using their strength and privilege to “get stuff done”. The LCW looks a lot like Christ and as a “Third Way Woman” who values Christ-likeness first and culture second, I’m inspired by these women to jump up and down in applause. You go girls!
“Let me upgrade u” Beyonce
Unfortunately for the LCW, with great enlightenment, comes the temptation to be proud and arrogant. When we allow ourselves to get our life and identity from what we know and how well we can communicate it, the same destructive spirit of the mommy wars creeps in and creates an unnecessary tiered system of acceptance.
Within in the LCW camp it looks like this:
If you say… write strongly worded articles calling chauvinist pastors to account, speak of hierarchy like it’s the machinations of the devil himself, and throw in comments like, “I hate the Proverbs 31 woman”—then you, my dear, are at the top. Your Disqus comments will get “big ups” and you’ll be hailed as a truly, liberated woman.
If you say…write eloquently about oppressed women in third world countries, have pictures of your recent trip to Africa on your website, and raise money to build orphanages or schools for starving children —then you, my dear, are the darlings of this camp. You’ll get speaking invitations, you’ll raise tons of money, and the ladies on the top tier will write blog posts about you, calling you a “woman of valor”.
But, if you are in this camp and you choose to submit to your husband because of Christ’s example, you want to be a great homemaker so that your home can be a place of ministry to all who enter, and you view your motherhood as a ministry to your children —then you’d better keep that to yourself. Quote Ephesians a lot and throw in an anecdote about your hatred of cleaning for good measure. Shhhh…keep it a secret that you’re truly this way because if they catch wind that you affirm a more traditional expression of femininity then you, my dear, may be pitied. Some of them may even make it their labor of love to correct your antiquated and misguided thinking—hopefully upgrading you from an uninteresting housewife to a fiery, modern woman.
This reminds me of a scene in “Mona Lisa Smile”. Katherine Watson (played by Julia Roberts), is a modern, freethinking Berkeley graduate who accepts a position as an Art History professor at Wellesley College, a prestigious all girls school in New England (not too far from Cambridge, where I live). The movie follows Watson as she challenges the girls to actualize their potential and be more than the homemaker and mother that was expected of a well-bred 1950’s woman. When Watson learns that one of her most promising students, Joan Brandwyn would have to turn down her acceptance to Yale Law School to marry her boyfriend who got into Penn State, Watson sprang into well meaning liberated woman “upgrading” action.
I can relate to Joan. To me this scene communicates the frustration of women who embrace more “liberal” ideologies, but make more “conservative” choices such as becoming homemakers, mothers, and wives, perfectly.
In my case, I’ve chosen to stay home, express my femininity in more ”girly” ways, and submit to my husband, not to achieve a cultural standard or promise of a “biblical” label, but because I did my homework and I processed them with God in prayer. I’ve let my personality and passions inform these decisions and I’m happy with my life. I don’t want to be pitied or “upgraded” by the LCW. I want their encouragement as a sister in Christ and their respect as an equally liberated woman.
“All I’m asking is a for a little respect” Aretha Franklin
I’ve found the Liberated Christian Woman to have a great capacity for love and acceptance. I am so impressed with Rachel Held Evan’s humility to learn from those who are different than her, especially right now as she’s processing, Justin Lee’s book, “Torn” with her online community.
She’s bridging gaps with her respectful tone and honest conversations.
But I have to ask…
Where are the respectful and honest conversations for women who embrace submission and feminism? Where are the respectful conversations about the spirituality of homemaking? Where is the respectful and honest conversation that there may be a negative knee-jerk reaction against more traditional expressions of femininity because of wounds dealt from overeager “biblical women”?
As Evans has shown us, we can bridge the gaps with respectful conversations between seemingly opposite groups within the Body. She said some lovely things on holy homemaking here, but maybe we need more than a soundbite. Maybe an “ask a stay at home mom….homemaker….submissive wife…etc.” is in order.
“Sisters O sisters, let’s stand up right now” Yoko Ono
Jesus’ last prayer in the garden of Gethsemane before heading to the cross was that we’d be unified as He is with the Father.
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
According to Jesus, our unity as believers, in spite of our differences, will transform the world as we love one another unconditionally.
Sisters, o sisters, let’s stand up together and “get stuff done”. Let’s stand up against injustice as one Body of women on a mission. Let’s recogni
ze the pea-brained attempts of the enemy to distract us with suspicion, arrogance, bitterness, and pride towards our sisters that only serves to hinder authentic connection and prevents the creation of Shalom for the hurting.
I am a Third Way Woman, a reconciling woman, and that makes me a biblical woman.
Even before the cross, the bedrock of Jesus’ ministry was reconciliation: reconciling us to God and teaching us to reconcile with one another. Think of the disciples. Why else would Jesus invite a tax collector and a zealot into the same community and then commission them to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19), if he didn’t expect them to work through their differences and become true brothers in the faith?
It probably wasn’t easy. I imagine eyes were rolling and chests heaving in irritated sighs. I also imagine there were sweet moments of confession, forgiveness, and finally, reconciliation before breaking bread in communion and reminding themselves for whom they did it all. They did it in remembrance, deep reverence, and holy respect for their Lord Jesus Christ.
It won’t be easy for us too, but as a Third Way Woman, I pray for reconciliation between the Fearlessly Feminine and LCW camp. I hope for honest, respectful conversations that end with both women proclaiming, “eschet chayil” of each other. I hope for spaces to break bread together in remembrance, deep reverence, and a holy respect for our Lord Jesus Christ.
Next week, I’ll explore ways we can bring peace and reconcile with one another, in spite of our differences. What are some ways you’ve felt misunderstood or marginalized by the other camp, either “Fearlessly Feminine” or “Liberated Christian Woman”? What is one thing you’d tell her that you don’t think she knows or would be surprised to hear? What, if any, of my experiences resonated with you? I’d love to hear, pray for you, and consider them for next week’s final post on Third Way Womanhood