Radical Womanhood

Oct. 10, 2008 Carolyn McCulley

Session Transcript

Carolyn McCulley: I’m very, very grateful to see you all here. I’m grateful to be a part of this conference. When Nancy asked me to participate, I thought, You’ve got such a stellar lineup. But the fact that I get to come along and add levity to the live blogging, and Tim’s doing all the serious stuff, and I’m doing all the silly stuff, and to be able to address all of you here today is such an immense privilege.


The title of today’s session is “Radical Womanhood.” If I had known that one day I’d be standing at a conference called True Woman, speaking to you all about my conversion from feminism to faith, I just would have looked at you like you were from another planet. It just was not part of my thinking or my plans for the future. I am actually standing before you today as a certified feminist. I received my Women’s Studies certificate and my degree in journalism from the University of Maryland back in 1984.


Growing up, my mom had faithfully taken me to church and to participate in her denomination, but I did not understand the Gospel. I did not participate in it. I went through the rites, but I was not regenerated with the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ until I was 30. Now prior to that time, I had pursued every worldly standard. The thing that amazes me about being at the same conference with a woman like Mary Kassian is that when I read Mary Kassian’s book The Feminist Mistake years later as a Christian (which if you haven’t read, I highly recommend to you), I was stunned. I read an account of my entire life.


I was born in 1963, the year that Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique was published. I was in grade school when Title 9 education was passed, allowing equal access to sports, etc. for girls—not necessarily a bad thing, but just part of the trend in the culture. I went to college starting in 1981, and I was among the first wave of Women’s Studies’ students. I didn’t realize that what I thought was a series of independent choices was actually me kind of caught in the drift of our culture, being moved along with forces that were greater than I was. I had no idea how much I had been shaped by the culture.


I had friends who went through the University of Maryland with me who did get their degree in Women’s Studies as well, and they went on to become politically active feminists. I did not. I was more your Cosmopolitan brand of feminist, kind of like, “Go, girl power,” and “Get what you want.” Some people will say, “She used to be a radical feminist,” but I never really was. I was just a reflection of our culture.


But I will tell you this, I was—and still am—the oldest of three girls, although I like to tell my sisters, since they are married and have children, they are actually older than me now, and I’m going to become the youngest sister. But I haven’t gotten away with that yet. I was the oldest of three girls, and my middle sister, Alice, became a Christian while she was in college through the ministry of Campus Crusade. She and her roommate Adele used to pray for me on a regular basis. I, on the other hand, was the sister that, when she came to visit, I was like (imitating smoking a joint), “Hey, want to bug it?” And they were like, “Okay, we’re really praying, praying, praying, praying.” I suggested going to NC-17-rated movies, you know when they first came out. I was just that bad influence. I didn’t see myself that way, of course—I thought I was just doing what you do when you’re in college. I didn’t see the anger; I didn’t see the sinful judgment; I didn’t see the self-centeredness. I just saw myself as being normal.


When I went on vacation to South Africa in 1993 and had the opportunity there on Easter Sunday to hear the Gospel, I knew I would probably go to church, because I was visiting that same sister who was studying at a Bible College there. I figured, “Oh, over a three-week vacation, we’ll have to go to church at least three times, but I can deal with that.” I had no idea that God had planned to just open up my eyes and ears and heart to the truth of the Gospel on Easter Sunday in 1993.


I remember thinking, I know God has done something, and some things are going to have to change, and I don’t know that I want to. I was one of those women who kind of backed into the kingdom—beep, beep, beep. I wasn’t that immediate convert, like yoo-hoo! I knew God had done something, and I knew my will was going to have to be shaken, but I had no idea I couldn’t just sort of add church to everything else about me. I had no idea God was going to turn me upside down and shake loose every idea out of me as so much pocket change.


What I appreciate about my sister and the man who is now my brother-in-law during that time was that they were willing to be patient, to wait on God, to continuously point me to the cross, not to try to change my worldview in a minute. They would wait for me to ask questions. As we traveled over the dusty, red roads of South Africa, I’d lob the hard ones from the back seat—“What about tithing? What about homosexuality? What about submission?”—and they would patiently answer and love me.


Six months later, they got married. When I was at the wedding, I got to run into Adele, my sister’s former roommate, who was now her maid of honor. Adele looked me up and down like I was a specimen out of the zoo. She was just like, “Wow! If you can become a Christian, then anybody can become a Christian. I’m so happy I can pray for you.” I remember looking at her and thinking, What was so wild about me becoming a Christian?


Here’s the issue: It is a divine act of the Lord to open our hearts to have us see the state of our sinfulness to receive His gracious gift of repentance, to put our trust in Jesus Christ. These are amazing facts. So, we shouldn’t be amazed that a certain person can become a Christian, but we should always be amazed that God is still at work redeeming people, saving people, expanding His kingdom.


I stand before you today as an example of somebody that I don’t think anybody would have believed, for the first 30 years of my life, that I would become a Christian, much less than be used by God to speak to other women. If you don’t think God has a sense of humor, let me just stand before you saying right now that He has a big sense of humor—a big one.


When I became a Christian, I had so many questions about, “Why do I have the worldview that I have? Why do I think the way that I do? Why do I have these assumptions the way that I do?” and then “Why does the Bible say what it says about women?” I wished, actually, that there was a book that explained that to me. There may have been, there may still be and I would have missed it, but that’s the reason why I wrote my book Radical Womanhood. It was really written to my 30-year-old self, saying, “Here’s the legacy of what has happened in feminism,” which might be a relatively recent political movement in the history of humankind, but it’s not a new idea at all, as we’ll see later on. I wanted somebody to compare and contrast why God’s Word says what it does for women. What is this weird concept of submission? What is this weird concept of humility? What is this weird concept of being God-centered rather than self-centered?


So, that was my book, and honestly, I stand on Mary Kassian’s shoulders a great deal. As she was speaking this morning, I’m going, “Change that; change that.” It’s such a drag when the people you quote are actually here giving their own material. I’ve got to come up with something of my own.


I share all this to encourage you that reaching out to women who were similar to I was before I was a Christian not only is something you can do with great enthusiasm and great appreciation for God being at work, but to do it without fear. The most hardened woman you know could be the very one that God is putting His hand on.


Here we are at the True Woman conference in the midst of a national conversation about women in their roles. In this historic presidential election with Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin, it’s caused a national conversation about women’s roles. What are women capable of doing, etc.? I marvel knowing the conversations that were happening just 150 years ago in our nation’s history about whether women could even vote. To think about the fact that we are now having women run is a marvelous thing, in a sense. You look at it and you think, Wow, has our culture shifted.


Mary did a great job today of actually analyzing the political movement of feminism, but it kind of stretches back. Some people would say that was the second wave of feminism and that the first wave actually began in the mid-19th century, and it began when women looked around and said, “You know what? We’re not exactly legal to men. We are part of this new great political experiment called The Republic of the United States of America, with all its great ideals, and we’re not a legal entity. We do not have the right to vote; we can’t own property; and when we get married, we are legally subsumed into our husband. We don’t even exist any longer.” So, some women looked at this situation and said, “This needs to change.”


I want to be intellectually honest with you today and say there were some benefits, and I’m grateful we have them. I’m grateful that political dialogue began, and I’m grateful today that I can vote, and I can own property, and I can buy property, and I am a legally recognized independent adult. But what we have to understand as we look at this discussion is that the ability of anyone to make a general observation about problems, most people can see things clearly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they interpret it clearly and that they offer a correct solution.


Feminism in its earlier stages did see some wrongs. Men were sinning against women. But is the solution to rise up and sin in response? To stand back and recreate the Garden of Eden to say, “God, that man You placed me with is my problem.” It’s the same blame-shifting response that Adam had when God said, “What happened here?” And Adam did the double-blame shift, “God, that woman You gave me.” And we’ve been doing the same thing. Feminism is a mirrored response. It said, “God, You’re a problem, and men are my enemy.”


That’s why it’s so important that we see this issue through the lens of the Gospel, that we look at feminism and we say that apart from the grace of God, our understanding and solution would be the same. We would look at tensions in relationships; we would look at cultural and historical situations that needed to be changed and say, “Men are the problem. These belief systems are the problem. That institution is the problem,” rather than recognizing that sin is our problem. It is everyone’s problem. If there are men who are sinning against women by dominating, abusing, or even just passively neglecting their wives, how easy it is to just see something in the human dimension and say, “He’s my problem.” But it’s not. It’s sin.


That’s why I want to encourage you as we consider this issue that our problem is not those feminists out there and we Christians in here, because the seeds of feminism lie in all of our hearts. The seeds of feminism are, “I want to define what I want, when I want it; I want to define my own form of femininity; I want to define my own form of worship.”


In fact, I was recently looking through some videotape clips, and I came across a clergywoman from the 1968 time period, I think it was. She was praying in a rally, and she says, “I pray to God the Mother, God the Daughter, and God the Holy Granddaughter, ah woman, ah woman, ah woman.” I’m thinking, God the Holy Granddaughter? And then I was like, Ah woman? What is that? Then suddenly it hit me—she means amen, but she has struck it out to be awoman. That’s a perfect illustration of what Mary Kassian was speaking of this morning, that self-referential worship that comes back to “I will remake God in my image rather than worshiping God for who He has revealed Himself to be.”


In our culture we’re having this discussion about worth and roles. Now I can assure you that it seems very strange to new Christians or non-Christian ears to hear somebody talk about roles and say that there are limitations in roles, because our culture has a way of equating worth and roles as being exactly the same. Scripture tells us that we are co-heirs in Christ, that we are equally made in the image of God as men and women. Our worth is the same. In fact, we stand on the same level playing ground before the cross as sinners, and if we have put our trust in Christ, we are on the same level playing ground as redeemed sinners in the Lord’s eyes who have been graciously saved from the righteous wrath of God. Equality runs throughout Scripture, but God has said, “I want you to take different roles in order to work together to advance the kingdom of God.”


Now if you have no idea of building any other kingdom beyond your own, then the idea of taking different roles is going to be very strange. It was to me. When I first went to church, they were going through the Book of Ephesians. So, you can just see how God was setting me up, for in a few short weeks, we got to Ephesians 5, and the issue of husbands and wives. I honestly sat there, as my pastor got to the verse about wives submitting to their husbands, and expected him to bust out laughing, like, “Ha, Ha, Ha, we don’t do that today.” But he didn’t. He kept preaching, and I was just in shock. Are you kidding me?


I was maybe six weeks old in the Lord, and I didn’t realize at that point that it wasn’t just a new set of rules that I received as a Christian. “Okay, wear different clothes; date differently.” It wasn’t that. It was a completely different game, because the definition of winning was very different. My former game was “he who dies with the most toys wins.” God’s game was “he who stores up the most riches in heaven, who makes the most out of My name, who lives the greatest glory, he wins. And you know what? I made it all possible. My grace makes all of that possible.” I had no idea.


It wasn’t until I saw the effect of the Gospel on creating an entirely new playing field that I began to realize it doesn’t matter what my role is. God can assign me, the clay, to any kind of role He wants me to do, because it’s for His glory and for His purposes. The amazing thing is that He’s not only going to equip me to do it and give me the resources to do it, but one day I will see Him face-to-face in heaven, and He’s going to reward me for it. It’s just like the little toddlers that you help do something, and they go, “Mommy, look, I did this,” and all along you’re pushing them, handing them things. And you clap and say, “Oh, you did.”


It’s going to be like that in heaven, and we’ll know it. Unlike toddlers, we will know it. We will take the rewards that God has given us, and we will take them off our heads and cast them before the Lord Jesus Christ and say, “Thank You.”


When you think in light of eternity, it doesn’t really matter the role that God has asked us to play, but the reason why He’s asked us to play certain roles is so that our teamwork reflects the unity and the grace of the Gospel before the watching world. Whether we are followers in marriage, whether we are followers of our pastors in church, whether we are gracious deferring to other people’s wishes in our families and among our friends and on events, whenever we have decided to put the interests of others before our own, we’re proclaiming the Gospel in our deeds. It makes a difference to a world who honestly thinks that “he who dies with the most toys wins.” I laugh every time I see that bumper sticker, because I think, I know God is at work there. He’s going to show you; He’s going to show you.


Because feminism, as we’ve heard throughout this whole conference, has so thoroughly permeated our culture, and even some segments of the church, we need to know why it arose. So, I’m going to go back and take us through a little tour of the 19th century here today so that we see some of the ideas that have so profoundly affected us in the 20th and even the 21st centuries. But my whole goal is to say that the radical woman is the one who lives counter culturally today in light of our feminist assumptions. When we live this gracious message of the Gospel, we are truly living a radical life, and I hope that’s what you walk away with today. That would be your take-away message—that it’s a bold life to live and to do so we need God’s wisdom, so I want to pray before we continue.


Lord, I thank You for the women gathered here. Oh, I’ve been praying for them, Lord, in advance of this conference, and I know that there are people who are praying for them right now. I pray that You minister to each one in her individual situation. I pray that You would minister the balm of the Gospel to her soul, that even as Christians every day, Lord, we need to remind ourselves of the Gospel. It’s so easy for us to wander away and try once again in all our self efforts.


I pray that You would open the eyes of our heart, that we would perceive the value of Your Word and Your inscrutable ways. I pray as this weak vessel that You would use me and speak through me today for the edification of my sisters and for their encouragement.


In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


As I was explaining, the first wave of feminism began approximately in 1848, and it was organized around obtaining the right to vote and to make changes in marital law. But almost exactly from the very start, there were objections to the church and to the Bible. The reason I name 1848 was there was this Declaration of Sentiments that was issued at this Woman’s Right’s Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, that year, and it was modeled after the Declaration of Independence. They had a set of grievances and a set of demands, and the grievances slapped the church and the Bible.


They had read through the Bible and interpreted their own experiences onto the Bible and said, “The church is the reason that women are held back. God is the reason women are held back.” So, the very beginnings of many religions that are not Gospel-centered got their roots right there in the mid-19th century—sects and cults like Christian Science, founded by a woman in the mid-19th century. Because people had departed from the truth and the Gospel, they began to make up their own religions.


There was a woman named Elizabeth Cady Stanton who was one of the early organizers of first-wave feminism. She had a lot of beliefs that we would share. She actually was a pro-life feminist; she clearly saw that if you didn’t protect the rights of children, you had no reason to demand the rights of women. She was married for nearly 50 years—one of the few feminist leaders who would be married through the whole of her life—and she bore seven children. Though she was often ministering in her home, ministering loosely, working in her home, she partnered with Susan B. Anthony, a single woman, so that together they could organize this suffrage movement. Susan B. Anthony would run around the country and give speeches, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton would be at home writing the speeches, writing her pamphlets, etc.


Then in 1895, Elizabeth Cady Stanton published the Woman’s Bible. It was kind of a hybrid Bible, hybrid commentary, and what it did was it stripped out all references to masculine theology, because she saw a great offense in the Bible, and she had decided that this needed to be changed. In fact, what she wrote was, “The Bible teaches that women brought sin and death into the world; that she precipitated the fall of the race; that she was arraigned before the judgment seat of heaven, tried, condemned, and sentenced. Marriage for her was to be a condition of bondage, maternity a period of suffering and anguish, and in silence and subjection she was to play the role of a dependent on man’s bounty for all her material wants and for all the information she might desire on the vital questions of the hour. She was commanded to ask her husband at home. Here is the Bible position of women briefly summed up.”


That’s so sad. She completely missed the fact that we are made in the image of God, that we are co-heirs with Christ, that we are redeemed from our sinfulness, and that in our femininity we are called, as John Piper so eloquently challenged us on Thursday night, to manifest God’s glory through our femininity.


Here was somebody who looked and saw problems in the culture, but after her observation, turned and said, “I have this interpretation, not based on the Bible, thus my solution is also way off base from the Bible.” I think a lot of people can be very surprised at all that happened in the 19th century. I was.


When I was researching my book, I thought to myself, I spent four years in college studying Women’s Studies. What did we learn? I threw away my books, which is unfortunate now. I wish I’d kept them, but I remember looking and thinking, I know we did a lot of gender theories, and new gender theories, and different gender theories, but I don’t remember any history. I wish we had studied history. I think it would have been very fascinating.


As I went back and looked at this, I thought, Wow. All the things I remember reading as a little kid, as feminism was coming up and women’s lib was all over the place in the media in the ‘60s and the ‘70s—yes, I was a precocious little kid reader—all those things had their roots in the 19th century, and even earlier in some ways. I think it’s important for us to also understand that when our country was founded, there were women right from the start saying, “Hey! If all men are created equal before God—hello—what about the women?”


Abigail Adams was one of those people who made that claim, who kind of pointed that out to her husband John as he was busy founding the country and fashioning our laws. She was like, “Excuse me—hello,” and she wrote a letter to her husband on March 31, 1776, and she made this plea: “I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire that you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation. That your sex are naturally tyrannical is a truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute; but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of master for the more tender, endearing one of friend. Why, then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity? Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your sex; regard us then as being placed by Providence under your protection, and in imitation of the Supreme Being make use of the power only for our happiness.”


I don’t know her sense of humor. I don’t know how harsh her language was there, what she intended behind it, but I do know that she was imitating her namesake from the Bible by stating a problem and appealing to the man who could change it by appointing him to the Supreme Being and saying, “Imitate Him.”


Unfortunately, her husband’s respond was to write back and say, “I laugh.” Again, I don’t know if he was laughing at her boldness, laughing at the fact that she knew she was appealing for something that was so wildly outrageous that it wouldn’t even cross his mind, but that’s what he said.


Abigail was accurate in saying that there would be a rebellion to come, and none of us should ever be surprised by that because rebellion is the characteristic of human beings after the fall.


The issues for women in the 19th century were not only these rights of being able to vote like she mentioned, but also the idea of coverture, which was a woman’s legal identity being completely erased. When she got married, she just was subsumed into her husband, so she could not vote; she could not sign contracts; she could not own property. This made for great difficulty for women whose husbands were away, who abandoned them, neglected them, who were irresponsible with the family income, who drank themselves silly. I’m not saying that women didn’t see some real problems, clearly.


There was a brief moment actually though when these republican ideas—and I don’t mean that in our current political system—I mean the deals of a new republic actually were to the benefit of women, for a short period. This was from the 1830–1850 time period. It was known as the Cult of Domesticity, or the Golden Age of Domesticity. Because after our country was founded, they realized that, “You know what? For this grand political experiment to succeed, we’re going to need to raise little citizens who are going to want to participate in this, and it’s very important that we now revere motherhood and give women the education and tools they need to help us bring this experiment forward into the future.”


There was a term for this—Republican Motherhood. It was where everybody was waving the banner for motherhood, and what was interesting is they thought when there was a problem and a need we must all rally around, and we must focus on the next generation and get them to carry our ideals forward—the same thing we need to do with the Gospel.


All these things were happening also while there was great change in society. The Industrial Revolution came around. That was profound. That took women and men out of the same spheres of working together. Now they had different roles, but they were generally in the same small business together, or they were in the family farm together. The way that households provided for each other over years was you had a general sense of what your husband was doing throughout the day, and he had a sense of what you were doing, and sometimes the whole family was together, even the littlest toddlers, like, “Pick that corn. Let’s go.” It was a family endeavor.


But the Industrial Revolution took men out of the home and that sphere of even the small shops and the small family business together and sent them out to be wage earners and left women at home. There was this dichotomy that began, that for the first time they really didn’t have a shared experience. Women were suddenly saying, “Wait, We need to kind of bolster this issue of being at home.” So this idea rose up of, “Well there’s this dog-eat-dog world of capitalism, and it’s rough and tumble, and there’s no refining values there, so the home must be the place where we bring the refining values.”


Great idea. I don’t necessarily object, but do you know what happened? Women were suddenly made the moral arbiters of our moral culture, and men were let off the hook. Our Puritan ancestors received sermons and lectures where the father was held accountable for his character, for the character of his family, for the raising of their children, but now all of a sudden it was motherhood in charge of raising the next generation—men out pursuing self-interest, women in charge of refining everyone’s characters, including the men. You know what? When we put ourselves in charge of refining a man’s character, how well does that go? Nag, nag, nag, nag.


That set up the tension that is at the root of this whole political movement that we are seeing and experiencing the fallout of now where women said, “We have this ideal, we need to make change, and we’re not only making change, but we’re the moral arbiters of society. So, now we’re going to take these values outside of our home and take them into our culture. We’re going to refine our culture.”


And so the progressive movement of the mid-19th century began. It was known as the Benevolent Empire because women were like, “Okay, let’s go on a crusade against drunks. Let’s go on a crusade against abuse of children. Let’s go on a crusade against child workers.” I mean, really, those are great ideas. The issue of drunkenness was a huge one in the 19th century, and they did need child labor laws. But what they were doing is, they were infusing this into the culture by saying, “Women are more worthy of this,” and so the men, as they often want to do, said, “Speak to the hand.”


Do you know that 100 years later Playboy Magazine was founded in the mid 1950s on this very idea of “If you’ve got a leech at home who doesn’t work and wants to sponge off of you and take away your good times and scold you, here’s your gentlemen’s entertainment.” It echoes through a whole century.


This tension began of men and women pointing at each other saying, “You’re the problem. You’re the drunk. You’re the nag,” and all this blame shifting went on, though there were some good ideas in the sense that these things needed to change. There was a huge problem with abortion in the mid-19th century. Some would argue that, per capita, there was more abortion going on in the mid-19th century than when Roe vs. Wade was implemented.


There was a huge problem with prostitution. Our culture suddenly moved into these cities, and you had these urban issues of prostitution and drunkenness and abuse and slums. Women looked around and said, “This needs to change,” and it did. I agree, but if you try to change things apart from the motivating work of the Gospel, you just spend all your time finger-pointing at each other. “You’re the problem. You’re the problem. You’re the problem.”


While these things were happening and the Industrial Revolution was wildly changing our culture, you know what? Something else happened. They stopped measuring income by household. You see, prior to the U.S. Census change in 1869, I think it was, when they changed measuring household income to individual wage earners, a woman’s contributions from the home were highly valued. They didn’t have Wal-Mart to go get your groceries and your food and your clothes. You had to make all that. If the woman wasn’t busy working doing these things, the family went naked and hungry and dirty, and the man was out making wages and earning an income. Suddenly we had this retail system pop up that we didn’t have before, and everything a woman had been contributing prior to that suddenly changed.


Now there were great benefits to that, too. We got things like stoves. Woo-hoo! You could suddenly cook more than one dish. Everybody ate one-pot meals all their lives because you had the hearth, the pile of stones, and you put the pot over it and you’d simmer things. Dental work wasn’t that great back then either, so you couldn’t really chew so much, so one-pot meals were a good idea. Then suddenly you had these stoves, and you could cook with two or three things at the same time—marvelous convenience. It was a great push forward for American cuisine.


So, these things that came along, they said, “Yes, this is a good idea; this is a good idea,” were suddenly positioning us right for the biggest change in the 19th century, which was the publication of Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species. Humanism “at its best” was manufactured, was lifted up into that book, and there was a whole social theory that came out of that that was known as social Darwinism. I don’t know if we can blame Charles Darwin himself for all of the ideas that came out of his original book, but he’s going to sweep along in the tide, because he looked at the culture in the way that the animal kingdom works and said, “It’s a survival of the fittest.”


Others interpreted human experience through that and said, “Okay, it’s a struggle for survival that leads to adaptation, and adaptation leads to better traits, and hmmmm, who’s struggling? Men are out in the workplace. They’re struggling; they’re adapting; they’re evolving, and women … oh, I’m so sorry. You’re at home. No struggle. No adaptation. No change … umpf.” In fact, one early feminist wrote, “It would take thousands of years of evolution for women to catch up with men,” and I’m thinking, “The Industrial Revolution isn’t that old, people. Hello.”


So, you add to that this issue of men and women and their tension, you add to it the issue of how do we evaluate our income? Who’s a wage earner and who’s a dependent? And then you add the survival of the fittest and the fact that, “Oh the home is not a place of competition, so you can’t evolve very well, and I’m so sorry.” Suddenly nobody wanted to be at home. It’s like a place of limitation. Everybody wanted out.


Oddly enough, some women came along and said, “You know what? I think we can professionalize this being at home thing. I think what we can do is develop this thing called Home Economics.” Seriously. Did you all take Home Ec courses? I did. I was horrible. I remember cooking chicken and not cooking it well. It was bleeding pink into my rice—nasty. I think it took me six months to make this really awful blue flowered sundress, and when I put it on it was lumpy and misshaped. So I decided anything to do with Home Ec was a complete waste of time. But I really thought it was something that came out of people who didn’t have anything to do in the 1950s and 1960s. What I didn’t know was that actually in the turn of the century, women were saying, “Hmmm, if business is where it’s at, if modern science is where it’s at, then how can I figure out how to improve the home? Let’s professionalize it.”


You heard the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s said to be an African proverb, and in a sense there’s truth to this, that it is a whole community that helps raise and shape the next generation. But these early 20th century, late 19th century feminists were saying, “You know what? If the home is a place of limitation, we’ll professionalize it, add the latest ideas to it. What we need to do is take every woman out of the home carrying for her own children, and employ her in large communes carrying for everybody else’s children, and take a woman out of her own home cooking for her own family, and put her in a big kitchen cooking for everybody else.”


Feminism was highly influenced by the ideals of socialism at the turn of the century. This whole collectivism, “Let’s all live together, do things on a massive scale”-isms was quite popular worldwide, and feminism went right along with it—highly shaped by humanism in the 19th century, socialism in the 20th century.


But there was an American flavor that came through very quickly, because we are very good at figuring out ways to make a buck. So, one woman, around 1920 was like, “Hmmmm, if we’re going to professionalize things, and we’re getting all this new equipment and all these new appliances, I bet you I could run a test kitchen, and I can get people to read all the results of my experiments with this new modern gear at home.” All of a sudden she had corporate sponsors, because they figured out, “Hey, if you’re going to be recommending certain equipment or gear or food or recipes to your women friends, then why don’t we just come along and sponsor you.” Then she said, “If you’re going to sponsor me, I tell you what, I’m going to write a book called Marketing Mrs. Consumer.”


You thought those patronizing ads in the 1950s got started in the ‘50s? The whole marketing to women began back in the 1920s, and the idea that you could be fulfilled by things began to be pushed right then and there. That’s why you hit the advertising glory days of the 1950s with the patronizing ads of women in the pearls and heels, like, “I am so fulfilled by this floor wax. Woo-hoo!” Honestly, it’s no wonder that all of us went, “Woo. Hey, uh-uh.” I mean, it was really patronizing to believe that anybody can be satisfied by buying more things, cleaning your things, rearranging your things, displaying your things. “Look at my things. I’m so fulfilled.”


In a way I don’t blame Betty Friedan for looking around at this system and saying, “This stinks. How am I to be fulfilled staying at home in isolation?” Because, you see, women didn’t used to be in isolation. We worked together in communities. We had other women working with us. It’s a lot of work to run a household and raise children, do things like make your own food, clothes, etc. It wasn’t done by one adult woman at home with small children, but the way our culture changed, there we were—isolated.


And the way that our individualism came about, we were isolated in our church. We would go to church just to consume something to be good for the week and go home. We weren’t really living in that New Testament pattern of community, of sharing and carrying each other’s burdens. Whether you were in the church or you were in the culture, generally, I’m speaking with a broad brush here, you often felt alone during this time period. The media was telling you, “Here’s some shiny new object, that will just make your day,” and there was hunger in women’s souls.


This same hunger exists in your neighbors today. Your friends and family members who don’t know the Lord, who don’t know the Gospel, are still taking in messages from the media saying, “You will be fulfilled by this thing, this vacation, this hair product.” Have you ever noticed how many ads are about “you deserve it” today? McDonald’s, Loreal, whatever. “You deserve this.” This is because of this outcropping of this Marketing Mrs. Consumer that, “Hey, the latest gadgets, this latest material thing will fulfill your soul.” Our souls were not meant to be fulfilled by things.


So, you have these friends, these women, who are in difficult marriages, who don’t know how to get out of that cycle of sin. “He sins; I sin; we all sin together.” They don’t know “How in the world can I get out of this endless cycle of conflict?” There are these women who look at the media that says, “You deserve this, this, and that, and all these things are going to fulfill you”; who look around and see some legitimate grievances of poor women around the world and say, “What are we doing? What are we living for?”; who, late at night, lie on their beds thinking, Is this all?


I hope that when they look into your life they can see a difference—not perfection, because none of us will ever perfectly reflect the Lord. But they’ll see the efforts that you make to honor and respect your husband, and if you’re single, the efforts that you make to bless and encourage and uplift the marriages of those around you, who will see you invest in your children, not as inconveniences, little balls and chains, and all these other problems, like, “Oh, I can’t wait for them to grow up,” but who will enjoy every season, who see their children as arrows to take the Gospel into the next generation and into the future, who don’t love perfectly, but who ask forgiveness when they sin, who humble themselves when they are angry and yelling at their kids, who say, “You know what? Mommy was angry. Would you please forgive me?” Even the youngest child sees that. Your neighbor won’t miss it either. Your unbelieving family member won’t miss it. Your sister, your best friend from college, your work colleague, they will see that humility and say, “That’s not the norm in our culture. That is radically different. How can you humble yourself? How can you live transparently? How can you humbly confess your sin? How can you go to church each Sunday to worship a God that I don’t think even exists? How can you decide to put the interests of others ahead of your own self? How can you live to the glory of Christ?”


I do appreciate one theologian who honestly looked at the issue of feminism and gave an assessment in which he said, “Feminism is not just an issue for women. It’s not just a women’s issue. Men have also contributed.” This theologian, Richard Ganns, said, “When you realize that men have subjected women for thousands of years, you can only wonder how it took so long for the feminist movement to form. It is unfortunately rare to find a marriage in which the husband recognizes that he bears the responsibility of headship and exercises it in humility and love rather than force and authoritarianism.


“While I, too, am against so much of what the feminist movement advocates, I understand why it has emerged. I believe if Christian men had been the servant leaders in the home rather than conceited chauvinists, the feminist movement would have died a quick and easy death. If men had sought ways to see the gifts and talents of their wives developed and utilized rather than taking a beautiful person and making her into little more than a personal slave, if men had not twisted this doctrine of headship, we would not have the current problems between men and women in our society.


“I am tired of hearing that feminists are responsible for the breakdown of the family. We need to put the responsibility where it belongs—on the heads of homes.”


I offer that quote so that we can understand that it really is a human issue, feminism. It’s what we do when we decide that God’s ways, His inscrutable, wise ways are not enough, are not trustworthy, aren’t workable, aren’t relevant for today, and instead we fashion ourselves our own god, “Awoman, awoman,” or we ignore it and go on in our own strength and our own motivation.


I am very, very grateful for the wisdom that God handed me in this Book. I’m very grateful I was clearly able to see the sin in my own heart and the Gospel that would solve it. If you want to be radical, trust God and live expansively in His ways. Throw yourself on every one of His promises, and see that He is good, that He will deliver on His promises, that He has the power to change the lives of those around you who don’t know Him and who believe differently. Trust that by exercising humility, graciousness, and winsomeness that you will have the opportunity to share the good news of the Gospel and then to share a worldview that’s different.


I think often we put the worldview before the Gospel, and then, why should anybody believe what we believe? They can’t possibly believe what we believe apart from the saving work of the Holy Spirit, so arguing worldviews sometimes can be very fruitless. It’s good for talk radio, but very fruitless, in general. But in your personal relationships, trust that there is no one person who is too far beyond the Gospel to be reached.


We have the beautiful example of Saul, named Paul, and I’m sure that many of his friends at the time were looking around and going, “Are you kidding me? What? Damascus Road? Voice? What’s going on? Wait—this man is now preaching the Gospel?” I’m sure they were shocked. I’m sure there were people walking around going, “You became a Christian?” Same reaction hundreds of years later—here we are.


May you live radically for His glory, for the advance of His purposes and His kingdom, for the purposes of His name, and for those who will follow after you who will receive the heritage that you leave them, and may it be a godly one. Amen.


Woman: This message was presented at True Woman ’08 in Chicago. Check out all of the messages delivered there and more by visiting www.TrueWoman.com. There you’ll find even more ways to connect from books and resources you can order for yourself, your friends, or your life group to on-demand multi-media to ongoing conversations you can be a part of, and we’re updating it all the time.


True Woman ’08 is a ministry of Revive Our Hearts, helping you become God’s true woman.