Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Laying Down Our Rights

Leslie Basham: Here’s Mary Kassian.

Mary Kassian: It used to be that men were expected to be the protectors. Men opened the doors. Men served women and looked out for women. Now there’s been a subtle shift where men say, “Well, no, she can look out for herself.” Women have said in fact, “No, I can look after myself. I’m strong and I’m capable. I’m able to do that.”

So men in a sense have abdicated that responsibility and women find themselves opening their own doors, looking out for themselves and having to protect themselves because the men of the society as a whole are not doing that.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, May 29. Women from around the country and around the world are getting ready to meet in Chicago this October 9-11 for True Woman '08. It’s a national women’s conference helping those in the audience learn how to truly be the women God called them to be. Pastor John Piper will be there with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Janet Parshall, and the guest Nancy’s about to introduce.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: In the last 50 years our culture has experienced a revolution of seismic proportions. This revolution has influenced every single one of us whether we realize it or not.

Our guest this week is Mary Kassian, who is a wife. She’s a mom. She has a background in rehab medicine, and she’s a student of the Word. She’s a teacher of women. She loves the Lord. She loves to teach the Word to women. She’s done some extensive and very helpful research on the feminist revolution of the last 50 years.

That’s what we’re really here to talk about this week and how that revolution has influenced our lives as women. Mary, thank you for joining us this week on Revive Our Hearts.

Mary: I’m glad to be here, Nancy.

Nancy: Mary, most of us as Christian women would not consider ourselves to be feminists. Yet as I studied some of your writing and read on this subject more broadly, I’ve realized that feminist thinking—philosophy, ideology—is in the air that we breathe, particularly those of us who are 50 or younger. We’ve never known a culture to have anything other than a feminist-oriented way of thinking.

For those of us who would not consider ourselves feminists, help us understand what are some of the ways that we have been influenced and how this ideology and thinking has impacted even those of us within very conservative evangelical circles.

Mary: I think we’ve all been influenced by feminism—all of us. As you say it’s in the air that we breathe. So we breathe it in all the time. So some of the ideas that we accept as truth and as standard ideas, the norm, are ideas that have not come to us through our study of Scripture but have just come to us through the culture—this is the way things are; this is the good way for them to be; this is the right way for them to be.

This is particularly true with regards to thinking about male and female and male and female roles. We take it for granted that in order to have equality, we need to have role interchangeability. So it goes against our senses, for instance, if there were a man to be working and getting paid more for the same job than a woman doing the same job, that he would earn more money for doing that. It goes against our sensibilities. We just cannot fathom that.

We can’t fathom a world where the male, the head of the household, has a vote and the woman doesn’t. We can’t fathom a world where a woman would want to stay at home all the time with her children. We really have been affected.

Women see that their source of identity, their source of value comes from what they offer to the world outside of the home. Women are encouraged to have careers. In fact, if a woman does not choose a career and pursue her education and go as far as she can, it’s considered a waste, a waste of that woman. It’s considered a waste of her intellect, a waste of her life.

The whole role of nurturing the next generation, of mothering, has really been . . . well, it’s kind of a byproduct. It’s a hobby, not something worth investing your life in. It certainly is something that women would like to do and it’s a valuable thing to do, but not a primary thing.

That has so infused our thinking. Also in terms of the way we relate to husbands, the way we relate to men, the way that we interact as male and female, that has changed dramatically over the last couple decades.

Nancy: How? How has that changed?

Mary: In many, many subtle ways it has changed. For instance, it used to be that men were expected to be the protectors and men opened the doors. Men served women and looked out for women. Now there’s been a subtle shift where men say, “Well, no, she can look out for herself.” Women, in fact, have said, “No, I can look after myself. I am strong and I’m capable. I’m able to do that.”

So men in a sense have abdicated that responsibility and women find themselves opening their own doors, looking out for themselves and having to protect themselves because the men of the society as a whole are not doing that.

Nancy: In a sense maybe the women—we may not have—but the women have slammed the door in the faces of the men who tried to open them. So the men have gotten the idea, “You don’t want my protection or my care.

Mary: Yes, you don’t want my protection and my care. I know that in our culture what I see so often, and even in the Christian culture, is where men are really denigrated. They’re looked down upon. The males are seen as somehow inferior. We don’t bless them. We criticize them. We mock them and make fun of them in our jokes. When we get together as women, you often hear as a woman in a women’s group somebody saying something negative about their husband or, “Oh, well, that’s just men.”

Nancy: You’ve just hit on one of my pet peeves, Mary. I’m so glad you said it. It really is in this culture so influenced by the feminist revolution, it is politically correct for women to bash men.

Mary: That’s right.

Nancy: To make negative, belittling, demeaning statements. Now if a man does it about women, he’s going to be in hot water.

Mary: That’s right.

Nancy: But a woman can do that and it’s not just out there in the secular world that women do this, but it’s within our own Bible studies and prayer groups and evangelical circles that we have come to feel that we could take a lot of liberty in making putdown statements about men. This is one of the very practical ways I think that we have been influenced by this whole feminist ideology.

Mary: I see it so often. I say to women when I hear it, “When you belittle your husband, when you call men down, you are calling down someone whom God has made in His image for a certain reason, for a certain purpose. Really what you’re doing is you’re calling down God. You’re saying, ‘God, You didn’t know what You were doing when you made men, and You made a mistake.’”

Nancy: The verse that comes to mind as you’re talking there is Ephesians chapter 4, verse 29. It says that we’re to put away all unwholesome talk. In that context it’s also talking about putting away bitterness and anger and malice and evil speaking and instead it says we’re to speak words that build up, words that encourage, words that edify, words that minister grace to the hearer.

So when a woman is speaking in a way to her husband or to her children that is demeaning, that is belittling, that is critical or angry, it’s a bigger issue than just that immediate conversation. She’s really reflecting a heart that says, “I’m in control. I’m in charge. I have the right to tell you what I think of you and to put you in your place.” That really is a reflection of this whole broader feminist ideology and philosophy.

Mary: It certainly is. I mean the whole ideology is a focus on rights. So we enter into conversations with an attitude of entitlement. I am entitled to this, and I am entitled to that. If you don’t give it to me, I’m going to put you in your place and make sure that I get it. That is so counter to the Spirit of God because the Spirit of God is not a spirit that demands rights. In fact, the Bible talks about Christ giving up His rights and becoming a servant, giving it all up in order to serve us. Our attitude in Scripture ought to be one of what is my responsibility? not what are my rights?

Nancy: Actually, that whole rights orientation has had a huge effect on marriages and is a big reason why marriages aren’t staying together today.

Mary: It is. It is a huge strain on marriages when we come into marriage with that attitude of entitlement, that I have my rights and I’m going to make sure that you meet my rights.

Nancy: It really is the attitude you’re talking about when we insist I have a right to be happy. I have a right to be loved. I have a right for you to love me in the ways that I want to be loved. I have a right to have you spend this kind of time with me. I have a right to have you take care of the children in this way.

That focus on rights inevitably is what leaves women feeling miserable, discontented, angry, bitter and ultimately resentful against God. So that kind of focus on rights ultimately puts us not just at odds within marriages and homes and churches, but really at odds against God.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss talking with Mary Kassian about the beauty and freedom that comes from serving rather than demanding. Nancy and Mary will both be speaking at True Woman ’08 this October 9-11 in Chicago. You can get more details on True Woman ’08 at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Mary Kassian will be back tomorrow. For the remainder of our time, let’s join Nancy and a group of her friends as they discuss one of the concepts Mary touched on today. We’ll hear from Holly Elliff and Kim Wagner. To begin here’s Carolyn McCulley.

Carolyn McCulley: I remember coming into the Kingdom as an adult and being taught these principles and thinking at first people were crazy because I thought you had to protect your rights. If you didn’t look out for yourself, no one else was going to look out for you.

To actually become a Christian and read the Word of God and see how He has promised to look out for us and He has turned the rules upside down so that the whole playing field is no longer about trying to run out and grab something for yourself and protect your little bit of turf but about relinquishing the whole concept of personal rights in order to serve others because of what you’ve received from God, it just blows your mind.

Coming in as an adult, I thought I’m not even sure I can wrap my mind around this. It took years to understand that.

Nancy: It really is topsy-turvy. God’s Kingdom, God’s whole Kingdom and His way of thinking is topsy-turvy from the way the world does life.

Holly Elliff: The entire way Christ lived His life was a paradox. The fact that we are to lay down our life for someone else is so foreign to our thinking. Especially as women, to lay down your life for your husband, to lay down your life for you children is a choice that is very, very foreign to what is in our nature apart from Christ.

Nancy: All of us are ministering to and with women and we’ve seen the fallout in marriages and in people’s lives when they do have this focus on rights rather than relinquishing rights and taking on responsibility. What’s some of the fallout that you’ve seen in that way of thinking in people’s lives?

Holly: The first thing that comes to my mind and, Kim, I know you deal with women all the time who are in the middle of a marriage that has not made them happy and so they want to be released from that marriage because they are not happy. So I think the rampant divorce in our culture is a very good indicator of where our hearts are in relationship to laying down our rights.

Kim Wagner: The ironic thing is that as women are grabbing for power or they’re grabbing for what they want, they’re grabbing to assert themselves in reaching for what they believe they want, in doing that they’re actually destroying their marriages.

The feminist movement did not begin in the early 60s. The first breath of feminism took place in the Garden of Eden. It was an issue of rights and control. It was Eve asserting her right or the right she thought she had to make her own choice and to go against God’s direction and God’s commandment. So she was grabbing for power.

Carolyn: There’s also an issue of not trusting God’s character, God’s Word for who He says He is and what He says He’ll do so what would appeal to her eyes and her own wisdom was what she was going to pursue. That’s what happens so often with women who are in difficult relationships, whether they’re single, in courtships, or marriage, whatever the situation is. You enter into conflict with somebody else and you think, “I’ve got to protect my rights. I’ve got to protect my turf.” You don’t trust God to actually work through the path of humility.

Kim: Right, I think there’s a sense among women that God could not possibly have known what He was doing when He set it up this way. The fact that I have to yield my preferences, what I view as best for me sometimes as a wife or as a mom could not possibly be part of God’s perfect will for me. So there is a constant kicking against what God’s Word says as a wife and a mom many times.

Nancy: Do you think that taps into fears that women have? What are we afraid of when we resist or kick against that mindset?

Carolyn: I think it taps into fears, but I think at the heart of it is selfishness.

Holly: I would agree. I think the fact that we have so many young moms on antidepressants is because their children are just overwhelming to them. I think having children is an assault on your rights. It’s an assault on selfishness.

If you insist on continually claiming what you want rather than realizing that your life has a larger purpose than what you want, then I do think we have wives and moms in particular, because I am one, and selfishness so many times when I get discontent with where God has me. I agree, Kim, I think at the root of that is that I have said, “You know what? This isn’t good for me. This isn’t fair to me and I need more than this.” So there’s a kicking against what God has put in place.

Nancy: I think any married woman listening to you talk about that can relate to the challenge of selfishness and rights orientation in marriage and how devastating that can be in a relationship, but it’s not just married people who experience the bent to be rights-oriented. Carolyn, you and I are both single women and this whole focus on rights that is at the heart of feminist ideology has affected single women as well as married ones.

Carolyn: I often think about the fact that in the Kingdom it says what do you have that you have not received? What we have received is grace and mercy, but when we’re so busy protecting what we think we deserve, we forget that we didn’t get what we deserved. So when we don’t have this open-handed generosity to other people, it shows in our friendships.

In singleness there can be an attitude of protecting your time and the people that you want to serve and who you’re around and who can benefit you in your career or in your aspirations to be married. It can carry forward into the relationships that you will accept with men or not and how you evaluate them, what kind of investment you’re going to make into the church, what kind of investment you’re willing to make into families.

The whole idea of trying to preserve your rights is a lose/lose proposition because the more you grab onto something, the faster it seems to slip away, and the more you’re open-handed and generous toward God, the more it seems that He brings to you. I think that’s the principle that the apostle Paul is trying to bring forward in 1 Corinthians where he talks about you have these rights, these freedoms as a Christian, but you also have these obligations to serve your brothers and sisters in Christ.

So in a broad way that applies to all of us, and in a more specific and intimate way, it applies to marriage. I’m hoping to experience that one day but it doesn’t matter. My sin tendency for selfishness can come out in a broad array of relationships. I think we’re called to understand the culture that we live in that says under all circumstances protect your rights.

To be wise and discerning and to stand back and say, "What have we reaped from that?" We’ve reaped isolation and loneliness at extreme levels because once you start pushing people away, demanding your rights, you’re going to be by yourself a whole lot. It seems that people are unable to see the impact that has on community.

Nancy: Which is exactly what Jesus said in John chapter 12, when He said except a seed or a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone (see verse 24). I’m going to take a seed, a kernel of corn here, a grain of wheat and set it on the table. I can sing to it. I can shine pretty lights on it. I can polish it up. I can pray for it. I can do whatever, but it’s going to be alone. It’s never going to be fruitful. It’s not going to be productive.

In order to be productive, it has to go into the ground. It has to die. It has to, in a sense, lose its identity. It has to be willing to shed its hard outer husk so that the life that is within that seed can spring forth.

I think that seed not being willing to go into the ground and die is a picture of where so many people live today. It’s where I often live. It’s wanting to hold onto, to cling to my rights, my time, my possessions, my relationships, my future, my plans. What happens, Carolyn, you’re exactly right, we end up isolated, alone, miserable, not fruitful, not fulfilling the very things for which God made us.

Holly: I think that can happen whether we’re alone, and that’s the danger, or we’re surrounded, like in my life I am surrounded. So being alone is not my issue, but if in the things that God has put in place in my life I do not seek to see those as from His hand, then selfishness can thrive in a single woman, in a married woman, in a mom surrounded by kids if that heart attitude of seeking my own is not dealt with before the Lord. I will be miserable, and I will make everyone around me miserable.

Nancy: So God’s way is a paradox. It’s just the opposite of what we naturally think. We think if I cling to these rights, then I’m going to have it my way. God says, “No, if you cling to your life you will lose it. But if you’re willing to let it go, to relinquish those rights, to run into the face of the selfishness and the fears, whatever it may be, then that’s how you really get your life back again.

Leslie: I have my rights. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been challenging that idea along with friends, Holly Elliff, Kim Wagner, and Carolyn McCulley. Carolyn is the author of Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? and she’ll be leading one of the workshops at True Woman ’08.

During this national women’s conference you’ll meet with other women in the season of life you’re in and learn about specific topics you need. Then everybody will come back together for worship with Keith and Kristyn Getty, and you’ll hear from plenary speakers like today’s guest, Mary Kassian, and Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Space is disappearing quickly at True Woman ’08. Make your plans to meet us in Chicago this October 9-11. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com for more details or call 1-800-569-5959.

At Revive Our Hearts, we’re constantly endeavoring to stay true to our mission of calling women to freedom, fullness and fruitfulness in Christ. This is our year of the True Woman. As you might imagine, events like these are huge for a relatively new ministry like ours. Frankly, it’s been a step of faith to do this.

In addition to our conference ministry, our outreach to women takes many shapes and forms: convenient websites to help women in their quest for God, carefully created Christ-centered resources, and let’s not forget this radio program that features Nancy’s mentoring each day for women.

This week ends our fiscal year. Would you help us finish the year with healthy support? Thank you for your generous giving. Thanks for believing with us that God can bring about a widespread revival and reformation in the hearts of Christian women. Give easily and safely at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959.

Now Nancy’s back with a final thought.

Nancy: We’re going to continue our conversation tomorrow with Mary Kassian about some of the influences of feminist thinking in our lives as Christian women. I want to just challenge you to be asking yourself this question throughout the week: Are there ways that secular feminist thinking has influenced and permeated my life, my relationship with my mate, my children, my values about the workplace or about motherhood? And to be asking the Lord, “Lord, open my eyes. Show me if there are ways that I am living that are not consistent with the truth that You have presented in Your Word.”

The Proverb says, “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart” (21:2). So I want to be challenging you as I’m challenging myself through this week: Ask God to examine your heart, your attitudes. Say, “Lord, is there anything You see in me that is not consistent with Your way of thinking, and if there is, then I’m willing for You to change me. I want You to change me. I want to repent where necessary.

Maybe today it’s repenting of speaking evil words or unkind or harsh words or demeaning words toward your husband or toward men in general. You’re repenting and you’re saying, “O Lord, forgive me and change me and I want to begin to speak words that are edifying and words that honor men who are created in Your image.”

O Father, how I pray that You would open our eyes and our hearts and help us to see and to embrace what it means to really be women of God and then to live out that vision and that heart even though it requires that we go against the culture and against the tide. Help us to be women who represent your heart in this generation. I pray for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Child: Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries, and my mom is a true woman.

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