Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Feminism: A Woman's Unique Functions Are Problematic

Yesterday I referred the reader to the blog Christianity: Doctrine and Ethics and to Pastor Ron Gleason’s reflections on feminism which offer some insight into this powerful ideology. I offer below the key quotes from his series on feminism, excerpted in more or less the sequence in which they were given. The thoughts may be a little choppy here and there but nevertheless you’ll capture the overall essence. This condensed version of his comments will still leave us with a lengthy post but it really is worth reading for those of you who might not realize the true nature and roots of the feminism movement.

Ron’s series is very detailed in its footnotes and references and there seems to be two key texts he used often in constructing his series.

Mary A. Kassian, The Feminist Gospel, The Movement to Unite Feminism With the Church, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1992)

John Piper & Wayne Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, (Wheaton: Crossway, 1991).

If there’s something that catches your interest here I suggest you go to Ron’s blog entries and check out his footnotes for further information.

For a super short analysis of the power of the feminist’s agenda to thwart the plan of God for women, the family and unborn children, I thought this was the quote of the day:
Kassian is also correct when she states that “as the philosophy of feminism spread, it challenged society to make women’s experience a reference point for determining life’s meaning.” She chronicles how Feminism profoundly impacted and influence language and literature studies, psychology, theology, sociology, motherhood, and politics.

Interestingly, Kassian also demonstrates how the concept of “holistic medicine” evolved, in part, because of a conspiracy theory that
“doctors regarded pregnancy, childbirth, menstruation, menopause, and all the other functions unique to women as problematic rather than natural…” The devotees were encouraged to turn from medical science to Eastern mysticism and to the practices of witches. It can be reasonably argued that some are still riding their brooms.

Here then, for those of you who have the time, is the condensed (!!) version of Pastor Ron’s observations:

… there are some evangelicals who, as I mentioned, are insisting on holding on to the word “feminism” to describe what they are saying. I found the following comment by R.C. Sproul to be both helpful and instructive when we’re dealing with any –ism, but particularly with “evangelical feminism.” Here is Sproul’s disclaimer: “Ism is a suffix added to the root of a word. These three letters, when added to a root word, change the meaning dramatically.”[3] Sproul proceeds: “As soon as we put the suffix on the word it changes the word into a system of thought, a way of looking at things, a world view. Philosophers use the German word Weltanschauung to describe it. A Weltanschauung is a systematic way of looking at the world. It conditions how we interpret the meaning of daily life.”[4]

In the book that Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt co-authored we read the following: “The crisis of womanhood is too critical for the church to be passive. Scores of evangelical women are functional feminists because the world’s paradigm for womanhood is the only one they have heard.”[5] But who are the feminists that have shaped what we have come to know as feminism and why is it highly dangerous and questionable to follow them?

Betty Friedan

The author of the popular The Feminine Mystique was/is one of the gurus of modern feminism. In her own words, Friedan’s mother had “a complete inability to nurture” and reportedly made her feel unwanted and ugly. Friedan entered psychoanalysis to address and attempt to control her rage at her mother.[7] She is also the guru babe who “told American women there was only one way to avoid being a nonentity when she wrote, ‘But even if a woman does not have to work to eat, she can find identity only in work that is of real value to society—work for which, usually our society pays.’”[8]

In her memoir, published in 2000, she charged her husband of over twenty years with abuse. Obviously, to her mind he was both patriarchal and tyrannical. She claims that Carl “smacked her around.” In her own words, “It seemed as though I never went on a television show in those day without a black eye I had to cover with makeup.”[9] Well, who wouldn’t feel sorry for some poor woman—even if she were a rabid feminist—getting slapped around by some thug-like husband?

The eighty-year-old kick boxer Carl had had enough and set up a web site to defend himself against these accusations. He wrote, “I have not lived 80 years of an honorable life to have it trashed by a mad woman…. I’ve been divorced from her for 30 years and still she haunts me and disrupts my life.”[10] When the web site went up, Friedan’s accusations went south. Her recantation reads this way: “My husband was no wife beater and I was no passive victim of a wife beater. We fought a lot, and he was bigger than me.”

In short, Betty Friedan lied. But, of course, it was for the cause so therefore it was okay. Isn’t it nice to know that one of the founding “sisters” of feminism was a bald-faced liar and would even falsely implicate her “patriarchal, tyrannical” husband, who was, by the way, also a feminist, if she thought it would help? If she would about her husband, what else do you think she might lie about?

Underlying Presuppositions of Feminism

I am arguing that it is both wrong and spiritually harmful for modern Christians to speak about “Christian Feminism” or being “Biblical Feminists.”

First, I’m not saying that any and all who hold to Christian Feminism are not Christians. I do believe, however, that they are misguided and that their exegesis of the pertinent texts is not only inaccurate, but, more importantly, is often filled—consciously or unconsciously—by some of the major tenets of secular Feminism.

I will also point out that some of the tactics that women have used to seek to change a perceived “patriarchy” in the Church were fueled by secularism more than by the Bible. As we begin this installment, I would like for us to concentrate on two key isms that are the foundational pillars of Feminism: Existentialism and Marxism.


One of the early leaders of modern Feminism was the mistress (read: fornicator) of Jean Paul Sartre, Simone deBeauvoir. Perhaps Sartre [the Father of existentialism] summarized existentialism best when he reminded us that man is a useless passion.

R.C. Sproul explains existentialism this way: “In its most basic definition existentialism is a philosophy about human existence. It views man not so much in terms of his mind or his soul, but of his will, his feelings.”[1] The paradigm shift brought to the life of 20th century man/woman by existentialism was a re-emphasis on feelings—in the first place. Again Sproul writes, “The accent has changed from thinking to feeling. Feelings have become the new standard of human ‘truth.’ Even our ethics are decided by the litmus test of passion.”[2]

[According to deBeauvoir] women needed to organize (get organized) and declare war on women being “the second sex.”[4] How was this to be achieved? According to deBeauvoir a twofold plan of attack was necessary: First, to dismantle the notion of male superiority and second by refusing to succumb to the traditional roles that had been handed down to women.[5]

Those traditional roles of wife, mother, and sweetheart were a prison for women rather than their liberation.[6] Her solution was that what truly favors a woman’s liberation is comprised of “all forms of socialism” and “wresting woman away from the family.”[7] What I just quoted needs our undivided attention. DeBeauvoir opted for a world in which the State “assumed responsibility for the maternal functions that burdened women and restricted their participation in the work force.”[8]

Read deBeauvoir’s words written in the late 1940s and ask yourself how they fit into our contemporary culture. She wrote, “A world where men and women would be equal is easy to visualize, for that precisely is what the Soviet Revolution promised: women raised and trained exactly like men were to work under the same conditions and for the same wages…maternity was to be voluntary, which meant that contraception and abortion be authorized and that, on the other hand, all mothers and their children were to have exactly the same rights, in or out of marriage; pregnancy leaves paid for by the state, which would assume charge of the children…”[9] Eerie, eerie, eerie.

Mary Kassian says it so well: “DeBeauvoir viewed departure from the role of wife and mother and the establishment of economic and professional independence as the key to women’s equality with men. Her model was socialist. It demanded the revolt of the ‘bourgeoisie’ of women and encouraged state-regulated laws to overcome social mores and patterns of behavior.” [10] Even in some Christian circles today “professional” women, i.e., career-oriented women in the “work force” tend to get more kudos and are, by some, deemed more valuable than the “stay-at-home-mom.”

Liberation Theology

In 1971 the Roman Catholic theologian, Gustavo Gutiérrez, wrote Teología de la liberación, Perspectivas.[11] Gutiérrez desired to have the world re-think the relationship between theology and liberation.

Even though the early feminist scholars borrowed rather heavily from Gutiérrez, they also modified his thinking in the sense that liberation meant so much more than “mere social and political change.”[15] Just to give you an idea of how far off these scholars were they actually believed that the liberation of women “would induce the end of poverty, racial discrimination, ecological destruction, and war.”[16]

Their arrogance is second only to their ideology. They were prepared to make these extravagant predictions if they helped the cause and if people were willing to embrace their outlandish, non-scientific claims. Apparently, a representative number of Americans were. It’s quite likely that the man or woman on the street has never even heard the names of Letty Russell or Rosemary Radford Ruether—probably a number of theologians have never heard of them either—but they certainly helped shape what has come to us at the front end of the twenty-first century in the name of Christian Feminism. They planted the seeds, helped sow the discord, and succeeded in pitting the sexes against each other. The late Francis Schaeffer once observed that whatever was happening in secular society would be within the walls of the Church in approximately seven years. He was correct.

The Fraud of Some Ideologues

In 2005, one of my personal favorites, Katie Couric (she’s right up there with Diane Sawyer and Rosie O’Donnell), checked in with feminist guru(ess) Ms. Gloria Steinem. The thrust of the interview was to ascertain how feminism was faring thirty years down the road. As you might expect, Steinem “lamented that women still faced gross wage discrimination.”[1] What made Steinem’s comments doubly funny was that Couric makes $13 million a year with NBC. I wouldn’t mind a little of that discrimination.

What Ms. Couric might have said to Ms. Steinem was something along the lines of, “Well, you know, Gloria, sex discrimination in salaries has been against federal law for over forty years now in the United States as well as the hard fact “that average wages don’t reflect the number of hours worked or relative experience or the laws of supply and demand.”[2]

But the Couric/Steinem debacle was just another piece of fraudulent disinformation living under the guise: If it’s on TV it must be true. In actuality, that interview was little more than the culmination of decades of indoctrination and brainwashing. Unfortunately, many of the tenets of Feminism taught or otherwise disseminated through the culture have found their way into the modern Church so that few ever stop and ponder the presuppositions of why we are having the discussion about the role and place of women in the Church today.

The early to mid-1970s were a watershed for both secular as well as “Christian” Feminism. It is a fascinating cultural phenomenon to trace how secular Feminism and its tenets not only infiltrated our secular universities with “consciousness raising” and the advent of various “Women’s Studies” curricula, but also how this same phenomenon, with many of the same presuppositions, crept into local churches as well as our theological seminaries.

Women’s Studies: Secular and Seminary

Third, I believe that a case can be made of how a relatively large number of theological students and other women were profoundly—yet surreptitiously—indoctrinated either during their college or seminary days. In fact, some still are being indoctrinated.

Those Pesky Late 1960s and Early 1970s

Ann Douglas (The Feminization of American Culture) noted that as early as the Second Great Awakening in our country the Church became “feminized.” That is to say, it lost “a toughness, a sternness, an intellectual rigor which our society then and since has been accustomed to identify with ‘masculinity,’ and instead took on ‘feminine’ traits of care, nurturing, sentimentalism, and retreat from the harsh, competitive ethos of the public arena” (p. 18). Nancy Pearcey (Total Truth) echoes this sentiment and reminds us that during this same time frame “the American church largely acquiesced in the redefinition of masculinity.” She continues, “After centuries of teaching that husbands and fathers were divinely called to the office of household headship, the church began to pitch its appeal primarily to women. Churchmen began to speak of women as having a special gift for religion and morality” (p. 334).

I find it very interesting to attempt to trace the origin of a number of the cultural terms that become popular, prevalent, and dominant. For example, the phrase “political correctness” is derived from Marxism. The concept of “consciousness raising” is not a home-grown American idea, but can be found as a political technique “used in the late 1940s by the revolutionary army of Mao Tse-tung in its invasion of North China.”[1] One of Mao’s dicta was “Speak bitterness to recall bitterness. Speak pain to recall pain.” The tact that Mao employed to assist the purging to the North Chinese villages of Japanese control was to gather the townspeople “in the town squares to recite the crimes their men had committed against them. The women were encouraged to ‘speak bitterness and pain.’”[2]

In America, early feminists made use of this principle as a form of “psychological warfare” or rather, what they called “reconceptualization.” In general, this took the form of informal small group meetings that were meant to be “discussion groups.” The insidious nature of these meetings was, however, that the group “leader” was a trained, jack-booted, walking in lock step feminist. The participants were ignorant and like sheep being led to the slaughter were slowly, gradually indoctrinated in the edicts taught by the feminist agenda.

What transpired on those sessions is described by Maren Carden this way: The participants would “exchange accounts of personal experiences, identified shared problems, and interpret these problems in terms of the movement’s ideology. Having examined all aspects of their lives from this new perspective, they eventually reconceptualize their thinking and accept that perspective as the correct way to interpret women’s experience.”[3] It is safe to say that this procedure relied quite heavily “on emotional group dynamics and pressure, which was most instrumental in convincing women that the feminist perspective was ‘the correct way to interpret women’s experience.’”[4] It is also safe to say that many of the participants in these groups then went out and disseminated what they had “learned” to neighbors, friends, and family.

The upshot of the consciousness raising groups is that feminists encouraged a woman “to change her behavior patterns, to make new demands in her interpersonal relationships, to insist on her own rights, to convince other women of their oppressed status, and to support the women’s movement, thereby consummating her new awareness with personal and political action.”[5]

I believe that a case can be made that what Christ’s Church needs is to reassess its emphases when it comes to both women and men.

I’ll begin with the men since I’m part of the problem. There are certain things that are crystal clear regarding the state of spiritual affairs of the lion’s share of Christian men today: They do not lead their homes spiritually. Some have abdicated their responsibilities intentionally while others are confused or befuddled about the “what” and “how” vis-à-vis spiritual leadership.

The clear biblical mandate is for men to lead their families and since this mandate comes from God via Scripture it comes with absolute authority. The command is not negotiable and is equally not dependent upon our status as men economically, politically, academically, or in any other area.

What occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s was a kind of Copernican Revolution without bras. After Feminism really picked up steam in the early to mid 1970s, “It challenged and redefined every niche of human existence.”[16] Feminists were of the opinion that all of life’s meaning was defined by men and that arbitrarily. It was around that time that the buzz words “patriarchy” and “patriarchal” began to come into common usage among feminists. Kassian is not exaggerating when she reminds us that Feminism truly challenged and redefined every niche of human existence—including the Church. For those of us old enough to remember, the halcyon yet poor days of our seminary study were interrupted by the sometimes shrill voice of feminist theologians, generally mouthing the platitudes of their secular counterparts.

Kassian is also correct when she states that “as the philosophy of feminism spread, it challenged society to make women’s experience a reference point for determining life’s meaning.” She chronicles how Feminism profoundly impacted and influence language and literature studies, psychology, theology, sociology, motherhood, and politics. Interestingly, Kassian also demonstrates how the concept of “holistic medicine” evolved, in part, because of a conspiracy theory that “doctors regarded pregnancy, childbirth, menstruation, menopause, and all the other functions unique to women as problematic rather than natural…” The devotees were encouraged to turn from medical science to Eastern mysticism and to the practices of witches. It can be reasonably argued that some are still riding their brooms.

In the area of the Church, as we have seen in previous installments, feminists “received a boost in the nineteenth century from the belief, common in many Protestant Christian churches, that women were morally superior, though today feminists often denounce Christianity as a male religion.”[20]


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