Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Review of Andersen's "Woman This is War" Part I of III (Concerning Christian History)

Why I Never Bought the Whole of Complementarianism: 
A Review of "Woman This is War:  
Gender, Slavery, and the Evangelical Caste System"

The Kingdom of God Suffers Violence,
and the Violent have Taken Some by Force.
Jocelyn Andersen Takes Back Major Ground in her New Book

Because I embrace concepts of male governance in home and church (but that a woman is not restricted from teaching), I've been told that I'm complementarian, though at the most remote limit at the "soft" side on the continuum.  My understanding may be understood as largely a loosely understood "economic" measure (literally, "house rules") in the theological sense, as my husband says, "Someone has to be in charge for the sake of order."

Until about three years ago, I did not know that the term "complementarian" existed, and I assumed that those with more knowledge than I knew more than I did about the subject.  Though I don't exactly qualify as egalitarian (per the CBE mission statement), I don't believe any longer that I am complementarian either because of the many blatant disagreements I keep finding with their assertions.  I simply embrace a Biblically qualified concept of male governance in church and home, but this is something I understand in terms of mutual submission also.   Affiliates Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood have taught and the CBMW website has touted many claims that I find untrue in terms of history and Scripture, so I no longer believe that I can rightly claim their term.  Since it was their organization that coined it, I assume that they set the standard for what the term actually means.  

I always took issue with the claims of CBMW affiliates that those who disagree with their ideology developed their own ideas from liberal, secular feminism; homosexuality; and Communism.  I laughed the first time that I heard this, for such was not true of my own denomination of origin.  In my home State, a married woman established the first Assemblies of God church, and her husband encouraged her to follow the Holy Spirit's leading.  They opened up their home, eventually established a church in another building, and both husband and wife were sent to college so that they could be both qualified to establish what is now Valley Forge Christian College.  My very first role model was the daughter-in-law of this couple (bearing their name of Beisel), also a professor emeritus at the College who taught every aspiring pastor of that era, retiring to serve as a missionary to India.  My piano teacher for many years also taught there.  Neither of these women nor the denomination tolerate concepts of secular feminism, homosexuality, or Communism!  These two ladies were kind and beautiful women of God, yet they were formidable in their knowledge and living out of the Word of God.  I don't know how CBMW could explain away this history that I knew well from childhood.  I also trained as a nurse with the Sisters of Mercy, with Cathryn McAuley as my role model from some 150 years ago, something I noted in a previous post on this blog.

I was pleased to read even more of this type of history in Joceyln Andersen's new book, "Woman this is War."  As one born in the Quaker State, educated in Quaker City, and wife of a man from Quaker Town, I was quite proud to read of the rich history of the Quaker women who also advocated for a woman's right to speak and minister in the Church.  (I suppose that I am ruined for complementarianism then?)  Margaret Fell who would later become the wife of George Fox proposed her own apologetic from Scripture in 1666, defending a woman's right to teach and minister the Word.  Elizabeth Wilson's "Scriptural View of Women's Rights and Duties in the all Important Relations of Life" advocated for the rights of both women and slaves, a document dating back to 1849.  Some critic of the book might try to suggest erroneously that Wilson was swayed by the writings of Marx, but how will they discount Fell?  Somehow, I guess they will define the Quakers as marginal Christians without true regeneration as they do with their contemporary critics.

"Nowhere, is the historical record of the struggle for women's rights more skewed than when portrayed by anti-feminist, Christian, authors" (Pg 27).  I wholeheartedly agree.  Concerning the history of Elizabeth Fry, Andersen writes "It is a malicious lie that advocating for the rights of women produces self-centered women who lose regard for the Word of God and care nothing for their husbands and families."  She also notes the unsung histories of Elizabeth Heyrick (and her effect on William Wilberforce) and Harriet Tubman, etc..  I'm delighted to see someone other than Andrew Sandlin echo my own understanding that much of what is understood as expressly Biblical practice actually derives from the pagan paterfamilias of the Roman culture and not from the Bible.  I laughed when I read the documentation that many practices complementarians identify as purely Christian tradition originated with secular practices in Athens.    Anderson goes on to point out many of the same conclusions that I developed in a series on this blog contrasting "Biblical patriarchy's" nuevo traditions with traditional Judaism, though the author takes a different approach that supports my own thesis regarding these secular traditions of men.

Visit to order your copy of
"Woman This is War!"

More to follow next week.  (I've got to get to Orlando!)

Read Part II of the Review HERE.

Read Part III of the Review HERE.