Saturday, November 08, 2008

A woman's place (or, Joy's can of worms)

My wonderful friend Joy asked in a comment what I thought about women staying home with their children. Apparently during the course of the past election, John Piper made this statement in a video regarding Sarah Palin's candidacy for Vice President:

I personally think that it would have been better for her to stay at home with her disabled child, both for the good of the family and as a model for moms... I don't think, Biblically, that a woman should be commander in chief.

First off I need to tell you that I don't agree with all of his views on gender and the Bible. He teaches that there are some vocations outside of the church that women should not have, period. Based on his above qoute, the President of the United States is one of them. I strongly disagree. God raised up women in the Bible as leaders (Deborah and Esther come to mind) who had great strength and influence over men. Anyway, we have to realize that John Piper holds a very conservative view on womanhood and gender roles, that extends beyond the church. Personally, I find some of his teachings in this area to be demeaning towards women. (He has a book he wrote with Wayne Grudem called Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.)

(I also take issue with his need to qualify that Palin's baby is disabled. I'm not sure why that bothers me, but it does.)

ANYway, in thinking about womanhood and motherhood, I love Psalm 127:3-5:

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,

the fruit of the womb a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior

are the children of one's youth.

Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!

I do believe that God's general desire is for us women to raise our children. Some argue that women can do it all, but SHOULD they do it all? I do have many friends who work outside the home and they are FANTASTIC mothers. How can I judge what is God's specific will for their life in this area? I think it is first and foremost a heart-issue: are we believing that motherhood is a gift? Do we treat our children like burdens? Or blessings? Do we engage with them? Are we being good stewards of these blessings from God (when it comes to nutrition, training them, shaping their minds)? Do we care more about prestige or the pursuit of the American dream than we do about the role God has given us? I'm sure there are at-home moms who don't hold to these values, and many "working moms" who do.

I know without a doubt that I am called to be home with my children. I believe this is honoring to the Lord. I CAN'T decisively say what anyone else is called to do. As for a woman with children, working in government, again, I think it goes back to those heart issues. There are pictures all over the web of Palin going to meetings wearing (or nursing) her baby. Her husband's supposedly home a lot. According to them they have a huge support network of family who help out too. I don't know these people personally, but I DO think it is POSSIBLE for God to call a mother to public service. Of course, this whole discussion doesn't really speak to John Piper's criticisms because the root belief there is that women should not be in these governmental positions at all.

As for Piper's idea that Sarah Palin, in running for office, was not a good model for moms, I find her to be, in many ways, a refreshing model for women in general: unapologetically prolife, and living that out by giving birth to a child with Downs Syndrome at age 44, when roughly 80% of the population would have terminated the pregnancy. No matter what you think of her or her ability to lead, the lady is living out her beliefs. I would much prefer to point to her as a role model for my daughters than to, say, Hannah Montana. If we, as John Piper seems to be suggesting, keep women out of most visible leadership positions, I think we'll be missing out on some of the depth and perspective of God's creation. Men AND women are made in God's image, not just men. And we women ought to see other women pursuing their passions and living out their convictions.

Lastly, in reference to that Piper video (and what he said about voting as if you're NOT voting), I would argue that while certainly we shouldn't be in utter despair over an election, God DOES want us doing justice here on Earth, bringing about His kingdom. Brian McLaren has, in my opinion, done a good job of making the case that we need to be concerned with justice and peace and mercy in the here and now. While embracing an eternal perspective, we need to make sure we're not neglecting the state of the world today. (The hungry, the poor, the lost, the unborn, etc.) If we as believers throw up our hands and do not speak out for these groups, who will? If we cease to passionately pursue justice in the name of Christ, who will? To me, that means caring about the election--no matter which way you vote. We should be concerned about who leads our nation and the ideologies they espouse. Just look around the world at various leaders and how they negatively/positively impact their citizens. At any rate, I hope whether you voted for Barack Obama or John McCain, whether you even liked either of them, that you felt passionately about an issue or two that you believe is near to God's heart.

Okay Joy, there is my long, sure-to-invite-controversy answer. The can is open. What do YOU think???? :)


Jacquelyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hauswife said...

Oh, Brianna dear, you are just the coolest... I love this particular bit of controversy. As a stay-at-home mother who believes that some women are called to occupations/ vocations outside the home, I'm totally offended at Piper's comments and I think he's wrong. I think a male & female team for P & VP is absolutely Biblical. I couldn't be more proud of Sarah for walking the fine line of mothering and carrying out a job in public office and doing it so beautifully. I think she's the epitome of the Proverbs 31 woman! GO SARAH!!!

r. said...

I can't comment on the biblical issue, as I'm not a Christian and thus don't base my decision-making on the same factors as you do.

But what I can say, and what I like about your response, Brianna, is that sometimes the decision whether to stay home with the kids (or homeschool the kids, or purposely have a big family) has to do with personality fit. Some people just do better in certain environments than others. Some people do better with more structured days, some not. Some people do better spending their days around kids than others.

Obviously there are those who may feel that the religious imperative is so clear or the detrimental effects of daycare/school are so bad that a woman should stay home no matter what--she should just find a way to make it work. But otherwise I think individual personalities are worth taking into consideration.

darci said...

well said! I was very upset this election by people refusing to vote simply because Palin was a woman and didn't 'belong' outside the home. I so disagree..the funny thing is, I am a stay-at-home, trying to learn submission and respect, woman. :) I DO believe God has set out specific roles for husband/wife, and I also believe that in spiritual matters the man is to lead. BUT I also agree with you that God raised up Biblical women of leadership, STRONG women, and to me Sarah Palin was a strong, GREAT example, and I personally LOVED how she took her baby everywhere, actually especially b/c he IS disabled-I just think it was a great example of motherhood and that children, ALL children, are a gift and blessing.
Specifically in this election..I believe God would have rather had us vote for a 'woman in leadership' with strong moral values, than a "man in leadership" who has promised to do all he can to facilitate more and easier killing of the unborn, God's precious babies.
In life, for me, I am happy (most days, lol!) to be at home and rest in my husband's provision for our family. I don't WANT to work outside the home. (I'd be ok with vacationing...) I would not be ok with a woman pastor, though..I do think that's pretty clear cut. Woman president, yes. Woman pastor, no. How's that for clear as mud? :)

Meg said...

I yelled out "yes" when I was reading this- good post-

curlyjo said...

Brianna - Can't wait to meet you. I think we're going to be in a homeschool study together on Monday evenings. This was a fascinating post. I do agree with Piper on his stance on adoption issues, but my blood pressure started to rise with that quote on biblical womanhood. Yikes!

I also agree with you about Mclaren - he's done a lot to help Christians think critcially about social justice issues.

I've been homeschooling my kids for several years now, but am going back to work (part time) so I can afford to put them in private school. This would be, in some circles, sort of controversial. But I've prayed long and hard about what's best for my kids and my family and this is where I believe we need to head. To some, my decision doesn't look like what they deem to be biblical motherhood. But for me it's a decision based on my mother's heart to love and serve my family.

Mike and Rachel said...

I admit, when I first heard about Sarah, I was like, "Go raise your family, don't pursue this!" But then it hit me. She has a husband who can be available for her young children. If her man is anywhere near the father Mike is to our girls than her children would be blessed beyond measure to have him in their life on a more full time role. I think she would have made an excellent VP and look forward to seeing her in the lime light in 2012.

Brianna Heldt said...

Loving all your thoughts. Joy, you are still not off the hook! :)

I do disagree that it is unbiblical for a woman, in general, to lead a country. I personally DO find it demeaning to say that women are forbidden from leading a country, teaching at the college level, or being police officers or bus drivers--all things Piper uses as examples of vocations where gender roles may be "stretching appropriate expressions of femininity beyond the breaking point." Yes secular American culture has downplayed the value of stay-at-home motherhood, and this has surely had a negative impact on society. But I also believe that the church has occasionally elevated gender roles to such a level that it has undervalued women and their giftedness. I personally was really pleased to see not one but TWO women--Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin--in the running for President and Vice-President of the USA!

curlyjoe, YES, I look forward to meeting you too!!! I'm going to be in the study at your house, yay! Thank you for sharing your experience. It seems like these are such hot-button issues that Christian women don't discuss them very often. But they obviously are so near to our hearts! Maybe we SHOULD be talking these things out more.

Tracy Regusci said...

I know I dont post often, but I have to say, I check your blog daily and probably quoted it hourly. You have a great way with words and express ideas so clearly and beautifully. Thank you for standing up for the noble leaders of this country. After the outcome of this last election I have decide to join the local chapter of the republican women to try and help get the republican party strong again. I need your ablity to write little tid bits to help with my cruade. Thanks Brianna for your great words.

joy said...

hi, brianna! sorry, i didn't read your blog all weekend. i will comment, i just don't have time now. i started a comment and lost it and now esther is awake, yadayada... i promise to come back! thanks for opening the can!

joy said...

okay. naptime. i've been thinking about this question all morning. i'm going out on a limb here, but i think i can't escape the fact that i do think women should stay home. more correctly, i'm hoping that a woman would choose to stay home to raise her kids. i don't think it should be a mandate or a rule--i can't imagine having that forced upon me. but, i will say that, i don't judge women who work for working--whether they choose to work because they want to, or because they have to. i appreciate that i have the choice to stay home or to work (although, if i wanted to work, what would i do?) if i didn't stay home with my kids, where would they go? i would miss so much and that saddens me personally. i've been thinking about this lately because i'm also wondering what to tell my children about this issue. i think you touched upon this once, brianna and it's a good thing to think about. i hope that being a mother is in my daughter's future, but only God knows that. if she has the choice, i hope she does choose to stay home. it is such a privilege to be home so much--to change the dirty diapers, be followed into the bathroom, be peed upon (accidentally), make meals and clean up, clean up, clean up. but, that's just my feeling. i did choose to stay home and because i got to choose and didn't have it chosen for me, i think i appreciate staying home in a different way than i would have had it been expected or forced upon me. i know many will disagree and that's fine. i certainly am not as eloquent as you, brianna. i love what you said about it being a heart issue. and i do admire sarah palin for boldly living her beliefs. thanks for opening up the discussion, brianna! i always love to hear your take.

joy said...

i forgot to mention that i do have a little side-job myself now. and did you see mona lisa smile i think it was called with julia roberts? my fav part was when she is getting mad at julia stiles for getting married and julia stiles is defending her position by saying that she (julia roberts) encouraged them to choose and this is her choice. i just love that part. anyway... enough of that.

Melissa said...

Thanks for this post. Very near and dear to my heart as we're struggling with what to do. Gotta decide by January...

SDR said...

Great post Brianna. As a working mom this is something that is obviously very near and dear to my heart, and while I admittedly do not agree with probably 95% of what Sarah P. says, I have so much respect for what she's doing. I have a very different perspective from that of many of your commenters, I truly believe in the concept of "it takes a village," and that there are wonderful people in my community who are amazing caregivers and I am so fortunate to have found them to help raise my daughter. The fact that she is not with me 100% of the time doesn't bother me, she is with people who are creative and loving and give her what she needs when I cannot be there. The flip side is that she will know, as she grows up, that she can be whatever she, lawyer, or full time mother, it is her choice and that is what is so wonderful about this country.

Just wanted to say that while I probably disagree with you on a million things, I like reading what you have to say and really respect how you say it.

Shawn in Boulder

Brianna Heldt said...

Yay Joy thanks for the comment! :) I always love hearing your wise words. I do feel in general that children are best raised by their moms. How that plays out specifically, I think that can vary.

I do plan to teach my children that if God calls them to motherhood, then they should embrace that wholeheartedly, and that being home full-time with your children is one of the greatest callings you could ever hope to have.

Shawn hi!!! It's great to hear from you. Thank you for the kind words. I was thinking the other day that I don't like conflict (I know, why did I post this in the first place? :) ) but then sometimes maybe it's good to be part of the greater conversation, and to allow yourself to be known. I've so enjoyed hearing the varying perspectives, even if they're not my own.

Brianna Heldt said...

Also, I know there is a lot of hurt within the church...working moms feeling judged or excluded by at-home moms. (Well outside the church too.) At-home moms feeling like their work is de-valued, or like they're seen as less intelligent. That is really, really sad. I don't know what the answer is. Maybe you do.

Okay I have had WAY too much coffee and Halloween candy today. Hence the excessive commenting!!!!!! I'm sorry! I really don't think my ideas are all that great and worthy of being posted in cyberspace, I promise! (It's just the caffeine talking. Really.)

joy said...

i knew i liked you, brianna! coffee and candy and in the morning--that's my kind of morning. i promise not to keep commenting, but i do agree that there is a lot of judgement from "both sides" of the issue floating around. i try not to judge people for these choices they make. i don't walk in their shoes, i haven't prayed their prayers. and i'd like to point out that the Proverbs 31 woman was quite industrious. she buys fields and with her earnings plants a vineyard. her trading is profitable, she sells linen garments.

i'm really not intending to cop out by ending with a "can't we all just get along" mentality, but i love how Prov. 31 ends. That charm is deceptive, beauty is fleeting but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. We need to fear the Lord and serve Him. Okay. Thanks for opening this up, Brianna. I kind of dumped it on you because I'm a chicken! Although, i have been known to read some controversial books :)

jen said...

Well, just when you thought this conversation might be over...i have a question for you! I noticed you said that children are best raised by their mom's. How would you feel about a stay at home dad? What if the mom had a college education and the skills to earn a good income, while the dad was maybe not as employable, but was wonderful with the children and enjoyed being a "Mr. Mom?"

I obviously know that is not a traditional/biblical situation, but i just wanted to hear your (or anyone else's)honest views on it. I personally would have a problem with it, just because it doesn't seem "natural" to me...but i guess i'm a bit old fashioned! I know it works for some families, and that's great.

shell said...

This whole conversation has got me thinking about american christianity versus christianity. I am guessing in many countries, women have no choice but to work just to survive. And I am sure many of them are christians, love god and want what is best for their children. Just throwing that out there-you know i love being a SAHM and couldn't imagine doing anything else! OKay, maybe I could imagine doing something else one day a week....... :)

Brianna Heldt said...

Hi jen! When I said children are best raised by their moms, I was speaking in generalities. I know of some at-home dads and I definitely think that while something might be the general rule or principle, God has exceptions. My husband is AMAZING with our kids and they love getting time with just him. There is so much freedom in Christ and I think the goal is to not be legalistic or dogmatic while of course seeking God's plan for your family. That's why I think it is dangerous pointing fingers or judging or saying "she should not be running for office b/c she has a disabled baby". God won't always do things the way we expect. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!!

Brianna Heldt said...

shelley yes! you are so right!

Lisa Leonard said...

this is such a big issue facing women. i have worked since my kids were born, at first i had no choice, now i work by choice.

the funny thing is, i thought Sarah Palin should stay home and raise her kids, initially. I just can't imagine how she does it all. But she seems to do it and i respect her. I don't think women HAVE to stay home to be good moms. I also think a woman could run this country and do a great job.

Lots of good thoughts here!!

Dawn said...

Brianna, Again I totally agree with your stance. I enjoyed seeing Palin standing up there with her big family and special baby, and conservative views. I also connected with the fact that Cindy McCain adopted a cleft palate child and actually spent time IN POVERTY serving basic needs of people. I know I am called to be at home and school my kids, but I cannot dictate other womens calling. I just can't bring myself to do it. I know so many amazing Christian women who use their gifts and education to serve the world and if we retract their service due to some mandate then I believe we will sacrifice the lives of millions.

Brianna Heldt said...

Dawn I love hearing your thoughts! I too am so inspired by Cindy McCain's work she has done all over the world. She has used her resources and time for doing good, and adopting a special needs child is SO amazing!!! Honestly it felt good this election to see BOTH Republicans living out their faith in tangible ways. I read a book that talked about how ultimately, a good leader will simply be a virtuous person. I think that's probably true!

Dawn said...

Ya Know its interesting... While I basically look at myself as called to mother my children and stay at home, I work as a photographer and design artist for my husbands business and teach Art at my kids Co-op school and get paid for it, so I actually am a working mom too. We all have so many different strengths, I think when living for God is a "career goal" whatever path he takes you on can glorify Him.


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