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Sunday, July 01, 2007

A virtuous woman: update

I am going to publish this as separate post so it doesn't get missed. The Biblical Carnival was posted yesterday on Stephen Cook's blog, Biblische Ausbildung.

There was a fascinating post by Alli Diller on the Wife of Noble Character which repeats what I wrote yesterday.
    Contrary to many Christian stereotypes of proper female behavior, this passage does not depict the virtuous and praiseworthy wife as a submissive homebody whose sole purpose in life is to raise children and do dishes. No, this noble wife is a shrewd and profiting businesswoman! Even the Hebrew word for "noble character," often translated as "excellent" or "virtuous" literally means "power" or "strength." Of the 244 times this word is used in the Bible, it almost always means "strength", "army", or "wealth." The woman in Proverbs 31 is described in this manner, as is the Queen of Sheba in 1 Kings (10:2) and 2 Chronicles (9:1). Her strength is mentioned several more times throughout this passage.
One of the saddest things that I have seen on the internet recently is the use of the image on this site in the May 01, 2007 post. Here the poster of Rosie the Riveter is held up as an example of everything a woman should not be. Rosie was an icon of female strength, a woman who worked as a riveter in a factory in WWII as a participant in the war effort.

The division of noble characteristics into distinctly male and female is not only profoundly non-biblical but it is alienating and divisive. How much better to recognize the sameness in our ostensible difference. Wouldn't we rather bind our hearts together in sympathy, than set up an hierarchy of power between the man and the woman.

A true and literal Bible translation will not support distinct feminine and masculine virtues in humanity. We are like hinges and hardware, complementary in shape but equal in the material we are made out of. One does not dominate the other out of superior strength.

This creed of the Biblical Manhood and Womanhood movement is anything but Biblical. In fact, I can't find any scriptural strand in it whatsoever.
AT THE HEART OF MATURE MASCULINITY IS A SENSE OF BENEVOLENT RESPONSIBILITY TO LEAD, PROVIDE FOR AND PROTECT WOMEN IN WAYS APPROPRIATE TO A MAN'S DIFFERING RELATIONSHIPS.
AT THE HEART OF MATURE FEMININITY IS A FREEING DISPOSITION TO AFFIRM, RECEIVE AND NURTURE STRENGTH AND LEADERSHIP FROM WORTHY MEN IN WAYS APPROPRIATE TO A WOMAN'S DIFFERING RELATIONSHIPS.
Where is there room for Ruth's benevolent responsibility in this? Didn't Boaz benefit from her strength? If woman can't acknowledge their own strength, they won't be able to commit that strength to honouring their covenant loyalties. How far our contemporary culture has strayed from God's truth.

Another supporter of the Biblical Manhood and Womanhood movement writes,
    We would, I think, sense something odd if Mother Teresa's personality were found in the body of, say, Sylvester Stallone, or vice versa.
I wouldn't. I simply wouldn't. I remember meeting the Swiss administrator of an international mission organization. Over 6' tall, over 200 lbs. a bushy black beard and deep voice, he was professional nurse, and proud of it. How ridiculous it is to see a certain Christian subculture's servile attitude to their own petty little national prejudices about what it means to be male or female.

The Canadian organization L'Arche is a ministry to the handicapped, founded and run by Jean Vanier, the son of our former governor-general. On Canada Day, I am pleased to belong to a country where we are proud of Christian men who are nurturing and women who provide strength.

These characteristics should be the prerequisites for men and women to fulfill their contractual lovingkindness in marriage, in community and in society. I deplore the implication that if both male and female are endowed with these same characteristics, that must weaken the marriage bond. In fact, we know that it doesn't - divorce rates are the same across all denominations. We are frail human beings. Splitting ourselves into the so-called "masculine" and "feminine" will not heal us.

Teknomon, I'll quote your comments and respond to them soon. Thanks so much.

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