Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Do Christian Feminists Exist? A Response to Julie Clawson

Julie Clawson, a wife, mother, egalitarian and emerging church pastor, asked this question on her blog a few weeks ago. She says:

“I do understand that there are various streams/waves of feminism and while I have serious issues with some of them (the ones that hate men or think that sexual openness means equality), I am not willing to give up the entire history of the movement because of some fringe views (kinda like I feel about Christianity). I am a feminist because I am a Christian. I believe all people are created in the image of God and are therefore worthy as imagebearers. We are all called to serve God in the ways we are called (in ministry, work, the home, school…) and to say otherwise is to stifle the will of God. Since it has been women who have generally been seen as inferior, I think feminism is necessary to overcome that lie.”

At the end of her post she takes her stand for Christian feminists:

“So I am a feminist. I think women are people too. I think we are worthy of respect and human rights. I think God is big enough to use whoever he wants to serve him. And I will stand up with feminists against those who out of fear or hatred try to tell God otherwise.”

I am a complementarian, and I readily agree with Julie that women are people too. She is absolutely correct that women are worthy of respect and human rights. I think God is bigger than we all can imagine, and that He is a speaking God whose Word we should obey. But feminism will not achieve her goals.

Feminism is not necessary to overcome the lie of oppression. The Gospel is. We can never forget the centrality and sufficiency of the Gospel in talking about gender. Jesus Christ, the perfect God-man, is our hope, and it is to him that we look. History has shown us that feminism leads to the oppression it cries out against. It leads to women exercising “free choice" to murder baby girls in the womb because they are seen as an intolerable burden. And it is the “liberated woman” of pornography who pretends to represent to men how women truly are.

I do not deny that there are men in churches who are not biblically-driven complementarians, but oafs and tyrant wannabes. I am saddened by them. Nor do I deny that there are women in our churches who see biblical womanhood as being a doormat, and that is grevious. But personal experiences and the examples of sinful men and women do not serve as the foundation of our faith or complementarian position.

The whole point of the gender discussion is Jesus Christ. I want people to see Jesus, despite how flawed my presentation of him may be. God has spoken to us, and we must listen. If our theology of God is not rooted in biblical truth, we run the risk of being disillusioned at the first harsh word from our husbands or fathers.

A Christian feminist must be categorized as an oxymoron. A recovery of true equality and dignity for women will first begin at the Cross, and in men and women living in the way that God designed them to be. If we abandon that, we will eventually abandon the Gospel itself.

Mary Kassian says in her book The Feminist Mistake:

“Many Christians view feminism as an ideology that merely promotes the genuine dignity and worth of women. If this were true, feminism would definitely be compatible with Christianity, for the Bible does teach that women and men are of equal value in God’s sight, co-created as bearers of God’s image. But the philosophy of feminism adds a subtle, almost indiscernible twist to the basic truth of woman’s worth. Feminism asserts that woman’s worth is of such a nature that it gives her the right to discern, judge, and govern that truth herself. It infuses women with the idea that God’s teaching about the role of women must line up with their own perception and definition of equality and/or liberation. Feminism does not present itself as an outright affront to the Bible, but it nevertheless contains an insidious distortion that erodes the authority of Scripture. Acceptance of the feminist thesis may not drastically alter one’s initial beliefs, but if followed, will naturally and logically lead to an end miles away from the Christianity of the Bible.”

Instead of running from God’s design in the quest for freedom, the quest for equality should drive us to our God-ordained distinctions, because only there where we will find true freedom and true worth.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mrs. Dubert

One of the greatest problems, I fear, of my generation is that we are often too isolated. Certainly we are a community driven generation, but we like to stay within our own niches. It is rare to see, anymore, a twenty-something in a willing conversation, let alone relationship, with an older member of society. And sadly, this is not foreign to the evangelical church. There is much to learn from the Baby Boomer and Senior Citizen in our congregations, and many times we aren’t even in churches where that could be an option.

A great joy of mine has been to get to know Mrs. Marjorie Dubert. She is the mother of my mom’s best friend, Sonja. In 1960, Mr. and Mrs. Dubert were accepted for translation work with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Papua New Guinea. They were there until 2002, when they retired and returned back to the States. For 42 years they labored in translation work and raised 7 children. It was not without trials, though. Their first translation work was for a tribe with a dying language. They realized once they had begun the work that this was a language that after the current generation passed away would no longer be in existence. Yet they stayed for the few people who would be impacted by the Gospel and completed the New Testament. Upon completion of this work, they could have returned to the United States to enjoy their grandchildren and retire, like many in their generation were doing. Instead, they chose to begin another translation work for a tribe where many were hungry for the Word.

When they did retire, Mrs. Dubert began having problems with her eyesight. The doctors soon realized that years of taking malaria medicine had affected her eyesight to the point of blindness. It was only a matter of time before she would be legally blind. In spite of all of this, she still serves in many ways, including penning a story of her time in New Guinea. I hope that this is a blessing to you, as it has been to me. Reading the words of a woman, who despite losing her own sight so the eyes of the spiritually blind may be opened, is an encouragement to be faithful no matter the cost.

by Marjorie Dubert

“Whatever Jehovah pleased, that hath he done.”
—Psalm 135:6

“He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.”
—1 Timothy 6:15

A very vivid object lesson, showing me that God is Sovereign, occurred during my years of serving him in Papua New Guinea with Wycliffe Bible Translators/Summer Institute of Linguistics.

LaVonne Scherers was a fellow graduate student at Columbia Bible College. In the summer of 1954 she sang in my wedding. The next time I saw her in early 1962, she was Mrs. Walt Steinkraus doing Bible translation with her husband and children for the Tifalmin people in Papua New Guinea. They welcomed my husband and me with our children as fellow translators.

In March of 1971, Vonnie came by our home at Ukarumpa to say good-by. She and the 2 girls, Kerry 12 and Katherine 2, were off to the village to join Walt. She could have left Kerry in the Children’s Home to attend the International Primary School, but Kerry chose to go to the village. Vonnie told me, “We want to Glorify God as a family.”

Vonnie and the girls arrived in the village March 19, and 2 days later, on a beautiful sunny Sunday, the Steinkraus family attended church in a nearby village, returned home and lay down to rest while many in the village took the opportunity to go work in their gardens or gather firewood. At 3pm, a freak landslide, ½ mile long, 300’ high and 100’ deep with terrific force crossed the river and covered the village, instantaneous death for the 10 victims remaining in the village. An envelope found in the debris had this verse written on it, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:6).

Other translators, Al and Susan Boush with their children, took up the translation project and the Tifamin people now have the New Testament in their language.

However on another occasion July 17, 1998, when an earthquake occurred a few miles off the shore of Arop, Papua New Guinea, it caused three 33 ft high Tsunamis to come ashore. All the houses and people in Arop village at the time, including the home of the Nystroms doing Bible Translation for the Arop people, were swept out to sea. In the Sovereignty of God, John and Bonnie Nystrom with their two children and all their translation materials were safely at Ukarumpa Center.

God used the Nystrom family to give the remaining people hope, to choose more translation helpers, and to set up a training center where they now train and work with translators from eleven other languages as well as the Arop.

I marvel at the mysterious hand of our Sovereign Lord and King. His ways are indeed, higher than my ways. He chose to take the Steinkraus family yet allow the Nystrom family to remain, all the while furthering his Kingdom and glorifying himself.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Halloween 2007

When I was a little girl I always looked forward to Halloween. My brothers and I would plan our costumes weeks in advance, expectantly wait for dark on the 31st of October, and then pile into the family van, pillowcases in tow, which served as makeshift trick-or-treat bags. There was only one condition for our Halloween activities—we were never allowed to wear “scary” costumes. The Tarter children would never be seen as witches, devils, vampires, or any other horror film character. I never understood this as a kid, and hadn’t thought about it in years until this past Wednesday night. It hit me, sadly for the first time, that my parents were protecting me from real evil, evil that I did not understand because I was na├»ve. They knew what I didn’t. The costumes, though they seemed to be mere pieces of fabric, were representing something actual, not pretend like I thought.

On Halloween this year some friends and I dressed up like the Wizard of Oz characters and passed out candy for the annual Halloween on Hillcrest extravaganza in Louisville. Complete with a projector playing the movie and a real life Yellow Brick Road, we were no ordinary endeavor. There were thousands of people, and I realized that I was seeing a very different Halloween than the one I experienced 15 years ago. Not because it has changed and suddenly become more pagan. I just grew up somewhere between being Tinker Belle and the Cowardly Lion.

I saw hundred of little devils, witches, Freddy Krueger’s, and dead prom queens, all who have yet to reach junior high. One of my friends even made the comment that “there is something wrong about a baby being dressed up as a devil.” There is a Prince of Darkness who desires to have the souls of every one of those little devils, witches, and prom queens, and that should make me tremble. The fact that there are toddlers dressed up as pop stars and evil spirits is indicative of a much larger problem than whether or not we celebrate Halloween. We live in a confused world that trivializes evil to the degree that we coo at a baby in a devil costume.

This Halloween was a reminder to me that we are not there yet. We don’t need to go very far to see that. Our neighborhoods are perishing, and the kids in the costumes are a direct reflection of the parents who dress them. There is something seriously wrong with parents who send their daughters out as pre-pubescent Britney Spears. Apart from Christ, we are no different. Though there is room for Christian freedom regarding Halloween convictions, this holiday, like all other holidays, should remind us and incite us to weep and pray for the lost.

And though Halloween is quite different for me than it used to be, I still look forward to it, but for very different reasons. It is a motivation to pray, a motivation to witness, and a motivation to know my neighbors lives. Maybe next year, by the grace of God, we will be able to say that the infant devil has been overcome by the Holy Babe—our Lord, Jesus Christ.