We have six children: three girls and three boys. (Well the oldest is practically a woman now.) They all learn to cook and garden and change tires and change diapers and wash dishes and do whatever needs to be done, because life requires it. Our rule is that the older ones serve the younger and the stronger serve the weaker…and everybody helps. Because survival requires it. So I find much of the discussion around “Christian manhood” as well as most of the values of modern feminism quite disturbing…and equally wrong and destructive. What do I mean?
Back in 2013 there was a hubbub over yet one more statement by popular evangelical preacher Mark Driscoll in which he claimed that stay at home dads were worse than unbelievers and not ‘real’ men. Of course I have addressed the “patriarchy” movement and such “Christian men” teachings as well as the value of women from a Christian perspective here and here and here and here and here and here. However, I think there is something pertinent to add in light of the recent “feminist” march against Trump and the popular emphasis on feminism that has sprung up in its wake. So I want to return to Driscoll’s statement as a path to critiquing American feminism…not simply as retroactive Driscoll bashing.
I say American feminism quite specifically because it is the American aspect that is so destructive to women, men, and families. I have read “We Should All be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and found it refreshingly simple. Her definition is quite simply “a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes” (47). She recognizes that men are typically physically stronger than women, and that when and where physical strength was most essential for survival men naturally lead. But times have changed and survival and prosperity and therefore leadership are not so closely tied to sex.
Still, she doesn’t devalue men or the family; she asks that the man’s involvement in the family be as essentially part of manhood as the woman’s contribution is to womanhood. And, for what I want to focus on here, she asks the very important question, “What if both boys and girls were raised not to link masculinity and money?” (26)
That is the problem with Driscoll’s claim above; it means that a man’s worth is wrapped up in what he produces in the marketplace. For him and those who hold such views, it is the man’s job to go out and make money. In a vulgar but true sense, for Driscoll a man matters only if what he does contributes to the GDP.
This view rests on really poor exposition of a passage in I Timothy where Paul says that the one who doesn’t provide for his family is worse than someone who abandons the faith. What Driscoll fails to note is that the word translated ‘provide’ has to do with caring for and taking thought for and giving consideration to the future.
Driscoll’s view of providing is empty and materialistic. It is unbiblical…and it fails to recognize the realities of the modern world. It lacks the insight of the Chestertonian idea that feminism is really a problem of wealth because poorer people live life in partnership with their spouses and seldom really doubt the value of the wife. As Adichie mentioned, when life depended on physical strength, the physically stronger one must do what is essential. As Chesteton said it, if one must go out and hunt for food and carve existence out of the land, the other must cook the food and sew torn clothes. Each must do what they can for the survival of the family.
But what of the world we live in, the world where bread is often won by creativity or the ability to multi-task and manage. Adichie is correct, there is no chromosomal determinant to those skills. Indeed, I would argue that women are often better managers and multi-taskers than men. (Proverb 31 virtuous woman comes to mind…managing a household that runs like a small business.)
However, Driscoll’s idea of how a father is to “provide” has ridiculous ramifications. Consider, in a family that desires to home school in which the father is a natural teacher and the mother a successful doctor, the father must go out and face the stress of being underpaid to teach other people’s children in a frustratingly bureaucratic system while the mother puts an excellent career on hold to be frustrated by trying to do what she does not do well…teach. That is not taking thought for the future, it’s mindlessly conforming to worldly patterns. It’s not godly, it’s stupid. Or how about the single adult child who puts a career on hold to take care of an ailing mother…is it OK if a daughter does it but not a son? Would Driscoll’s standard of masculine care mean the son ought to work harder outside the home to ‘produce’ more so he can pay to keep his mom in a retirement facility with mediocre care? On the flip side, is the harsh absent father who sends his regular child support to his estranged family a better man than our homeschooling dad mentioned above?
If you find the outworking of Driscolls statements appalling, then you ought to feel the same about the modern American feminist movement. The core of the American feminist movement doesn’t value women…it values money. Just as Driscoll cannot see a man’s ability to provide outside of the movements of the market and the making of money, and thereby reduces a man to a materialistic cog relieving him of his more profound calling as man, son, brother, husband, father; so the modern American feminist movement reduces the value of women to a paycheck. Don’t believe me, just ask the dad in that Superbowl Audi ad. And then look a little deeper.
Theologian Leslie Newbigin describes our modern economic system as rooted in an understanding of economic laws in which:
The law of covetousness [is] assumed as the basic drive of human nature. What does not enter the market is ignored. Gross National Product refers only to what enters the market. It excludes the work of the housewife, of the gardener growing his own food. It includes the operation of the gambling syndicate, the arms salesman, and the drug pusher (Foolishness to the Greeks, 31).
It also includes the business of the abortionist…but not the stay-at-home mom or homeschooling dad.
So, the modern American feminist movement, having embraced the materialism of the all consuming markets, despises the stay-at-home mom just like Driscoll devalues the stay-at-home dad. Perhaps the desire by some in the movement to equate marriage with prostitution is actually rooted in some underlying desire to give value to women the only way they know how…with a dollar value. Who knows?
What is certain is that the feminist movement that controlled the recent march on Washington DC is sadly not a movement simply about the “social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” They are a movement totally committed to abortion industry because abortion is a great money-maker falsely lauded as a symbol of freedom.
Sadly, their desire is not simply for the freedom to shape culture to value women and men equally or to hold fathers and mothers equally responsible for the well being of the family. They cannot fathom the vision of a feminist like Adichie who imagines a world where we would see it “as something normal and natural that [a man] should help care for his child” (37). They are far more concerned with things like the 1 in 3 movement designed to share ‘grassroots’ stories about women having abortions in order to create the narrative that makes it normal and natural that a woman might kill hers.