More on Women in the Bible

Dear Reader,

I wanted to follow up a little on my recent posts on women in the Bible (see here and here). In those earlier posts, I discussed how women in our culture are often portrayed as either paragons of good or founts of evil. While these images can be found in the Bible as well, most notably in the book of Proverbs, I also looked at the other biblical evidence and concluded that the Bible’s understanding of women is really different in some fundamental and important ways from these idealized (for better or worse) images that our culture often presents (in a certain class of movies especially).

But, while the Bible, unlike Adam himself and many of his male descendents, does not lay the blame for all temptation at the foot of woman, it does present  a world in which women are in many ways lesser. This is not to say that the Bible itself preaches that women are or should be less, but it accepts the reality that they are less. This is openly acknowledged in the New Testament when Peter calls women the “weaker vessel” and urges men to honor them (I Pet. 3:7). But it is also assumed throughout the Bible. In addition to being physically weaker (which I think is undeniable if we are honest; I remember reading once that men have 5x the upper body strength of women, though of course individuals of both genders vary), women in Bible times were economically disadvantaged as well. There just were not many honorable jobs a woman could hold and so a woman left on her own tended to be either impoverished or engaged in sinful activities (if not both). Did you know that the Hebrew word for “orphan” is better translated “fatherless”? Because a child without a father might as well be an orphan; his mother cannot support him.

Women also lacked power in their society. This is not surprising since they could not hold jobs. They were neither part of the political structure nor the religious structure. They were not the heads of their families and, for the most part though an exception is dealt with even in the time of Moses, could not inherit from their fathers.

But, though this is the situation of women in Bible times, the Bible itself seems to be almost constantly turning this structure on its head. Just as God seemed almost always to choose younger sons (who were also at somewhat of a disadvantage, though not so much as their sisters were) to spite the older, so too He often used women to spite men.

There are many, many examples I could cite of how women, and often quite disrespectable women, played a key role in the history of God’s people, but I would like to look at just two stories. The first is the story of Moses’ birth in the early chapters of Exodus (Exod. 1:8-2:10 ). Who are the characters in this story? There is Pharaoh, of course, and the baby Moses. But there are also the midwives and Moses’ mother and sister (his father is only mentioned in passing as having begat him) and Pharaoh’s daughter. This is the biggest figure of the Old Testament, and yet when his origins are discussed, it is the women who play key roles. They are all unnamed here, but each of them displays remarkable courage, and each of them acts in a way that potentially endangers her own life. I find this stunning. They are not powerful people in the scheme of things, but they act within the sphere of influence they are given, show great moral character, and each one of them plays a pivotal role in the working out of God’s plan of salvation for His people. Who says the Bible does not esteem women? It operates in a world in which women are not esteemed, but it shows clearly that they and their contributions are incredibly valuable.

The second passage I would like to look at is another birth story (no, not that one!); it is the story of Samson’s birth in Judges 13. The whole story of Samson is a great one for seeing the power women exercise, but I’d like to look just at his parents. The story begins, as so many good biblical stories do, with a man whose wife is barren. We are told his name, Manoah, but never that of his wife. An angel appears to his wife and tells her she will bear a child and gives her specific instructions for his upbringing. Good wife that she is, she tells her husband. And what does Manoah do? He prays. Great, right? Praying is always great. Err. . .  not quite in this case because what Manoah prays for is instructions regarding the child. Wait? Didnt he already get those? Of course he did; the angel gave them to his wife. But Manoah doesn’t seem to think that’s sufficient. So Manoah prays. And God sends the angel again — to his wife. This time she runs to get her husband. He gets to see the angel too and so he asks his question: “What shall we do for the child?” And what does the angel say? “Um, dude, do like I told your wife earlier.” Okay, the angel doesn’t quite phrase it that way, but that’s the idea — “I already told your wife; do that.”

After all this, Manoah still doesn’t get that it is an angel they have been talking to. He wants to make their visitor a meal. The angel refuses and makes it obvious he is not a mere human. They sacrifice, the angel disappears in a flame of fire, and Manoah and his wife fall on their faces in wonder. But we are still not done with Manoah. After all this, he fears that they will be killed for having seen the angel of the Lord. It is his wife who has to talk him down and point  out the obvious — that as God as just promised them a child, He is unlikely to wipe them out immediately.

This is not a  flattering picture of the man Manoah. He is the only character named. Like so many biblical women, his wife is never named. And yet it is her that the angel chooses to deal with. It is she that acts logically, believes immediately, and recognizes the Lord (or His angel) when He appears. Manoah does not honor her, but God does.

And I think that in a nutshell is the story of women in the Bible. Rightly or wrongly, women are not powerful figures in the biblical stories, but God does not leave them there. He chooses them and uses them both to further His own plan and to shame those who should have known Him and followed Him and led the way. Their contributions are often small and don’t extend beyond their own normal spheres of influence, and yet they are essential to God’s overall plan of salvation, not because God needs them, of course but because He graciously choose to use them. That is what God is like after all, He tells us himself that He chooses the weak if the world to shame the strong (I Cor. 1:27). So, I say, as women let us not be ashamed of our weakness (for no doubt some weaknesses still exist in us though our place in society is much improved), but let us boast in our weakness for through it God is shown strong!

Nebby

 

Our First Attempt at Literary Analysis: Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Dear Reader,

Since reading Deconstructing Penguins by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone (see my review here), I have been wanting to have a book group with my kids. For a little review, Deconstructing is the account of a parent and child book group the Goldstones ran at their local library. It is written anecdotally, telling of their own experiences, but along the way it also goes through a number of children’s books and tells how they would understand the books. The approach is the most important thing though; the authors are careful to say any answer is right if one can support it from the text.

I debated asking other homeschoolers to join us in a book group but in the end, not knowing how well it would work, I wimped out and decided to try it with just my own kids. There are four of them, though, which I think gives us a quorum for a good discussion.

The first book we attempted is the one Deconstructing Penguins is named after — Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Deconstructing is not written as a how-to guide but I went through their chapter on it and came up with my own list of questions to steer the discussion. It took us a while to read the book because we did it a chapter at a  time a read-aloud. But finally today we were ready to discuss. I guess I had told my kids ahead of time that there would be a mystery to solve– this is the Deconstructing approach, each book is a mystery and we must dig deep to find out what the author is trying to tell us.

Well, anyway, my youngest who is 9 years old, started us off before I could even ask questions this morning by saying she thought she knew the answer to the mystery. Her guess was that the author was trying to ask if penguins could live in other environments than their natural one. This kind of threw me, but I thought we would go with it. So we started by discussing her proposition and asking what the answer would be. Could penguins live elsewhere? How did they fare in the book? And what about the other characters? How did Mr. Popper do outside his natural environment? What about Mrs. Popper and the children? Though I didn’t see it coming myself at first, this actually tied in well with what Deconstructing said was the main idea — that Mr. Popper, unlike all the other people in Stillwater, was a dreamer; that he was “different” and they were “normal.”

For our own part, we ended up saying that some people, like Mr. Popper, could thrive in foreign environments, but that others, like Mrs. Popper, could not. We also discussed which of us would do well in other environments. Some of us are more adventurous than others.

My older daughter also made an interesting observation. She said that Mr. Popper is like a Christiaan because he doesn’t really belong in Stillwater; he belongs somewhere else, just as for Christians we are aliens here and our true citizenship is in heaven. We tried to make the penguins or Admiral Drake a Christ-figure but decide this might be going too far ;)

The conclusion is that I am very pleased with how our little book group went. The kids really came up with ideas that seemed to fit the book and yet went beyond what Deconstructing Penguins itself said. And, honestly, I liked their ideas better too.

Even though we didn’t end up using them as written, I would like to share with you the questions I can up with in case you would like to have your own book group. If you do, be sure to let me know how it goes and what conclusions your reach!

Questions for Mr. Popper’s Penguins:

  • What is this book really about?
  • Why penguins?
  • What kind of town did Mr. Popper live in?
  • Why “Stillwater”? Is the town’s name just accidental?
  • How would you describe the people in the town? (Have the kids guess “normal” in a  hangman-style game.)
  • What about Mr. Popper? (Again have them guess “different.”)
  • What makes him different? (Deconstructing‘s answer is that he is a dreamer.)
  • Why is it important to have dreams?
  • Does it bother you to be different? Did it bother Mr. Popper?

I plan to do future posts when we discuss more books. It may be a number of weeks between such posts though since it takes us a while to read them (hey, what a great reason to start following me!).

I would also like in future years to have similar discussions about movies based on another book I read recently, Meaning at the Movies (review here).

Nebby

Living Books on the French Revolution

Dear Reader,

We recently took a detour from our study of American history to cover the French Revolution. This was a pretty brief unit for us — only 3 or 4 weeks — but I do have 4 kids all reading different things so I have  a few books to recommend. We did not get into Napoleon yet; I am going to come back to that after we have looked at the first few American presidents.

Here’s what we used:

The Kindle Edition -- Find it at Heritage History

The Kindle Edition — Find it at Heritage History

The Story of Modern France by Helene Guerber — We used this book as a spine and I read it to all the kids together. This was to make sure that they got the basic facts and were not missing any key events or ideas since their individual reading might be more focused. I was not a fan of Guerber’s volumes on ancient Greece and Rome, but I have used a couple of her other books recently and have been very pleased with them. She tells the historical events but in a narrative style that is easy to read and understand and entertaining as well. A true living book. We did not read the whole book but only the chapters relevant to the Revolution. I think we will come back to it for the Napoleon years. I also learned things — I was shocked and saddened by the character of the royal family at and before their deaths. They truly showed Christian character and I found myself almost in tears reading their stories. Spoiler — the French Revolution does not have a happy ending for the aristocrats.

Another Kindle edition -- I am pretty sure I got it free from Amazon; if not it was very cheap.

Another Kindle edition — I am pretty sure I got it free from Amazon; if not it was very cheap.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy — I preread this book (something I don’t often have time to do) and then had my 14-year-old read it. We both really enjoyed it. The title figure is an Englishman who helps French aristocrats escape during the Reign or Terror. There is a bit of a mystery to it in the first half and the second half is suspense (how will they escape?). It was really hard not to give hints and spoil it for my son. I was pleased to to find that there is a whole series of books about the Scarlet Pimpernel. I am hoping I can get him to read more of them outside of homeschool. For historical value, this book is certainly not going to tell you everything about the French Revolution but I think it does give a good feel for some of the issues, and particularly how those in other European countries felt about the whole thing. There are also moral dilemmas that one could discuss.

Miss Jefferson in Paris by Regina Kelly — Though not as old as the Scarlet Pimpernel, this is a slightly older book. It tells the story of Thomas Jefferson’s daughter when they lived in Paris before and during the French Revolution. I had my 12-year-old daughter read this book. She seemed to enjoy it and she is hard to please when it comes to homeschool-y books. It was a kind of easy read for her. I would think it is 5th-8th grade level and she is at the upper end of that. Again, this book will not tell the whole story of the Revolution but gives a slice of life at the time. Because we were reading our spine too, she was able to recognize events and some idea of their significance. She seemed to find it easy to narrate which I always consider a test of s good book as well.

You Wouldn’t Want to be an Aristocrat in the French Revolution by Jim Pipe — If you are not familiar with this series, it is silly fun. Not true living books but I do use them from time to time. I had my 11-year-old read this. It only took him a few days. He did a good job narrating it and I think that it gave him some decent background on the Revolution. The series will appeal to boys who like the gross-out type books.

frenchrev3

Norby and the Queen’s Necklace by Janey and Isaac Asimov — I stumbled across this book through a library search.  I was intrigued by the authorship — Isaac Asimov and his wife. This is the story of a robot and his human crew who somehow are involved with Marie Antoinette’s necklace and end up traveling back in time both to France and to other places. It is part of a series of Norby books. I had my 11-year-old read this one as well. He seemed to enjoy it. It was well suited to his level — sort of a longer chapter book. While he was able to recognize events from the other book he read and our spine reading, I didn’t get the impression that there was a lot of history involved here. Mostly they seemed to bop back and forth into different times. His narrations (oral still) often left me befuddled as to who was doing what which could be him or could be the book, or some combination of he two. A fun read and I could see getting him more of the series for fun, but I am not sure of its educational value.

You can tell it's going to be a good book by how old the cover looks ;) Yes, I do judge books by their cover.

You can tell it’s going to be a good book by how old the cover looks ;) Yes, I do judge books by their cover.

The Fair American by Elizabeth Coatsworth- We’ve read other of Coatsworth’s books and she has reached the status of an author I always grab if I can. I had my 9-year-old read this book. It is about a little French aristocrat boy who has to escape the Reign of Terror. It is long chapter book level. My 9yo did okay with it though I think some parts confused her a bit. I’d say it’s 4th-6th grade level. It seemed like a good story and I think she enjoyed it. It seemed to me that it was light on historic details. They seem to be mostly escaping and other than the fact that they must escape it didn’t seem like there was much detail about the time. Of course, I didn’t read it myself so it could be her narrations were just lacking — or perhaps I should say she was focused on other details. Still, it seems to have been a nice read.

frenchrev2

Moi and Marie Antoinette by Lynn Cullen – This is a long picture book written from the perspective of Marie Antoinette’s dog. My 9-year-old liked it though it would be hard to displease her with a book about a dog. I had her read it in three sittings though she probably could have done it more quickly. It seemed like a nice book though it completely misses the very sad parts of the story. It’s all happy earlier years (not so happy for the peasants, of course, but it’s not about them).

Of course there are many other books out there. These are the ones we could get our hands on and which fit our schedule. Given more time I would have loved to use A Tale of Two Cities or Les Mis.

One more picture:

A happy child

A happy child

Happy Reading!

Nebby

 

 

 

Genesis 3: Are Women the Source of Temptation? (Part 2)

Dear Reader,

This is the promised continuation of my recent post on the idealization of women, both as paragons of virtue and as the epitome of temptation. In that post, I tried to show that men, through many centuries and even millenia, have exhibited a tendency to portray women as either entirely virtuous or as complete temptresses whom they, the men, cannot resist. I also raised a number of questions about whether this treatment is justified, biblically speaking.

For, as I said in that previous post, this dual characterization of women is at least as old as the book of Proverbs where it is a major theme — Wisdom personified as a woman calls the young man toward virtuous living while the Wicked Woman calls him toward a life of sin.

Now I would like to look more closely at the biblical evidence. Let’s start with the negative: evidence that women are the cause of men’s moral downfall. One must start, of course, “In the Beginning” with Genesis and particularly the fall of Adam in Genesis 3. As the story unfolds, it is actually much like the movie depiction of the beautiful temptress — the serpent must reason with Eve to get her to eat; she gives the fruit to Adam and he eats without questioning. When God come to accuse them, Adam blames Eve (and to some extent God Himself for having given her to him in the first place) and Eve blames the serpent. What this tells me is that this story is as old as time, or at least as old as humankind (depends on your view of creation, I suppose ;) ). Not only is the basic outline all there, the man’s blaming his sin on the woman and painting himself as only an innocent victim unable to resist is also there. I have never really thought before about how Eve has to be convinced and yet Adam follows her into sin unquestioningly. Kind of puts a different spin on things, doesn’t it?

At any rate, the question we must then ask is: Is this version of the story true? I’m not doubting the Genesis account; what I am asking is: Is Adam really a relatively innocent dupe?

If you will allow me to digress a moment to establish some terminology — I am not a literary scholar and am not sure of what terminology to use, but if you will allow me, I am going to call the bare bones outline which appears here in Genesis and in the film noir movies that first started this discussion the metanarrative (no idea if this is how the term is usually used). As I am using it then, the metanarrative is the outline of the story with all its most essential elements, most, if not all, of which then appear in the various versions of the tale which take the basic outline and apply specific characters and circumstances to it.

Returning now to the main argument — in the metanarrative, the man certainly blames his downfall on the woman, but I do think that we, the audience, are also made to understand that he is not completely innocent. It is understood that he has done wrong, but he is relatively innocent in that the woman who lured him is the primary mover and is pictured as having a greater moral responsibility for what happened. His crime, whatever it may be, is somewhat inadvertent; he has been lured or tricked in some way and has not made a conscious, clear-headed choice. She has been clear-headed all along and her actions are deliberate; they are not muddied by emotion as his are because she has no real emotion for him.

This only partially fits the biblical picture. There is a level at which Eve has considered her actions and Adam has not. But she was no more committing deliberate evil than he was. I Timothy tells us that it was Eve who was deceived:

“And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” (I Tim. 2:14; ESV)

If anything in the biblical story, it is the serpent who knowingly and without emotion lures both Adam and Eve into sin. When God punishes all three, He says to the serpent “Because you have done this” (v. 14) and to Adam “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it’” (v. 17), but He does not comment on the why of Eve’s punishment. Rather than holding her more responsible, as our metanarrative does, God seems to hold her less responsible in that her curse is shorter and no reason for it is given. I Timothy, of course, somewhat makes up for this in that it seems to blame her more and ties her submission and more lowly role (not being allowed to teach or have authority over men) to her sin.

The role of speech and listening deserves mention here. In Genesis, God faults Adam for listening to his wife’s voice (see Gen. 3:17, above; compare this also to Genesis 16:2 in which Abraham listens to Sarah and Genesis 21:12 in which God tells him to listen to Sarah; there is really a lot to this whole “should I listen to my wife?” thing). In Timothy, Eve’s punishment is that she must be quiet:

“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” (I Tim 2:12)

Who then is more to blame, the one who spoke or the one who listened? Genesis 3, based on his longer curse, seems to lay the blame at Adam’s feet (that’s a pun; see Gen. 3:15); Timothy seems to single out Eve, though I am doubtful myself as it whether it holds her more responsible. In the metanarrative, the one who is deceived bears the lesser blame. Timothy doesn’t make it abundantly clear who bears the greater blame but it does make it quiet clear that Eve was deceived while Adam was not. There is a hint that Eve is more at fault since it calls her a “transgressor” but it would be hard to believe in the context of the whole New Testament that Timothy did not realize that Adam was a transgressor as well. And then there is Romans in which the Apostle Paul tells us that “by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” (Rom. 5:19). Note that it the man’s disobedience — Adam’s and not Eve’s — which produced the downfall of the whole human race.

Let us return then to our original questions: Is Adam an innocent dupe? I would have to say no, Adam does not fit the innocent dupe role as seen in the metanarrative. He does not consider his actions but he is clearly held responsible for them in that he bears a greater curse than Eve. She also does not fit the metanarrative in that she is not a dispassionate deceiver. She of all characters is the most deceived in the story. The serpent instead fills the role of deceiver.

What is the relationship then between the biblical story and the metanarrative? It is hard for me not to think that the metanarrative finds its roots in Genesis 3, this story which is so old, so well-known and so formative for the human race. And yet it seems to misunderstand the story of mankind’s fall. Indeed, the metanarrative does what Adam himself does — it blames the woman. This, then, is the real truth behind all those innocent(ish)-man-lured-to-his-destruction-by-the-beuatiful-temptress stories. The truth behind the stories is not that women are the source of evil but that people, since the beginnings of time, have been passing blame for their own actions and that men in particular pass the blame onto the women in their lives.

Looking elsewhere in the Bible, Proverbs undoubtedly helps to propagate the story that men are caught between to ideal women — one perfectly good and the other perfectly evil. But we must also recognize that the women of Proverbs are types, not real women. Wisdom is clearly the personification of a concept, not a flesh-and-blood woman. And while the adulteress of Proverbs is quite fleshly, she too is not a particular woman. The virtuous wife of Proverbs 31, while also an ideal to some extent, is the most real woman in the book. And while good, she is by no means the naive yet innocent figure of the film noir depictions. Neither, of course, is Wisdom since she by her very nature is neither naive nor innocent in the sense of being uninformed. I suppose Solomon, to whom much of Proverbs is attributed, had reason to know that women can lead a many astray. Proverbs is a very idealized book; it presents a black and white view of the world in which the righteous are rewarded and the wicked punished. Ecclesiastes shows us that things do not always work out that way in the short-term.

This has been a very thinking-as-I-write sort of post (you can probably tell; hopefully it is not too disjointed). If I have to sum up, I would say that the roots of this idea, the good woman-bad woman idealization, are certainly found in the Bible. But to narrow it down and say that women are responsible for men’s downfall or that they even have so much power over his moral state is to misunderstand Genesis 3 and the message of the Bible as a whole which is certainly to point out our sin and its only solution. And yet this misunderstanding is itself present in the Genesis account and seems to be deeply rooted in the hearts of men who do not want to take responsibility for their own actions.

Nebby

 

 

Romance — A Biblical View

Dear Reader,

I had a bit of a revelation recently as I was reading Grant Horner’s book Meaning at the Movies (see my review here). I have blogged before on marriage and how I believe that human marriage was created to teach us about the relationship between God the Father and God the Son and also between Christ and His church. But up until now I would have said that the modern ideal of romance is detrimental to our understanding of God and our view of marriage. That is, that modern books and movies and music teach us an idealistic, overly romantic view of human love which sets up unrealistic expectations and steers us away from what marriage is supposed to point us to — God Himself.

I have often noted (privately in my head — I am not sure I have said it here before) that country and pop songs (and probably others as well; I am just speaking about what I know) tend to say things of the beloved which really we should only say of God. Things like “you are my everything”, “you save me”, “you complete me”, etc. Lyrics like these get their listeners thinking that another human can make them feel fulfilled and can do all the things which really only God can do for us. And I still think that is true and that songs like these (and movies and books which have the same ideas) can be quite detrimental.

But Horner’s book also opened my eyes to a new (to me) aspect of the whole issue. One of Horner’s main theses is that the truths about God that we humans don’t want to face up to we suppress and that they come out in other ways. Thus he says that:

“Romance movies contain, in scattered bits and pieces, fractured elements of the image of the true Divine Romance.” (p. 161)

Even the common rom-com plot that two people start out as enemies or rival and end up lovers, Horner sees as a version of the very true story of God’s salvation of His people; after all, don’t we start out as God’s enemies too (p. 162)?

What Horner made me see if that I have been seeing things a bit backwards. I have said “how awful that they say things about people that should only ne said of God.” And it is not that that is not true but it is better to say: “See how the truth about our need for God comes out in their romance stories no matter how they try to deny their need of Him.” Because, as Horner says, we do need Someone Else to make ourselves complete (p. 151); we know this but we deny the One who can actually do it and transfer the feelings to mere people who are not able to fulfill that need on the end.

On that note:

Happy Valentine’s Day ;)

Nebby

Idealizing Women — For Better or Worse: An Introductory Post

Dear Reader,

A few things have gotten me thinking lately about how women are idealized. By this I don’t necessarily mean that women are held up as ideals, though that is half the equation, but also how women are held up s paragons of temptation as well.

One of the things that got me thinking about this is Grant Horner’s book Meaning at the Movies (see my review here). In his discussion of film noir Horner talks about the classic femme fatale figure — the beautiful female who, while she seems innocent and helpless at first, leads the male character to his destruction. The man in this case is usually portrayed as weak but basically helpless in her clutches. His downfall is usually laid at her feet as if he had little or no responsibility for it himself, or at least no ability to resist her charms.  As Horner himself points out, this figure is taken right from the book of Proverbs in which a wicked women easily leads the young, foolish man astray with her wiles (p. 172).

On the flip side, there is the good female character. She too is beautiful, though perhaps with a more innocent, less sexual kind of beauty. She is truly innocent, good and pure, as well as helpless — unlike her evil counterpart who only appears innocent and helpless to lure men in. She too can be found in the book of Proverbs in the person of Wisdom who is there personified. Proverbs clearly puts these two before a young man as two choices: will he turn towards the one or the other? Will he follow the straight and narrow path or go astray after the temptress?

[A variation on the good female character would be the prostitute with a heart of gold figure. Mary Magdalene and Sofia in Crime and Punishment come to mind. It is interesting that “Sophia” means wisdom, isn’t it?]

My daughters and I had also noticed these two kinds of figures in popular country songs. And been very irritated by them. In our completely biased, unscientific opinions, it seems like male singers are always idealizing the women they sing about one way or the other. Either she is so incredibly unique and wonderful — she’s beautiful but doesn’t know it; she sings in church on Sunday but parties with him Saturday night; she wears blue jeans with her pearls; she loves him despite all the rotten things he does . . . you get the idea — or else she is the temptress — she lures him in; he can’t resist her; he fell for her but she dumps him unceremoniously. Honestly, we just don’t se that the songs by women about men go to these extremes. Yes, there are the he done me wrong songs and the he’s no good songs, but I don’t think there are so many of the he’s perfect songs. There are also I can’t live without him songs (and . . . without her songs by men) but I would count these in a slightly different category.

Anyway, my point is that from the book of Proverbs to today’s country music, men seem to have the tendency to hold women up as ideals of either goodness or evil in a way that women don’t do in equal measure to men. So then we must ask why? and is it biblical? Because clearly these two extreme characterizations do occur in Proverbs so on one level, yes, it is biblical; it occurs in the Bible. But how should we as Christians here and now be viewing women? Are they refining influences on the men in their lives? Are they, as perhaps has more often been said, the source of sin and temptation? Eve did eat the fruit first after all. Maybe women really are trouble.

Before I get to answering those questions, I want to bring in one more thread that has played into my thoughts lately. We have a lot of African immigrant families in our church. These are people who were Christians before they came to this country but are not at all American in their outlook. As I have been informed, they, both men and women, were surprised to learn that both sexes are equal in status before God. Historically, of course, women have been held to lower status and in many societies they still are. But it was a bit of an eye-opener to see they that might be considered so also by non-western Christians. The fact is it was quite a society-changing idea in the western world that men and women were both equally valuable as persons. This idea came from Christianity and it have pervaded Christian (or post-Christian) societies, but even among Christians, it has apparently not taken hold in non-Christian societies. In other words, we take it for granted here in America today but most people throughout history and a pretty good chunk of them living today as well have not assumed that men and women are equal in value.

So, on the one hand, I am saying that Christianity has introduced and spread the idea that women are of equal value with men, but, on the other, there are indications even in the Bible that women are the source of temptation for men. How are we to reconcile these ideas?

This post is getting long, so I am going to stop here with having posed the questions. Look for some attempt at answers next time.

Nebby

 

 

On Evil

Dear Reader,

I have been blogging lately on thoughts that occurred to me as I read through Grant Horner’s book Meaning at the Movies. Many of these have been about the movies, but many have been on other topics (or at least peripheral topics) as well.

Today’s topic is evil. Speaking of the movie The Exorcist, Horner tells us  that its creators did not view this movie as fictional. They believed the evil it represented was real. And then he says this:

“Because it foregrounds the uncomfortable truth (the biblical truth) that real evil is never merely abstract: it is someone.” (p. 141; emphasis his)

Wow. It’s hard to even know what to say about that. I have never thought of evil in that way before. Love, of course, is personal — God is love and He is a person (or three). But this is a new thought to me.

The only thing I can add is to say that it calls to mind a pastor I used to have who would have us recite the Lord’s Prayer during worship as he translated it. Where most say “and deliver us from evil,” he has “and deliver us from the Evil One.” This also serves to make it personal. Is evil always so? I don’t know. I am struck by Horner’s statement and my gut wants to ay it is true. But I wonder what of anything that says about the origin of evil. Would there have been no evil if there weren’t  a person (not a human necessarily, but Satan on this case) to be the source of it? We do tend to view evil as a sort of impersonal force in  our popular conception and it is hard to believe that this is true. It tends to lead to a dualistic understanding of the world (good and evil equally balanced) which I know is not true. And it certainly is true that all the evil we see comes from someone or some ones. It doesn’t just happen; people do them. People a lot like us, truth be known. So is evil someone? What do you think?

Nebby

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