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Christianity and Patriarchy

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Earlier today a friend of mine told me about a Christian radio show she had been listening to this morning. The show was discussing colleges (American) and suggested that parents should have a say in what college you attend as they have guided you this far and should help you to set up your life*. It then went on to suggest there was little point in getting a uni debt if you’re going to be a wife and stay at home mother.

Proverbs 31:26 (from the” wife of noble character”) She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

Proverbs 4:7-8 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you.

Ecclesiastes 7:11-12 Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun. Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it.

1 Timothy 2:11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. Putting aside all the feminist remarks that can start an argument about that verse, I’ll point out what was shattering to the culture of the day: it says a woman should be able to learn.

I want my children to value education, and I want to model that value to them. Right now, I’m a stay at home mum and if I’m blessed with more children I probably won’t be in paid employment for many more years yet. But in each of my degrees; in my Bachelor’s, my Diploma, my Master’s and the Certificate in Theology I’m 2 subjects from finishing, I have learnt something new that I think will help me to be a better parent. There are several reasons we wouldn’t homeschool, but even if we did, I like to believe that my actually having a teaching qualification and some understanding of educational psychology would be beneficial and reason enough to get a uni debt despite intending to be “just” a stay at home mum.

I take offense to the suggestions of that radio show. I take offense to the viewpoint that, as a Christian who has desired more strongly than anything else to be a godly mother and wife, those are the only dreams or goals I should have. More than that, I take offense to the deeper attitudes that these kinds of statements grow out of, and the particular social and political ideal they are promoting. There is a social structure here that has historical precedence, but not necessarily biblical precedence.

There is a difference between submitting to the authority of the husband, and being totally dependant on him.

There is a difference between believing that children are a blessing, and acting as though the care for this blessing is the only purpose of our lives.

There is a difference between valuing marriage, and ceasing to pursue our (non-sexual) passions or failing to utilise our God-given skills and gifts.

There is a difference between wanting to give your children a Christian education, and believing that it is not necessary or worthwhile to have more education yourself.

There is a difference between recognising different gender roles within the family, and thinking that there is never any overlap even in the pre-marital years.

There is a difference between being biblically conservative, and being politically conservative. You can be both, but please acknowledge that I am no less of a Christian for having different political views to you.


*By the way, I’m sure these people would be willing to make an exception to the “parents get a say” rule if they heard that my athiest parents would rather I studied philosophy than theology. And it’s not like my parents had done a bad job bringing me as far as university or helping me to set up my life with wisdom about money management and relationships.


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