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Four months have never seemed so short. It is hard to believe that I last posted at the beginning of August, then shut things down to take what I felt would be a brief sabbatical to tackle a writing project. But, once started, the sabbatical wasn't something I was in a hurry to bring to a close. I shut down my LAF e-mail account, ignored all but "real" e-mails, and put myself on a media "fast," reading only items that my husband passed along to me. I cannot tell you what an utterly refreshing and wonderful time it has been!
Now, I'm no Internet or news junkie. I've never spent long hours reading online (painful to the posture and hard on the eyes). I've relied on Google.com's handy little e-mail news ticker to find relevant articles on feminism, modesty, and other pertinent issues for LAF (that and dozens of other readers who send links or their own writings). At a glance, I can see if the search engine's synopsis will lead to something important or if it's time to just hit the "delete" key and move on. It has all been a matter of 30 seconds of "work" at a time--nothing earth-shattering. Still, it has been very eye-opening and perspective-sharpening to ignore it all for a time and focus upon other things. I highly recommend giving yourself time off from the online world, the magazines, and the general hub-bub of "breaking news." It really does help a body to refocus and allow other lines of thought to take the upper hand.
But now I'm back to seeing what you have been submitting and am ready to start posting again--as always, as time permits! And let me just say that you have been busy! There are dozens of articles in the Article Manager awaiting a read-through. Give us time; we'll get through them and get in touch. Meanwhile, tonight I'm posting just a taste of what I can put up quickly. I hope to update again before Christmas so you can enjoy what others have worked on this fall. Thanks for your patience.
So, back to the "real" world?
I use the word "real" with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. Home is far more real to me, especially when it seems there have been more than the ordinary share of controversies, crazy news items, and serious stories in the past four months while I've been "out." I heard vague rumblings about some things; other stories my husband related to me. Still others, friends told me about. I've heard about the heated controversy in some circles over Debi Pearl's latest book. I've heard about Ivy League coeds saying they want to quit their careers once they have children--and about the feminists vehemently denying the statistics and saying the whole notion is absurd and unfathomable. I've heard distant rumblings of the war that Maureen Dowd's latest book unleashed. But I have to admit that these things, when viewed from a four-month distance, seem almost petty. I said "almost." I know there are some vital issues at stake here, but I also think people need to step back and get a fresh perspective more often than they do.
On the first matter, the world is not going to come crashing to an end because a fellow Christian disagrees with us over some non-elementary point of doctrine. The Church will not fall to pieces because we can't all agree on which denomination is the "most" right. Christ is still on the throne, and my sisters and brothers in the Lord are still my sisters and brothers, even if we differ on baptism (credo, paedo?), election, means of grace--or a host of other issues that are not central (unlike those that are elemental or foundational--like the Virgin Birth, the Atonement, the Resurrection). There are many good books out there by wonderful Christian women, but none of them are perfect. We will all quibble with various parts. That's just the way it is going to be. We can certainly sharpen iron with grace, but must we launch an all-out battle over differences that are truly minor? I hope not. I hope we can learn to glean the good, set aside the foolish, and still love our sisters in Christ. Hey, I hope you still love me when you disagree with me! I know I'm not perfect and can't be right all the time--though I certainly cherish my opinions and feel I've thought them through very carefully. Don't we all? Let's give a little wiggle room as we consider the messages our sisters want to share with us.
When it comes to the controversy over college grads wanting to stay home and have babies, I have had to laugh at some of the assertions made by the other side (that these women are not really saying what they said or can't really mean it), and I have had to shake my head at some of the conclusions drawn by feminists. One I found most disturbing was written by Linda Hirshman late last month and posits that it wasn't enough to break the "glass ceiling," because women still haven't been convinced that home is a really bad choice. Her belief is that women should not even have the choice to stay at home and "repress" themselves by bearing and rearing children: "The family -- with its repetitious, socially invisible, physical tasks -- is a necessary part of life, but it allows fewer opportunities for full human flourishing than public spheres like the market or the government. This less-flourishing sphere is not the natural or moral responsibility only of women. Therefore, assigning it to women is unjust. Women assigning it to themselves is equally unjust.... If women never start playing the household-manager role, the house will be dirty, but the realities of the physical world will trump the pull of gender ideology. Either the other adult in the family will take a hand or the children will grow up with robust immune systems. If these prescriptions sound less than family-friendly, here's the last rule: Have a baby. Just don't have two."
Amazing, isn't it? Echoes Vivian Gornick, who wrote 24 years ago, "Being a housewife is an illegitimate profession... The choice to serve and be protected and plan towards being a family-maker is a choice that shouldn't be. The heart of radical feminism is to change that." Lest we forget, lest we forget. It isn't about choice...unless you choose what feminism tells you to choose. Ironic, eh? So, it's okay for others to force me into a decision ("for the good of society"), but it's not okay for me to freely choose something I believe is best for my marriage, my family, and my culture? Oh, and a tip to Ms. Hirshman and others monitoring this trend: it isn't just for the "elite" or the wealthy. Believe it or not, there are those of us out here who choose this lifestyle even though society assures us we can't afford it, and a consumerist culture does its best to make us feel pinched (even when we're not). It is possible to forego the whole double-income deal, make simpler choices, and have a very happy and full life. It often means sacrifices, but it doesn't require an Ivy League degree or a rich husband. Get to know some folks outside of the bridal pages of the New York Times, and you'll discover an entirely different world. I say "brava" to the "elite" brides who are staying home with their babies, but I save my heartiest cheers for the ordinary women who have truly sacrificed and considered it all joy to let go of the things the world insists are so terribly important so that they might serve their husbands and families.
When I see things like the survey of college coeds, I am encouraged to know that a generation of daycare babies and latchkey kids are deciding they won't do the same thing to their children. I hope they stick to their guns in the face of feminist ridicule and increasing cultural rejection of the home as "invisible" and therefore unrewarding, unchallenging, and backwards. Anyone who would assert such a thing has never lived in a busy household with five children of varying ages who adore reading, love to learn new things, and keep their parents constantly on their toes. Anyone who would claim the home is a stifling atmosphere where women wither on the vine has never grown up in a hospitable house where people are invited in constantly, cramming the place to the ceiling with lively conversation, heartfelt confession, real forgiveness, and constant opportunities for growth and learning. Real homes are rare, I grant you, but you've got to live in one before you can pronounce broad judgment on the home as a concept, an environment, a culture.
Another recent event has taken me pleasantly by surprise: the runaway success of the new "Pride & Prejudice" film with its unabashed celebration of love, courtship, and lifelong marriage vows. The film doesn't even contain a hint of feminist "backstories" or silly revisionism (though it has its share of modernisms thrown in to grab a young audience). What are we to make of a film that ends with the heroine asserting that her favorite pet name for her husband to call her is "Mrs. Darcy?" I, for one, will celebrate it! And I will wonder why Hollywood still refuses to get with it. Films like these enchant and uplift their audiences and draw them back for repeat viewings; films about female bounty hunters flop. Will they even bother to ask why? You see, the very actors in these films don't realize that they are painting a picture of an attainable reality--a Christian reality. Their own lives are full of quickie marriages, broken vows, easy breakups, promiscuity--you name it. They can play virtue on screen, but very few of them know it can be real and utterly beautiful (not to mention breathtakingly Romantic) in this life. A marriage modeled on Christ and His Church is truly a piece of heaven. It's a shame that Hollywood sees it as a fantasy from another age. It's amazing that they don't understand that such a story would never make sense set in our times, when fornication is pretty much the rule--and when a girl's "patched-up marriage" would never be considered a scandal or even raise an eyebrow (in fact, today anyone would wonder why she needed to bother getting married at all--why not just shack up?). These filmmakers are looking back upon a culture steeped in Christianity (not perfect, of course), and they feel compelled to make constant apologies for the "restrictions" and "dour morals" of the time--little realizing that those boundaries and beliefs are the very things which give birth to a Mr. Darcy willing to work and wait for his bride and to a Lizzy whose own integrity and purity are the very guarantors of her lifelong happiness as Mrs. Darcy. The story has nothing to do with the repression of women, as some have asserted. It has everything to do with a wonderful author who lived until her death within her father's household, astutely observed those around her, and left us an open window into her world. It is a world full of love, longing, and, yes, consequences for bad behavior. It is those consequences that make us ache for Lizzy and hope for Darcy to win her in spite of himself. Such a story could never have been birthed in a world littered with "girls gone wild," strident feminism, exploitive men who are made heroes, and generally rude behavior across the board. I'll take my reality any day. It may look like fantasy on film, but I am here to tell you that it is as real as my husband's warm glance across a busy room and the touch of his hand when he helps me into the car or guides me through a crowded street.
Darcy and Elizabeth
Copyright 2005 Working Title Films.
Now we come to Maureen Dowd, who is angry and bitter about how feminism has failed, because (according to her) women today either have to be powerful and unmarried or utterly trashy and get the guys. She and other authors have bemoaned the "culture of raunch" we now inhabit, where girls are encouraged to bare their privates to strangers in bars, study pornography to learn how to attract dates, and act like the worst of libertines in order to enjoy life. I agree that this is horrific, but I think it is something that comes with every culture that rejects an ultimate Standard and embraces hedonism. Take a look at history; it has happened before. Greece and Rome had more than their share of exploitive "art" toward the end, and women were never held in high esteem. All cultures that decline and fall tend to lose all sense of moral decorum long before they hit bottom. So we can't be surprised at the popularity of raunch in our nation today. Feminism may have contributed to it (as Dowd asserts), but it wasn't the sole cause. The real cause is a rejection of moral absolutes and a God Who commands men to treat women with deference, esteem, purity, and tenderness.
I'd also like to note that these writers see only two options (both equally awful) and have no idea there is a third choice here: biblical womanhood. This choice has nothing to do with being a brainless doormat. It has nothing to do with being a quiet little mouse who has no need of a thought life or intelligent conversation. It has nothing to do with confining oneself to a life of vain, repetitious tasks. It has everything to do with standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a man who needs you as his right-hand woman. It has everything to do with being a quick, witty, adoring Mrs. Darcy, whose husband admires her mind and relishes her playfulness (without ever considering her a plaything). It has everything to do with two people sharing a single vision and using their complementary skills to achieve it together--he in his sphere; she in hers. No power struggles. No foolish need to prove oneself. Only completion as each half makes a stronger whole. Such a life is filled with adventure, even in its very dailyness. All of life has vain and repetitious tasks, but they can be made beautiful if we just get our eyes off ourselves and start applying our hearts to wisdom as we serve others. The pursuit of self only leads to frustration, because self is never satisfied with its own virtues.
I can understand the frustration of women who wonder where all the real men are--the ones who esteem women, admire their insights, take them seriously, and do not have any interest in exploiting them for their own pleasure. I wondered where they were at one point in my life, finally coming to the bitter conclusion that they did not exist outside of my immediate family. But they are there. They're just not looking for the girls who give themselves away at the drop of a hat (or the purchase of a beer). And they're not looking for the "superwomen" who do it all and have no need of anyone else. They are looking for Eve--their missing half. They are looking for the woman whose gifts and qualities will make them better men and complete them in every way. The shame of it all is that so many women have been deceived into believing that being Eve means being a pretty doll without a brain who smiles vacantly while her husband watches TV every night. Forget it. You don't find that model anywhere in the Bible. You find women whose husbands seek their counsel. You find queens who humble themselves in order to save their people. You find wives of fools who placate kings with their bounteous hospitality and grace. You find beautiful women and plain women. You find real women--women who have a calling and know how to fulfill it...and how to pick up the pieces when they fail. I see nothing in today's dizzying array of "options" for women that can compare to such a meaningful and wonderful existence. Perhaps one day the Maureen Dowds will look around and realize there are hundreds of thousands of us out here who do not feel "trapped" at home and who have intelligence that--surprise--actually flourishes and makes itself useful outside the confines of a 9-5 job.
The Painter's Honeymoon by Frederick Leighton
Yes, there is always something going on in this world. There are times I debate whether it is even fruitful to pay attention to any of it. But I know that Christ calls us to "take every thought captive" to His obedience--to learn to think like Christians in all situations. And so I want to think carefully through these things and pursue understanding. I'll probably be way off base sometimes, but, thankfully, we're given a lifetime to learn and grow. I hope what you find on LAF will stimulate you most of all to stop, think, and ask questions. The folks on the other side of the fence label us "ignorant," "backwards," "brainwashed," and other things I don't care to repeat. But I used to live on the other side of that fence myself, and I have no desire to go back there. I just hope I can reach a hand out over the fence and invite someone to really look, really consider, and really take time to see that there is another way--and it is a beautiful, fulfilling one.
I'm glad to be back. I'm glad to see all the writing you've been doing over the past four months. I'll read it and think on it. As I have "spare" time, I'll post. But I'll also take longer pauses to reflect. I think it serves us well when we remember that there truly is "nothing new under the sun." What we see today has been before--over and over again. Our job is simply to live the message we profess to believe, and love those on the other side who cannot understand it.
God bless you as you walk your talk.
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