Feminism’s Menu: Bon Apetit, America

Krispy Kreme is one of my very favorite food chains. I would gladly travel two hours for one of their hot, original glazed doughnuts, fresh off the conveyor belt. However, not everything they serve is great. Their coffee is fairly bitter without much taste. Their other doughnuts are mediocre. The truth is, the only item on the menu I like is the hot, glazed doughnut. Just because they have one doughnut on the money doesn’t mean all their offerings are delicious. Some might argue that one golden item is enough to validate the goodness of the entire menu. I disagree.

Choosing a side in the feminist movement will gather new friends and rally new enemies. One of the great mistakes proponents of feminism make is to hold the belief that everything to come out of this movement was good for everyone– women, children, men, the workplace and the home. Some good things did come out of the waves of feminism as did some bad things. It’s foolish to pretend otherwise. In recognizing and celebrating the good, it’s only fair to point out the setbacks.

One good thing to come from feminism was balance. Historically, men dominated America. Women had very little to say, few things they could do and were not encouraged to branch beyond their kitchens. In 1920, women were given the right to vote. Twenty years later when husbands went to war, women were the housekeepers and the breadwinners. Surprisingly, women enjoyed their new dual roles and pursued them with zeal. Progress in the workplace meant progress in the classroom. In the early 1970’s, female enrollment at the university level was doubling every year and it matched that of men by 1982. In incremental movements throughout the 20th century, America realized women were not second-class citizens, but valuable, contributing members of society, capable of political, educational and professional success. The landscape of our country shifted for the female and, by default, all others in the wake of her liberation. It was, however, too good to be true.

For some, this balance was not enough. Discontent drove many women to dig their heels in and push America to full-blown feminism. To what end? Equality? No. If the pursuit was equality, today’s women’s rights groups would be out of a job. Men and women are equals in this country. The courts in this land can just about send you to prison for discrimination, especially on the grounds of gender. Feminists desire to dominate men, not be equal to them. This pursuit has left a trail of wreckage that we will forever be sweeping up.

The quest for female equality turned domination has affected our nation on so many levels that quantifying the fruit is impossible. The effects are particularly devastating to society’s most fundamental unit: the family. The progress of feminism in the late 60’s and early 70’s marked an increased divorce rate and a decline in the birth rate. However, the children that were born were not exempt: Today, America’s adolescents experiment with drugs, alcohol and sexual activity on average 5 years earlier (age 11) than twenty years ago. Why? Maybe it is because no one is home. Almost 70% of children get off the bus to a parentless house; 55% of teenagers resent one or both of their parents for the long hours they keep at work.  Two out of 3 adolescents will eat only one meal at the family dinner table this month and 7 out of 10 kids ages 12-18 say their parents do not know what classes they are taking in school. Are these findings coincidence? Feminism might have empowered women but it seems to have simultaneously destroyed the strong, safe pillar that should be the family.

Christians aren’t alone in observing how feminism has adversely affected American families, particularly in the area of child rearing. One year ago, Time Magazine’s special report was The State of The American Woman: A new poll shows why they are more powerful-but less happy. In a segment of their story titled, “Both Men and Women Want More Help,” they reported the following:

Eighty-four percent of Americans agree (53% strongly) that businesses haven’t done enough to address the needs of modern families. Asked what would have to change to make it easier to balance work and marriage and children, 54% of women and 49% of men said more-flexible work hours or schedules; 15% of women and 17% of men said more paid time off; and 13% of women and 12% of men said better or more day-care options.

The interesting aspect of this report is to whom women and men assign responsibility for a solution: corporate America. Parents bypass the idea that they might somehow be responsible for the stress of their lives where children are not a priority but a notch in the belt of their American Dream. What would have to change to bring peace, joy and order to this chaotic attempt to have it all? Well, certainly not giving anything up, right? Many refuse to believe that, just like a bakery or hospital, the home and family need full-time management. Men and women, of course you need more help, but not from the private sector. It is not America’s responsibility to solve our role confusion, selfishness and child-rearing deficiencies.

Not everything about the feminist movement was bad, but it certainly wasn’t all good. Women aren’t functioning as God designed them. Genesis 2, Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 directly point to this design and it is underscored in the whole of the Bible. The central question is this: are families getting the first and best of our time, energy and effort or are they a casual after thought? Women who are focused outside the home might have great careers and accomplishments. They will probably enjoy lots of promotions, money and perks they wouldn’t have otherwise. However, her true litmus test is the testimony of her husband and children. Do they rise and called her blessed or do they rise and call her absent? Feminist’s attempt to obliterate God-given roles has taken part in obliterating the family unit attached to them. I ask you…how does that taste?

-Emily

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Capitalism or Socialism: How Would Jesus Vote?

There is a rift in this country between those who believe Americans should unite and empower the government to provide the needs of its citizens and those who believe the individual should be free and unfettered to provide for themselves. It’s the divide between a big government with comprehensive entitlements and a small government with lower taxes. It has played itself out on the National Mall in the form of Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally and the One Nation Working Together Rally. It plays itself out economically in the turf between capitalism and socialism.

Let’s pause for definitions. According to Webster’s, capitalism is the economic system in which all or most of the means of production and distribution are privately owned and operated for profit. Socialism is the ownership and operation of the means of production and distribution by society or the community rather than by private individuals with all members of society sharing in the work and the products.

While the debate between capitalism and socialism may seem like a political one, it has quickly become a religious one. The churches in America have been largely content with a free-market system that allowed them to practice their faith and provide for their families. With the industrial revolution of the late 19th century came the social gospel. It emphasized Christians’ mission to the poor, outcast, and oppressed and the bringing of the kingdom of God here to earth in the form of social justice. It minimizes Christ’s atonement on the cross for sinners and magnifies his example as one who reached out to the poor and stood up to the powers of his day.

The influence of the social gospel has led many to make social justice the primary focus of their ministry. The Episcopalian Church divides its ministry focus into socio-economic justice, environmental justice, and global justice. The United Methodist Church recently pulled support from the “One Nation” Rally (a rally driven by labor unions, socialist and environmentalist groups) at the last minute but announced it remains committed to the goals of the rally including good jobs, equal justice, and quality public education. An increasing number of Christians decry the evils of capitalism’s profit driven nature and insist that a socialism which provides for the needs of all is the Christ-like system.

This was one of the planks of Michael Moore’s documentary “Capitalism: A Love Story.” He interviews several priests who consider capitalism contrary to the teachings of Christianity. In an article published after the movie Moore summarized the point he was trying to make – “you can’t call yourself a capitalist and a Christian, because you cannot love your money and love your neighbor.”

So are these denominations, churches, priests, and filmmakers right? Is capitalism wrong and socialism right? Part of the Christian faith involves caring for the poor, outcast and oppressed (Isa. 58:6-8, Ja. 1:27). Socialism can often meet the needs of these groups by smoothing out inequalities in the culture. It is out of concern to care for the marginalized that many Christians vote for bigger government and more programs. However, nowhere does the Bible advocate one economic system over another. In his documentary, Moore re-works some of Jesus’ words satirically to show how foolish it is to equate Jesus and capitalism. But Jesus wasn’t a socialist either. You won’t find him advocating government control of the means of production and distribution. He doesn’t organize any protests or even criticize the oppressive Roman government. He was not crucified for demanding better jobs, public education, fair pay, or equal rights.

Can one be a capitalist and a Christian? Yes. Moore commits a genetic fallacy by assuming capitalism equals love of money. It can, but does not have to lead to a love of money any more than socialism has to lead to a love of power and control. Capitalism is a system that assumes the means of production will be in better and less corrupted hands if they primarily reside in the private sector. It doesn’t take a sociologist to see this seems to be true. The poor in capitalist America tend to be overweight, watch satellite TV, and drive a car while the poor in other countries suffer from malnutrition. During the Cold War, Germans weren’t jumping over the Berlin Wall to enjoy the mutually shared poverty of the Soviet Union; they were jumping to the free-market of the West. Capitalism, while benefiting some more than others, can actually raise the quality of life for all.

One of the underlying assumptions of capitalism is actually quite biblical – mankind is sinful (Rom. 3:10-18, 23). Socialism assumes man is perfectable. That he will work tirelessly for the common good while an impartial, benevolent government sees to the needs of its citizens. Capitalism assumes man will not work for the common good, but is motivated by greed. In the words of Gordon Gecko in the original Wall Street movie:

Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.

Greed is still a sin, but to believe society will suddenly conduct itself righteously apart from Christ is to argue against the Bible. If a guy who works hard and efficiently at a job sees another guy at the same job being lazy and inefficient and they both receive the same pay and perks, how long before his hard work evaporates in unrewarded frustration? (see teachers’ unions)

Governments are not always impartial and benevolent. Governments are made of sinful people who are no less greedy and selfish than those they govern. Capitalism spreads power out among selfish interests to compete rather than allowing some selfish interests to control everything. It is no coincidence the church has suffered the most when the government has had the most control.

Christians are free to favor either socialism or capitalism. Jesus declares his support for neither and seems oddly preoccupied with going to the cross to save sinners (Mk. 10:45). Both systems can be abused and taken to ungodly extremes; but they need not be. If one favors capitalism it is no excuse to live for profit and love money but rather to use the profit for good. If one favors socialism it is no excuse to sit back and allow the government to meet all needs. Sadly, research indicates those who favor income redistribution (socialism) give and volunteer less than those who oppose it. The commands in the Bible to care for the needy are given to people, not governments. May all of us vote the system we believe to be best for the country while living out and declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ.

-Brian

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Obama Goes to Church

A recent survey determined only one in three Americans can identify Barack Obama’s faith as Christian. Add to that an increasing number who believe him to be a Muslim (1 in 5) and it’s no surprise to see Obama taking steps to clarify. On September 19 he and his family attended worship at St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House; only the sixth time in two years he has gone to church. At one of his recent backyard chats in Albuquerque, President Obama clarified his Christianity saying, “I’m a Christian by choice. My family didn’t…they weren’t folks who went to church every week. My mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew but she didn’t raise me in the church. So I came to my Christian faith later in life.”

Is Obama a Christian? I don’t know. He, like all of us, is a sinner whose only hope is the cross of Christ. Ultimately only God and the President know if he has been transformed by the gospel. However, while he claims Christ, his lack of faithfulness to the church preaches a different message. His recent expression of faith comes in the midst of a turbulent political season and on the heels of several surveys indicating Americans doubt his claims. This gives the impression his Christianity is a façade to achieve political ends; similar to when a couple wants a wedding ceremony in the church and suddenly begins attending for the first time in years. One can’t help but be slightly suspicious of their motivation.

Is Obama using Christianity to further his political image? Who knows? And lest you think I am a partisan kool-aid drinker wearing a Rush Limbaugh t-shirt while throwing bombs at a democratic president; let’s bring in Bush and Reagan. Bush never became a member of a local church in Washington, had no home church in Texas, and attended services infrequently preferring the chapel at Camp David. Reagan attended church only once in the eight years of his Presidency. Both claimed Christianity as their faith. Both operated with elements of a Christian worldview. Both acted indifferently toward the gathered assembly of God’s people in worship.

Is a person who fails to attend church with any regularity a Christian? While I can’t judge a heart, I am commanded by Jesus to judge the fruit of a life (Matt. 7:5, 16-20). The approach of these presidents encourages the view in our culture that Christianity is just another – to use Obama’s word – choice in life. It may influence our values and decisions, but is only ultimately one among many commitments and priorities a person has. This idea may be popular but it is not New Testament Christianity. Jesus declares in Matthew 10:38-39 that the gospel doesn’t influence a life, it radically changes it:

Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Can we say someone who finds church only important enough to attend 2 or 3 times a year is really taking up their cross and following Christ? Being a Christian isn’t just another choice; it will transform and demand your entire life.

Commenting on Obama’s church attendance versus his trips to the golf course, comedian Dennis Miller made an obvious point when he said,

“If the guy who lives across the street from you twenty Sunday mornings in a row comes out not dressed for church in the shined shoes with his best tie on, but with a golf bag – after twenty times if I asked you what do you think is more important to him on Sundays what are you gonna say? He’s a golfer!”

The sad reality is this logic describes not only the President but the nation he leads. While 78% of Americans claim some form of Christianity only 44% report attending church regularly and actual numbers reveal only about 17.5% of Americans are in church on Sunday. Meanwhile church roles continue to contain the names of hundreds of people who haven’t darkened the door of a church since the Reagan administration.

Gathering to exalt Jesus and sit under the teaching of the Word has been a regular practice for all Christians since Acts 2. Most of the commands in the New Testament directed toward believers are meant to be carried out in the context of the local church. To simply not go is to live in willful disobedience of the Scriptures. What do you call a Christian who lives in persistent, willful disobedience? A non-Christian.  John explains this in 1 John 2:4, “Whoever says ‘I know Him’ but does not keep His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in Him.”

Do you value the assembly of God’s people? What would those in our lives say if we compared our commitment to the church to our other commitments and applied Dennis Miller’s simple logic? Would they say, ‘he loves Jesus passionately’ or ‘she’s committed to her church’? Or would they say, ‘he claims Christ, but he’s really passionate about the NFL’? Or golf? Or Dancing with the Stars? Or Chinese food? Or fishing? Or music? Or career? Or family?

I can’t tell you where Obama, Bush, or Reagan stands with God. Perhaps after leaving office they attended (or will attend) church regularly. But I can say it is time to demand more of what it means to be a Christian. It is not selecting our favorite choice from the menu of world religions, appreciating the life and teaching of Jesus, agreeing with some facts about God, praying the sinner’s prayer, or obeying a set of rules we inherited from childhood. It is not on par with picking what sports team to cheer for or what career path to follow. It is being radically transformed by the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection, covenanting together with brothers and sisters in the church, and living every moment for His glory rather than our own.

-Brian

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