Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Red Flags and Giving Credit Where Its Due

One of the advantages of working at Fuller right now is that I get to have lunch with my wife most days of the week. While talking about various things over our meal recently, she mentioned that she had recently visited the web site of the church she used to attend while she was in high school (which I will not name). This church is very fundamentalist (to twist a common phrase, I often say that such churches put the "mental" in "fundamental"), and is ironically responsible for making my wife the feminist she is today through their tactic of saying (in essence) "Shut up. Read the Bible. It doesn't allow you to preach. Get over it."

She was looking at the various statements of the church's identity: what they believe, who they are, etc. There were plenty of what I call "red flags:" statements that say more than they seem to on the surface, and which can fairly reliably be used to determine the theo-political environment of a church. For example, a church that makes a point of saying that they believe that the Bible is "inerrant in the original manuscripts" also tends to take certain conservative theological stances, even if those stances have not been spelled out in any official church statement (or even if those stances are in fact supported by the Bible). My wife did not have a frame of reference for understanding these "red flags" when she was in high school. She only knew how she felt about how she was treated. Now, she has an understanding of why that church acted this way.

While discussing the statements found on this church's web site, my wife commented on the following line:
Most of our attendees are in professional/managerial careers, or homemakers, although we also have craftsmen, students, retirees and others.
"Most" of the people at this church fit into two categories: "professional/managerial careers" or "homemakers." Everything else, if mentioned at all, was relegated to an "although we also have" statement, indicating that the numbers of such "other" people are comparably low. That says a rather large amount about this church right there. For example, this church is apparently comprised of people of a certain, fairly wealthy, demographic. Also, I don't need to make a point of mentioning it for most people to understand that the "professional/managerial" folks are one gender, and the "homemakers" are the other gender. But what I find especially interesting is the fact that "homemakers" is mentioned. In an earlier era, such a "position" would have been left off, and many people wouldn't have even considered the notion that this omission could indicate that women were being ignored. It is worth giving this church credit that they are making a point to recognize that the women of their congregation are important. Clearly, the members of this community are very traditional in their concepts of gender roles, but they know enough to give women recognition, in whatever role they're serving, rather than inadvertently causing women to be invisible by failing to mention them.

Part of the reason that this is worth mentioning is that it demonstrates how the debate about women's roles has changed. Even traditionalists now realize that it's not enough just to give cognitive assent and say that women are equal to men, but otherwise go on as they always have done. They recognize that they need to make the effort to recognize women in the roles that they're serving. If the women of this church are mostly housewives, that a good and noble calling, and I wish them well. But I'm glad that they are now being recognized for this calling, fully aware that this would not have been the case only a short while ago. We're still a long way off from recognizing the myriad of other roles that women (and men!) can serve. But progress is progress, and it deserves to be noted as such.

In completely unrelated news, a preview of the BotCon comic was posted at yesterday, and a recent eBay auction (which I won't link to directly, but you can find it if you want to bad enough) hints that an upcoming convention (or dare I hope, club?) exclusive will be none other than Alpha Trion! Cool!

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