Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Women and theology

(This post has been in my heart for years, on my mind for months, and in my "draft" folder for weeks. But yesterday when I read this, "Realizing that other women share my interest in theology and deep thought has been such a relief to me. After a very long time, I realized that I'm not nearly as weird as I first thought." , by Kim at "Upward Call", I decided the time is right for my post...)

One of my earliest posts here at "Practicing Theology" was, "Who's afraid of the big bad wolf (aka theology)?", I asked women to share why they appeared to avoid theology. I also shared that as a woman I perceived myself to be in the minority in my interest, and very often discovered that I was the only woman present in most theological discussions--formal or informal, spectator or active participant.

Several weeks after that post I become aware--via another woman's blog--of a book by an author I'd never read before, and up until then had never heard of. I was drawn to the book because the author had taken on the task of encouraging Xian women to embrace theology rather than shun it. Careful not to "waste" money on an unknown book and author (our "book money" is limited and precious), I borrowed the book from our local library and began reading while on a trip to a conference with my husband.

We hadn't been on the road very long, and I was only 3-4 pages into the introduction when I read something that brought tears to my eyes--because I related so much to what was said. This is what I read,

"In my ministry to women, I encounter a wide spectrum of negative attitudes toward theology, from indifference to hostility. A few women here and there may find theology fascinating, may even devote a lot of time to study it, but they are exceptional and, in the opinion of some, a little peculiar. Most women cannot be bothered." (emphasis mine)

I read this outloud to my husband who did not chide me for my tears--he knew how "odd" I'd felt all these years. (Throw in the fact that for 19 yrs. of my married life I have been childless AND worked full-time outside the home--that really adds up to "peculiar" in the eyes and minds of many!)

I went on to read this,

"But perhaps even more serious an obstacle is the way Christian women have come to view themselves. We have split into two camps--the Marys and the Marthas. These two beloved sisters have unwittingly become a vehicle for categorizing ourselves as either "women who think" or "women who serve". On the one hand, those who call themselves Marthas prefer acts of service to intellectual pursuits. Of a decidedly practical bent, these women care passionately and actively for the needy hurting people around them. They invest time and energy providing invaluable ministry to these pressing and very real needs. They also suspect theology is over their heads and frankly are not all that interested. Marys, on the other hand, are most at home in the world of ideas. They relish an intellectual discussion and the mental challenge of a perplexing argument but feel awkward and out of place in the kitchen." (emphasis mine)

Of course, this brought more tears. I imagine that many of the women reading my blog have similar thoughts and feelings.

The clay does not ask the potter what he is doing or has done in making such a vessel. As for me, I continue to put considerable effort toward becoming more of a "Martha", and encourage the "Marthas" to put considerable effort toward becoming more of a "Mary". It goes without saying that we each will enjoy personal benefit from it, but imagine what our husbands, children, friends, and church family will gain--Biblically sound women ministering and serving to the physical AND spiritual needs of others.

(I'm reading the book I've quoted over again and am not yet ready to "go on record" regarding my opinion or recommendation, I hope to in the not so distant future. I do have some concerns about some assumptions made and positions taken by the author, but nothing that adversely impacts her encouragement for Xian women to study and embrace theology.)


Kim said...

I think I have an idea of the book of which you speak.

Very good post. I tried to tell you yesterday, but Blogger was being a booger, and I couldn't.

Rebekah said...

I very much relate to this post. I left a comment over at Kim's blog, too. I have felt very lonely, especially where I live now, because most of the women I know just aren't that interested in deeper things. They are very swayed by questionable teachings, and if I say anything, I'm the weird one, usually. Thankfully, I have my husband to talk about these things, but sometimes it would be nice to have a real woman friend who understood these things, too. One reason I started blogging is to have a place to reason out my thoughts since I don't have anyone to share them with in person. My whole blog isn't serious thoughts, but a good portion are. Thanks for sharing this.