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Sue

I blogged about this here,

http://powerscourt.blogspot.com/2008/10/i-thought-so.html

I have many friendships with Asian women, some brought up in orphanages, another sold by her parents as a child. I agree with you that Christianity has a positive effect for women in Asia, but historically Christianity in China has not been complementarian - relatively speaking at any rate. The first female Anglican priest was Chinese.

Have you read Christiana Tsai's Queen of the Dark Chamber.

http://powerscourt.blogspot.com/2009/03/christiana-tsai-1.html

JohnFH

Thanks for the links, Sue. I imagine you haven't had a chance to read the Economist article. This is how it begins:

Xinran Xue, a Chinese writer, describes visiting a peasant family in the Yimeng area of Shandong province. The wife was giving birth. “We had scarcely sat down in the kitchen”, she writes (see article), “when we heard a moan of pain from the bedroom next door…The cries from the inner room grew louder—and abruptly stopped. There was a low sob, and then a man’s gruff voice said accusingly: ‘Useless thing!’

“Suddenly, I thought I heard a slight movement in the slops pail behind me,” Miss Xinran remembers. “To my absolute horror, I saw a tiny foot poking out of the pail. The midwife must have dropped that tiny baby alive into the slops pail! I nearly threw myself at it, but the two policemen [who had accompanied me] held my shoulders in a firm grip. ‘Don’t move, you can’t save it, it’s too late.’

I have many Asian friends as well. As you know, I make a distinction between traditionals and neo-traditionals. Asians, including Asian Christians, are traditionals, with stronger patterns of gender complementation than is the case among North American complementarians. I think that's common knowledge.

The reason is simple; the (benign) influence of feminism has been stronger in North America than it has been in Asia. North American complementarian men and women are not often aware of how good they have it given their contextualization in a culture that has been heavily impacted by feminism.

But not all for good. Not by any means. So a balanced discussion is in order.

Sue

Michelle Goldberg has also written about this. She writes very clearly on the fact that in India feminists have taken a leading role in fighting female feticide. She notes that becoming pregnant is not a choice for women in most parts of India as they are not consulted on their marriage or asked consent for intercourse. Some women are killed by their husbands or husbands' family, some commit suicide on giving birth to a baby girls while others are injured by their husbands. A common way to injure a woman is to damage her in her private areas so she will not reveal this to anyone.

I don't think that there is any question that functional inequality decreases the value of the female foetus. Where the number of births are limited by legal of financial reasons, the female foetus will be aborted unless she can eventually fulfill the same duties for her parents that a son can. But if she is under her husband's authority, she is unable to do this.

I have followed this issue for many years now. I have taught children whose mothers were murdered, and girls who were sent back to India at age 14 to marry against their will.

JohnFH

God bless the feminists in India.

Still, it is not rocket science to realize that a *socially conservative* movement like the one Mother Theresa cultivated in India has had a far greater positive impact on the lives of women and children than feminists in India have had. It is a culture of life like that promoted by the Catholic Church that is best adapted to defeating feticide and femicide. Not feminists standard-issue, who *countenance* feticide with few qualifications, even if they make an exception in the case of mass femicide.

Ideological feminists polarize and actually provide grist for the mill of ultra-conservatives.

Responsible social conservatives and social moderates take a less confrontational approach. Culturally given functional inequalities and equalities are accepted but also allowed to move in one direction or another within limits established by social consensus.

Authority is not viewed as putting someone under, but as a responsibility to exercise *on behalf of.*

A clear hierarchy in the couple is a constant in Indian marriages I have observed. Practically speaking, that may be changing slowly, but objective observation cannot but detect that change in the direction of less hierarchy is creating as many problems as new opportunities. Life really is that complex. What contributes to happiness in a marriage is constant, regardless of how traditional or untraditional it may be in terms of gender complementation: mutual benevolence and respect. Without that, a marriage no matter how egalitarian in framework, is hell on earth.

I realize many feminists have a hard time admitting that a context of mutual respect is the most important thing, not patterns of complementation. Most women (and men) however think of mutual respect as the highest good, not equality however that might be defined.

No wonder then, that relatively few women are willing to self-identify as feminists. It simply does not accord with their own self-understanding.

JohnFH

A key paragraph of the article:

"Not all traditional societies show a marked preference for sons over daughters. But in those that do — especially those in which the family line passes through the son and in which he is supposed to look after his parents in old age — a son is worth more than a daughter. A girl is deemed to have joined her husband’s family on marriage, and is lost to her parents. As a Hindu saying puts it, “Raising a daughter is like watering your neighbours’ garden.”"

Is there an equivalent saying in even the most traditional of Christian societies? Not that I know of. In this instance as in others, it simply is the case: not all religions are created equal. It is useless to pretend otherwise.

That said, Christianity has had and continues to have its own inner demons to face down. For its own good and for the sake of all, it is important that they be accurately identified and exorcised.

Sue

I did read the article. The value of women in a patriarchal society puts female foetuses at risk for abortion. Millions more female than male foetuses have been aborted in patriarchal societies than in egalitarian societies. Patriarchal values are associated with 100 million more female than male foetuses being aborted. I can't see it any other way.

My experience of Asian Christianity is that of knowing Korean, Chinese and Japanese female ministers and their families, who seem ignorant of the biases of North American prohibitions against women in the pulpit. Among the Catholic Asians, the subordination of women in the home has not been a strong theme.

I appreciate your bringing this situation to the attention of the bibliosphere. It has been an ongoing concern of mine for many years.

JohnFH

There are plenty of patriarchal societies that do not abort or otherwise kill female children. There are relatively egalitarian societies, like the US, which have high rates of feticide. I'm not clear why that's okay so long as the terminated unborn are seldom gender-selected for that end. The key factors are clearly other than patriarchy/egalitarianism, which you fail to identify.

Another excerpt:

"according to the World Health Organisation, female suicide rates in China are among the highest in the world (as are South Korea’s). Suicide is the commonest form of death among Chinese rural women aged 15-34; young mothers kill themselves by drinking agricultural fertilisers, which are easy to come by. The journalist Xinran Xue thinks they cannot live with the knowledge that they have aborted or killed their baby daughters."

A repressed culture of life reaps victims among those who victimize. The absence of a strong enough culture of life, I submit, is at the heart of the problem. It is misleading to put the problem at the door of patriarchy.

I thank you, Sue, for raising awareness on this issue. But I long to see you take a clear pro-life stand. That, I believe, is the only sure defense against the practice of femicide.

Sue

I thank you, Sue, for raising awareness on this issue. But I long to see you take a clear pro-life stand. That, I believe, is the only sure defense against the practice of femicide.

This is as somewhat laudable statement, but I would subtract the word "sure" from this. Many women do die in child birth still, and some are seriously damaged by giving birth, especially in countries without adequate health care. Some women are killed for bearing girls. We have to deal with all the facts.

On the other hand, losing a foetus is a very common experience for women and I have never known a church to acknowledge a miscarried foetus as a life. I have had particularly bad experience in this department as well. This is a complex issue overall.

In terms of global stats, I am well aware of the high suicide rate for women in China.

It seems that one can summarize things in this manner. In societies with predominantly patriarchal religions,females are

- more likely to be aborted
- less likely to be educated
- less likely to be fed properly
- less likely to receive health care
- more likely to commit suicide
- more likely to live in poverty
- more likely to experience rape and violence in the home both as children and as adults
- more likely to be subject to imprisonment, mutilation, forced marriage and prostitution

We can also say that in countries with a Christian tradition, females are more likely to be educated, more likely to live longer and in less poverty. But it is not clear whether this is due to the patriarchal nature of Christianity or whether it is due to the theme of gender equality which is also present in Christianity.

On abortion, among countries with a Christian tradition, there are many times more abortions in North America than in many Western European countries. Abortions are lowest in the Netherlands, for example.

But then the overall birth rate is much lower in Italy and Poland than in the rest of Europe. In some cases, a traditional more gendered lifestyle lowers to birth rate, but in other cases it raises the birth rate. The same with the abortion rate. If the Netherlands has such a low abortion rate, as well as a higher birth rate than both Italy and South Korea, what is it doing right?

Frankly, I resist drawing hard and fast conclusions from this data. I am still processing it.

I do believe that inasmuch as Christianity is truly pro-life, it is good for women, and inasmuch as it is patriarchal, it is bad for women. This is what the data says to me at this point in time. Christianity is not a monolithic cultural force.

Finally, I do not associate abortion with feminism overall, as abortion was historically promoted by the pater familias. It is dependent on many factors.

About the only thing that is clear from global data is that patriarchy does not benefit women. Fortunately Christianity is not univocally patriarchal and I celebrate this fact.

JohnFH

Medicalization of society contains plusses and minusses for women as well. At some point, you might want to take a look at authors like Ivan Illich, and feminists who have built on his insights.

As far as I can see, you continue to fail to sort out what the key factors are. You assume that traditional (= patriarchal) societies are detrimental to women across the board, and non-traditional (=egalitarian) societies are the opposite. It's not that simple.

Thankfully, you go on to contradict yourself by way of example. I just don't see why you have to make inaccurate generalizations to begin with. Rates of education, poverty, suicide, and so on vary widely from society to society. Patriarchy or the lack of it simply cannot be regarded as the mother of all explanations. This is the opposite of serious sociology.

But you make a good point about abortion correlating with patriarchy in non-Christian contexts. In Greco-Roman antiquity, Plato and Aristotle approved of both feticide and infanticide. Jews and Christians did not, though they were less patriarchal by degree only relative to Plato and Aristotle.

I also concur, as you know, that ontological equality and functional equalities and inequalities are cultural universals which interact with each other in complex ways.

You say,

"I have never known a church to acknowledge a miscarried foetus as a life. I have had particularly bad experience in this department as well."

I'm sorry to hear that. In my experience, I have been called to comfort grieving parents in just such a situation. Thanks to the Catholic Church, a burial grounds for that purpose are also available.

You say:

"Finally, I do not associate abortion with feminism overall, as abortion was historically promoted by the pater familias. It is dependent on many factors."

Agreed, though the way that has *not* been the case in Christian patriarchy is the fact which drives the reflection with which this post begins. You could also have written:

"Finally, I do not associate the mistreatment of women with traditional patterns of gender complementation overall, as mistreatment of women, for example, spousal abuse, is rampant among egalitarians as well. Mistreatment of women is dependent on many factors."

I could explain why the birth rate is currently very low in Italy. It would take a while. Hint: it is an example of egalitarianism gone amok.

Gary Simmons

"Frankly, I resist drawing hard and fast conclusions from this data. I am still processing it."

Sue, I don't know what data you're talking about. You've written commentary about data, but shown no data at all. "Some" women... "many"... etc. are not valid statements in statistics, if we're sticking with just data. Those are generalizations made by statisticians (or amateurs) as explanations for others, it is not in and of itself the data. This is like equating Leander Keck's Romans commentary with the book of Romans.

To put John's words in statistical terms, you've also neglected lurking variables, of which I am sure there are many, since the issue is complex. You admit the issue is complex, but it doesn't stop you from making judgments you consider to be hard facts, when really they are not.

Most notably, we must remember that one cannot mathematically quantify the statement "In societies with predominantly patriarchal religions." These are subjective descriptions, and therefore any data gathered using such descriptions will also be subject to subjective scrutiny. Plus it just screams "post hoc, ergo propter hoc."

Also, one must define a "high" suicide rate. Is it one standard deviation above the mean? Two? Generally speaking, if it's more than one standard deviation, that's a significant difference.

Here is something I could summarize:
Generally, in societies that are in poverty, women are:
- more likely to be aborted
- less likely to be educated
- less likely to be fed properly
- less likely to receive health care
- more likely to commit suicide
- more likely to live in poverty
- more likely to experience rape and violence in the home both as children and as adults
- more likely to be subject to imprisonment, mutilation, forced marriage and prostitution

Any of these, I daresay, can be linked in part to poverty. And, I would speculate, poverty has a stronger correlation to any of these effects than does patriarchy, however defined.

Gary Simmons

There is only one fact in statistical comparisons: the real world is never ceterus peribus.

Sue

Hint: it is an example of egalitarianism gone amok.

I have read the opposite explanation. Michelle Goldberg, 2009, writes,

"Yale political scientists Frances A. Rosenbluth, Matthew Light, and Claudia Schrag came to the same conclusion in a 2002 paper. “To put our thesis in the simplest terms, fertility is low where vested interests keep women out of the workforce, and higher where easy labour market accessibility and child care support make it easier for women to balance family and career,” they wrote." page 206

"Italian males, even the young, are ill adapted to this new equality of genders. Even those who shared school classes with girls from early childhood are not prepared for family life in which women are on equal footing with men ... The link between these attitudes and fertility behavior is direct. A woman who engages in repeated childbearing runs the risk of being relegated to roles from which young Italian women struggle to escape. (Jean-Claude Chesnais)" page 216

Anyhow the stats are far too complicated for either of us to prove our points. In my view, if even a few of the effects of patriarchy are as I suggest then it is better to ditch it. It is causing acute suffering in many cases, and less acute in other cases. This is my educated opinion, from what I have read and from one of my sisters consulting in a health capacity with World Vision, and another sister working for many years in China, also consulting at a high level for both theological and government institutions in the States.

But, of course, all social trends are complex and vary widely from one local to another.

Goldberg, who is probably blatantly pro-abortion, nonetheless brings a somewhat balanced analysis to the table. She discusses in depth all of the issues which you raise here and which I blogged about last year.

JohnFH

Thanks, Sue, for bringing Michelle Goldberg's reflections into the mix. They are insightful, even if I see things somewhat differently, not because I am not an egalitarian. I am, but I get upset, as you know, with caped crusading egals. It's a monologue with them, and it gets tiring.

IMHO what egalitarianism needs is self-critical reflection, not cheerleaders, or Ninja warriors doing hatchet jobs and non-egalitarians and traditional and neo-traditional patterns of gender complementation. That's my point of view, and I mean no harm by it.

You are of course welcome to your opinion on "patriarchy." But then, so are others who, having grown up egals, have chosen a neo-traditional framework.

Sue

I realise you mean no harm, but I have still found World Vision's statement on women to be a guideline. It is similar to statements by many other secular organizations but I cite it because of the way that World Vision has attracted positive attention for faith-based NGO's recently.

I have written about it here,

http://powerscourt.blogspot.com/2010/02/nicholas-kristof-and-world-vision.html

This is one line which outlines the need for equal participation in decision-making.

"Create programmes and raise awareness among men and women to acknowledge and alleviate the burdens of women’s triple role in their home, workplace, and community, and promote women’s equal participation in decision-making."

I consider, strictly speaking, that patriarchy means rule by males, and that it means, by definition, that women do not have an equal voice in decision-making. This is the one trait of patriarchy which I consider to be an unmitigated negative for the physical and mental health of women in the home. If in the home, the woman does not have an equal voice, or equal influence, if she does not live in an environment of mutual consent, it will be to the detriment of herself and the children.

Goldberg's thesis is that overall, at the level of a society, women who have an equal voice, and opportunity for economic participation, will be more willing, not less willing to bear children.

I do know that when I was of childbearing age, there was enormous influence from the male leaders, both secular and religious, to limit births, and it was looked down on as a selfish female desire to have more than two children. I was given a very negative view of women for wanting to have more than their fair share of children. These things have changed a lot in one generation.

Sue

Gary,

You are absolutely correct. The fact is that I have read the data, and many studies on this issue, but don't have time to link to most of it - here is one study I found,


http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/29/magazine/29Birth-t.html?_r=2&pagewanted=4

"The experience of France, Sweden and the US suggests that enabling mothers to remain in the workplace at least part-time is vital to encouraging women to have children. In Europe the northern countries overall have a higher birth rate than the southern and more Catholic countries. In commenting on this phenomenon, David Willits is cited in this article,

On the surface there are economic explanations for why this phenomenon has occurred in southern Europe. Italy, for example, pays the lowest starting wages of any country in the E.U., which causes young people to delay striking out on their own. And as the British politician David Willetts has noted, “Living at home with your parents is a very powerful contraception.” But the deeper problem may lie precisely in the family-friendly ethos of these countries. This part of the self-definition of southern European culture — the “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” ideal — has a flip side. “In all of these countries,” Billari said, “it’s very difficult to combine work and family. And that is partly because, within couples, we have evidence that in these countries the gender relationships are very asymmetric.”

There, according to waves of recent evidence, is the rub — the result of a friction between tectonic plates in modern society that has been quietly at work for decades. The accepted demographic wisdom had been that as women enter the job market, a society’s fertility rate drops. That has been broadly true in the developed world, but more recently, and especially in Europe, the numbers don’t bear it out. In fact, something like the opposite has been the case. According to Hans-Peter Kohler of the University of Pennsylvania, analysis of recent studies showed that “high fertility was associated with high female labor-force participation . . . and the lowest fertility levels in Europe since the mid-1990s are often found in countries with the lowest female labor-force participation.” In other words, working mothers are having more babies than stay-at-home moms.

How can this be? A study released in February of this year by Letizia Mencarini, the demographer from the University of Turin, and three of her colleagues compared the situation of women in Italy and the Netherlands. They found that a greater percentage of Dutch women than Italian women are in the work force but that, at the same time, the fertility rate in the Netherlands is significantly higher (1.73 compared to 1.33). In both countries, people tend to have traditional views about gender roles, but Italian society is considerably more conservative in this regard, and this seems to be a decisive difference. The hypothesis the sociologists set out to test was borne out by the data: women who do more than 75 percent of the housework and child care are less likely to want to have another child than women whose husbands or partners share the load. Put differently, Dutch fathers change more diapers, pick up more kids after soccer practice and clean up the living room more often than Italian fathers; therefore, relative to the population, there are more Dutch babies than Italian babies being born. As Mencarini said, “It’s about how much the man participates in child care.” "

I have been writing about this for some time.

Sue

Gary,

I think you have hit on the core of the argument, that there is a strong association between gender inequality and poverty. This is the thesis of Kristof and World Vision, that poverty and the subordination of women are inextricably linked. Kristoff writes,

"There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bank to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid organizations like CARE that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism."

"In many poor countries, the greatest unexploited resource isn’t oil fields or veins of gold; it is the women and girls who aren’t educated and never become a major presence in the formal economy. With education and with help starting businesses, impoverished women can earn money and support their countries as well as their families. They represent perhaps the best hope for fighting global poverty."

"(T)he economist Esther Duflo of M.I.T. found that when the men’s crops flourish, the household spends more money on alcohol and tobacco. When the women have a good crop, the households spend more money on food. “When women command greater power, child health and nutrition improves,” Duflo says."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/23/magazine/23Women-t.html

I think this article says it all. I am truly unaware of what can be said to support patriarchy, in response to Kristof's articles.

JohnFH

Sue,

You are well aware that many non-egalitarian homes are characterized by love, mutual respect, and mutual consent, mutual consent also and precisely in terms of specific, unequal arrangements of domain-based hierarchy said homes instantiate.

That ought to temper your speech and cause you to qualify your remarks. But it doesn't. Your rhetoric is hurtful and I wish you would stop.

Your indiscriminate campaign against any and all forms of non-egalitarianism in the home is wounding to those of us who have dear friends and family who are non-egals in the home. It is also counter-productive and polarizing.

You do not show any willingness to credit plusses to non-egalitarian frameworks. You do not show any willingness to discuss cons of egalitarianism in real life. Who would be so foolish to take such a one-sided, black and white approach seriously?

Who among non-egals would bother to respond to you? It is certainly to their credit, not yours, that some of them do. You reduce them to victims (females) and victimizers (males).

Your approach is ultimately dehumanizing.

The World Vision statement you cite is not applied or construed in the militant terms you have made your own. The Board of Directors of World Vision and its vast array of supporters include traditionals, neo-traditionals, and soft egalitarians, not just and not primarily cape-crusading egalitarians like yourself.

You do a disservice to World Vision by suggesting otherwise. As if World Vision were a militant feminist organization whose purpose it is to remake non-Western cultures into the image of well-adjusted middle-class America. That is not its purpose.

If you think that the woes of this world can be ascribed principally to patriarchy, poverty, and lack of education, that is your prerogative.

But it needs to be said, to avoid confusion: you subscribe to a world view that has little in common with Christianity. Christianity is based on the premise that the woes of this world are based on something far deeper and more pervasive than the things you return to over and over and over again: a deep weddedness to the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-21).

By contrast, it is the fruits of the Spirit which make all the difference (Galatians 5:22).

Note well - and if you cannot agree, I think we might as well agree to disagree: these fruits of the Spirit are manifested in the lives of individuals and of communities *irrespective* of strong or weak patterns of gender complementation, irrespective of traditional, neo-traditional, and egalitarian marriage frameworks; and irrespective of poverty or riches and education or the lack thereof.

Finally, your style of argument is self-defeating. What you concede in one breath you take back with the next. It is as if you hold others but not yourself to the most elementary rules of logic. There is a broken-record quality to your argumentation.

I don't think it makes for a fruitful conversation. Do not be surprised if I ask you to go elsewhere with your "fire and tinder" polemics.

I would not say this if I didn't believe that fire-breathing dragons like yourself do not make the world a better place.

Fire-breathing dragons like yourself do not solve problems like femicide. You and other fire-breathers simply make a huge stink.

Nor are fire-breathers capable of mitigating patriarchy, one of the great historical merits of both Judaism and Christianity. Fire-breathers like yourself do no more than demonize it, paradoxically reviving its strength in the process, something that, historically speaking, Judaism and Christianity have been careful not to do.

Gary Simmons

Ironically, "Saving the World's Women" is on my list of causes on my blog. It's one of two articles (rather than organization websites) on that list. It is true that more traditional societies tend to be affected more by poverty.

Yet we musn't neglect that the abundance/absence of natural resources plays a role in economic development. Before the World Wars, when the job market was mostly male, America was not in poverty. I would suppose that access to natural resources and the ability to make use of them are key factors.

A major focus of mine has been to contribute to Wishing Well, a program started by my good friend Ryan Groves at Oklahoma Christian University. With clean sanitation that is within reach, women don't have to spend all their time gathering (filthy) water. Women don't break their backs carrying 50+ pounds of water daily for miles, and girls don't have to drop out of school in order to help Mom with water.

If this could be combined with medical care (especially menstrual hygiene), girls could more easily go to school without falling behind. Or so I would hope.

Will clean water solve all the world's ills? No. That won't happen until Revelation 19, but what this will do is reduce suffering and disease while increasing overall health and freeing up time for education. Funding, if put in the right place, can cause a significant difference in just a year's time where imposing middle-class (post)modern American ideology will not. Ideology doesn't stop girls from drinking the same water she just washed her clothes in, after all.

JohnFH

Judaism and Christianity are well-known yesterday and today for philanthropic efforts.

But, contrary to Kristof's well-meaning praise of the charitable work of evangelical organizations like World Vision, the chief gift such organizations vehiculate to humanity is something else altogether.

It is a specific understanding of sin and salvation. It is an offer of forgiveness. It the possibility of a life in community which, thanks to the Holy Spirit, is a gift exchange at all conceivable levels.

Whenever Judaism or Christianity are reduced to philanthropy, it is not just these faiths that are caricatured in the bargain.

Their most important gifts to humanity are overlooked.

Gary Simmons

John, I of course did not have Judaism or Christianity in mind when I said "ideology." I apologize if that wasn't clear. I was hoping the reference to Revelation would hint at my belief that only God's transformative and salvific power will rectify all things.

JohnFH

I caught that Gary. I didn't think of what I said as in opposition to what you were saying, but as building on it.

Sue

The World Vision statement you cite is not applied or construed in the militant terms you have made your own. The Board of Directors of World Vision and its vast array of supporters include traditionals, neo-traditionals, and soft egalitarians, not just and not primarily cape-crusading egalitarians like yourself.

You do a disservice to World Vision by suggesting otherwise. As if World Vision were a militant feminist organization whose purpose it is to remake non-Western cultures into the image of well-adjusted middle-class America. That is not its purpose.

You stand alone in this world in calling me a militant feminist. But you descend to the comic with the rest of your comment.

Gary,

I appreciate your response. That sounds quite appropriate. I would like to say that I am aware that there are many who are culturally patriarchal but do promote equal treatment of women, and this is often so among Christians. (BTW, I don't actually know where you stand on this, so I am only making a generalization here.)

But I believe that inasmuch as patriarchal cultural values promote continuing inequality between men and women, it does not benefit women, children, men, or society as a whole. So, definitely, I know many people of patriarchal persuasion who do the right thing, but this is not a justification of patriarchy per se.

I am not sure why Christians would support gender inequality. It may not create an ideal society but it is better than the alternatives that we have available to us at the moment.

Sue

What would be really interesting would be an analysis of where Kristof and World Vision are wrong about the need for gender equality.

Marilyn

John, I appreciate your post. The comments about South Korean Christians particularly resonated with me.

My kids are adopted and were born in South Korea. My husband is a professor who teaches at a midwestern university in a Masters program targeted at South Korean middle-level managers, and my family has been “adopted” by a Korean Southern Baptist church in our town.

What follows are three observations based on personal, anecdotal experience.

First, South Korean Christians’ affirmation of life extends beyond the issue of femicide. The importance on family blood lines has historically meant that there has been zero interest among South Koreans in adoption. It is disproportionately Christians who are changing that. It is disproportionately Christians who give international adoptees a good start in life by serving as foster parents until placement abroad is arranged. It is disproportionately Christians who are pioneering the growing in-country adoption movement currently led by South Korea’s first Christian President, Lee Myung-bak.

Second, the wives of South Korean businessmen cherish extended stays in the U.S. However, South Korean wives have no interest in U.S. style feminism, careers, or graduate school, and South Korean Christian wives have no interest in Christian egalitarianism. So, why the love of time in the U.S.? Well, in Korea, these women’s husbands typically work six, 12-hour days each week. While in the U.S., their husbands are typically home for dinner several nights a week and have Saturdays free for family outings. While in the U.S. children receive the precious gift of time with their fathers.

Are these traditional women weak? I don’t think so. In Korea, traditional marriage plays out in a way that is captured in popular culture by advice to young men to “Marry a fox, not a bear,” just as in the U.S., egalitarian marriage is captured by the saying “a happy wife is a happy life.”

Third, South Korean Christians are on fire for Christ. They understand “by grace through faith” as well as we do. But, they have an advantage over us. Their culture teaches respect and submission to authority. So, South Korean Christians instinctively understand what is so very difficult for us – as our understanding of God’s love for us grows, so should our obedience to Him. And, it is that obedience that is the foundation for intimacy with God.

No one has taught me more about what it means to obey God than my South Korean Christian friends . . . everyone of them a traditionalist.

Gary Simmons

Beautifully said, Marilyn. Right now I'm missing a friend of mine who is overseas in Daegu teaching English as a foreign language. Of course, she also does church work there.

JohnFH

Thanks, Marilyn and Gary.

Christian friends from other cultures have taught me three things.

First of all, their witness teaches me that ways of doing things I would otherwise consider to be the only right way because my culture and my upbringing predisposes me in that sense are *one option among many* available for working out one's salvation with fear and trembling.

Their witness delivers me from acquiescence to violent certainties of modern Western culture.

Secondly, their selective appropriation of Western culture (which rarely includes assimilation to Western allergies to functional inequality in the home, or to Western preferences for so-called democratic decision-making processes in marriage) helps me to identify those aspects of my culture that have relative transcendent value.

Thirdly, and most important, the fellowship, the unity in diversity, is absolutely sweet. The presence of Christ in that fellowship has a palpable quality to it if that makes any sense.

Marilyn

Thanks, Gary. BTW (and again based on personal anecdote), your comments about World Vision parallel my impressions of the organization. Our friends who are active with World Vision are “one-point” complementarians (i.e., complementarian with respect to marriage, but espousing views on church polity/governance very similar to those of Sarah Sumner) and are very comfortable with World Vision’s views on women.

Sue, what my friends wish for oppressed women around the world – and what they believe these women want, based on their work with World Vision – is what Peter writes in 1 Peter 3:7 "You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered" (NASB).

A wife is harmed when her husband fails to acknowledge her emotional and physical vulnerability to him, within the context of their marriage. Wives are also harmed when husbands refuses to honor wives as fellow heirs of grace. What I think many women around the world want is not U.S.-style feminism, but to be understood as women and honored as equal to men before God.

Sue, I don’t believe North American egalitarianism is a pre-requisite to living out a text like I Peter 3:7. That’s where we disagree. We’ve already gone around on this before, so I’ll stop here.

JohnFH

Kristof, unfortunately, likes to bang away at social conservatives in one breath while praising them in the next. In the larger scheme of things, it is not only comical, but turns out to be a great weakness in his approach. Go here for further discussion:

http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2010/02/nick-kristof-extends-an-olive-branch-to-evangelicals.html

It might be helpful, for those with little or no first-hand knowledge of World Vision, to give some idea of the sort of Christian matrix which sustains it. Its Board of Directors includes a wide cross-section of evangelicals with membership in denominations and churches as various as Pentecostal, 7th Day Adventist, mainline Presbyterian, Willow Creek Community Church, and Grace Chapel. In terms of political allegiances, some of them are undoubtedly Republican, others Democrat, and others Independent; in terms of hot button issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, they are likely to hold relatively conservative views; with respect to the ordination of women, some are members of churches which forbid it, others, of churches which embrace it; with respect to gender roles in the family, some attend churches which make use of resources by complementarians like Emerson Eggerichs, others, by egalitarians like Stuart and Jill Briscoe.

Marilyn

A factoid from South Korean adoption experience . . .

A roughly equal number of male and female South Korean orphans are available for international adoption. But, Western parents disproportionately request female babies.

As it turns out, there are two typical profiles of a Western adoptive family. One is a childless couple. The other is a couple with all sons, seeking to adopt a daughter. Western families with only daughters are much less likely to adopt a son.

To place baby boys, conservative Christian agencies like Bethany Christian Services are upfront about the fact that gender preferences will not necessarily be honored on initial adoption applications.

So, white Westerners embrace the idea of saving girls from femicide. But is that evidence of a belief in the equal worth of women, when those same Western parents are threatened by the thought of embracing boys of another race and/or are uninterested in boys that do not carry the family blood lines?

JohnFH

Marilyn,

You are reminding me of how the realities of adoption, the difficulties and joys of the fact, the failures and successes I have seen and participated in, have constituted a very significant part of my life as a pastor and father even if Paola and I have not adopted.

In particular, I am thinking of the absolutely upending experience Christian families sometimes put themselves through when they adopt or become long-term foster parents to boys with very serious issues that go back to things like having seen their mother kill one of their siblings, or a sibling commit suicide.

The street term for these boys is "damaged goods." A congregation, in the process of seeking to welcome just one boy of this kind, often finds itself unprepared and quickly overwhelmed.

Though I will continue to bend over backwards in order to give contemporary American culture its positive due, I can't help feeling that it is a culture that at the moment is failing its boys and men more so than its girls and women.

Insofar as feminism provides ideological cover for that disparity, it needs to be loyally critiqued.

Seumas MacDonald puts in a plug for Xinran's new book, "Message from an unknown Chinese Mother.":

http://jeltzz.blogspot.com/2010/03/femicide-etc.html

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