Language and Woman's Place

Diversity Trouble

Diversity troubles standardized language. Rather than lecture on the subject, I shall preface my comments with a series of seven vignettes to help my reader think about culture, extremism, and rationality.

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal ...."

--MLK Jr.445

Martin Luther King ... suggested ... that we return to the militancy and courage of the early Christians: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy!' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:43-45, RSV).
    Two thousand years after Christ had given that injunction, Martin Luther King, Jr., dispersed an angry mob who wanted revenge when his home had been bombed. He told the would-be avengers that hate would only multiply hate. He further stated that hate would only scar the soul and distort the personality. On that evening of January 30, 1956, when Montgomery, Alabama, could have become an uncontrollable holocaust, a then obscure black Baptist minister, weaponless except for his unshakable belief in the words of Christ, changed the course of history and gave twentieth century meaning to the words, "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

--Coretta Scott King446

He had walked from the compound, taking the tiny side streets, around the Bolshoi. Don't look for the main picture, they said. The key is always the side streets, the backup. That's where you learn their intentions.
    And they weren't disguising them. If the militia on the main streets were the normal traffic and patrol units, those waiting in buses were something else. He hadn't seen them before, because even in Russia they don't show them that often--KGB border troops in riot gear. Spanking new helmets, dark blue overalls, shields and truncheons--the full equipment, imported direct from France, where the state has never had much time for demonstrations.
    But it was the numbers that shocked him, the communications trucks, the water cannon, and armored personnel carriers. All around was the static from radio transmissions as the soldiers waited for orders and the officers stood around tense and awkward. The sun was blinding in a cloudless sky. Conditions were perfect for anything except the events that were to follow.447

Respectfully he called, "Yigal, worker at the olive press, Emperor Nero of Rome demands that you throw open your town."
    "That we cannot do," Yigal replied. "We will not accept Nero as a god."
    "Yigal!" the stocky old warrior shouted. "Open your gates now and let us share this night in peace."
    "That we cannot do," the stubborn Jew repeated.
    "You have seen our might. You know that in time we must crush you. This is the last chance--will you surrender honorably?"
    "No. We will not worship your golden eagles."
    "I will see you in death, Yigal," the great general called from the lowering darkness, and unseen by the Romans, Josephus tugged at Yigal's robe and whispered, "You answered him well."
    In the darkness Vespasian, perplexed by the soldierly resistance of the Jews, assembled the Roman generals in his tent under the olive trees and asked, "Where do these Jews find their arrogance?"
    "They've always been stubborn," Trajan said. "They want few things, but those few they insist upon."
    "Have you fought them before?" Vespasian asked.     "No, but I've known them in Alexandria. On little points they gave no trouble, but on big ones ..." The leader of the Fifteenth Apollinaris made a wry face.
    "What big things?" Vespasian asked. "Like this matter of gods?"
    "On religion they're most stubborn," Trajan reported.448


The stylish, sexy and other types of girls to avoid

Since the one thing the congregation will notice first and most about her is her appearance, special attention must be paid to this facet of her personality. To cover the rule in a sentence, she must not be beautiful, stylish or sexy.
    This does not mean that she should be homely and frumpy. The smallest rural circuit will appreciate a presentable preacher's wife. And when pulpit committees from larger churches come looking you over, they will take a good look at her, too. More than one clerical career has been nipped in the bud when a committee thought they had their man but, finding that taking him meant taking a shabby- looking wife too, decided to look elsewhere.
    Nor does this rule prohibit you from marrying a real stunner. Any woman, even if she won the Miss America contest in a walk and brings on attacks of pop-eyes and shortness of breath among the males present when she strolls thorough a hotel lobby, can learn to tone down these assets to a level acceptable to most congregations. She can go easy on the make-up, wear serviceable but not overly stylish dresses and sensible shoes, and go to a hairdresser of indifferent skill. This will do wonders, in reverse, for her appearance without rendering her in any way unattractive.
    If she asks why she must submit to this sort of thing, remind her that the women of the congregation actually run the church, either by getting a stranglehold on the key committees or by telling their husbands how to run it, or both. So a preacher really has to please the women if he expects to keep a pulpit, and give the distinct impression that he knows how to please the women if he expects to get a better one.
    There is no possibility of pleasing the ladies if he flaunts a knockout of a wife, for she is a constant threat to their peace of mind, and he will have nothing but trouble. If she is so lovely as to make the ladies of the church feel homely, and so stylish as to make them feel dowdy, his prospects for a shining career in the church, which may be otherwise quite bright, are dimmed by several thousand candle power. The ladies simply will not put up with such a woman in the parsonage.

One day, saying that he had known Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem, he described minutely the governor's house and listed the dishes served at supper. Cardinal de Rohan, believing these were fantasies, turned to the Compte de Saint-Germain's valet, an old man with white hair and an honest expression. "My friend," he said to the servant, "I find it hard to believe what your master is telling us. Granted that he may be a ventriloquist; and even that he can make gold. But that he is two thousand tears old and saw Pontius Pilate? That is too much. Were you there?" "Oh, no, Monsignore," the valet answered ingeniously, "I have been in M. le Compte's service only four hundred years."450

Peacocks and Lilies451

I often think about Ezra Pound's cat who said it rested him to be among beautiful women.
    That's me all over. ...
    To be very beautiful is to be stunted. The psychologist Milton R. Sapirstein has put it well: "Outstanding beauty, like outstanding gifts of any kind, tends to get in the way of normal emotional development, and thus of that particular success in life which we call happiness."
    The beautiful woman, and the beautiful man too, is spoiled young, which is another way of saying that both are deprived of those struggles and enmities which enable the less comely to grow. You are not to be surprised that exceptionally good-looking women are childish. This is a datum, like coal is black.

I sometimes wonder if it would not be going too far for a preacher to try too hard to please the ladies in the church. I mean, per the (satirical) advice above), say, the preacher is troubled, having looked at his wife and decided that she looks too young and beautiful. He gives away her fine clothing and stocks up from Goodwill. He buys her some "sensible" shoes, and he sends her to a hairdresser known to be inept. When she asks him why she has to submit to this kind of thing, he points out the necessity of pleasing the women in the church by not flaunting a beauty.

Her reaction might be to wonder if her preacher husband were not perhaps going a bit overboard. That is sort of how I feel when from time to time I hear a preacher water down the honorifics applied to men so as not to upset the women in the church. I suppose he must think it good for our character development to not be treated with automatic respect, but if he answered his wife's complaint about her new wardrobe, shoes, and hairdo by telling her it helps her character not to look so good on the outside, I still doubt if it would set well with her.

I've tried to be balanced, not an "Egbert." I can get intellectual, so I don't ever bother to write notes on the little outlines in the bulletins. (As a matter of fact, I usually don't even bring a pen to church, and sometimes have to borrow one if I do need to write something down.)

Instead, I will walk to church, a brisk 45 minute walk. After getting my circulation going, I'll hang about outside in the fresh air. The other Sunday a sister going from her warm car to the warm building told me, "You need to put a jacket on." (I wasn't cold.) I told her, "If you are cold then go inside or dress warmer." But she replied that I needed to put on a wrap.

I didn't need to. Also I don't need women feeling they should be teaching men--although in some cases I allow it. I just used that as an illustration, not to single anybody out. After a quiet evening at home, and a quiet morning, and a quiet walk, I'm just not prepared to have women yack at me first thing when I arrive for service. I prefer quiet meditation in preparation for worship. I don't necessarily like to get pounced on by everyone arriving for church; I sometimes wait outside until the service gets started.

Ways a Man Can Nurture His Masculine Side452

3. Take cave time in your relationships. You should not feel guilty saying no to others when you need to be alone to recharge. You should not feel obligated to talk when you don't feel like it. This does not mean that you should never talk but that you should carefully pick the times.
I'd like to ask you if you're aware if anyone ever troubles instruct or encourage the sisters to be careful not to confuse men by too much talking, not to boss them, nor teach them? I get the impression that such instruction is lacking in some churches. But so-called women's equality, as the world defines it, is not a go-to-the-mat issue in the Bible, and is even contrary to some Bible teaching.
The Woman's Place453

A preacher talks about woman's place God designed men to be the leaders and women to be their helpers. This should not anger the Christian women because Jesus taught us all to take the attitude of a servant. But the women of this generation are selfish, and they have been duped by the women-libbers, many of whom are lesbians.

As for manipulating or apologizing for our language in the places where it reflects the God-given order, I don't see that being done in the pithy way the Lord and others point out absurdity. It seems to me quite natural and in balance for our language to be so ordered, and I haven't been shown otherwise.

Finally, to balance pleasing God and pleasing man with the Bibles we use:

Quotations on Textual Purity454

Various Saints and Observers

Today these sacred texts must have none of the smell of the ancient Near-East upon them; they must be made to speak in an American colloquialism that offers neither a window to the transcendent, nor an entry way to the religious consciousness that animated the communities that composed, preserved and transmitted these materials as a sacred trust. Hence, today we have Bibles that have been custom fitted to the immediacy of the modern situation, primarily for marketing purposes, but always under the guise of "needing to communicate." One publisher alone, the Zondervan Publishing House, has excelled in this endeavor, aiming for every consumer group imaginable. This, however, is diversification gone mad: The Quest Study Bible, The New Student Bible, Women's Devotional Bible, The Adventure Bible, The Teen Study Bible, Men's Devotional Bible, Couples' Devotional Bible, The NIV Life Application Bible, The NIV Study Bible, Youthwalk Devotional Bible. This is scandal beyond belief.
--Theodore Letis
I think our Bible version, in the traditional service at least, should be just the KJV.


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Earl Gosnell
1950 Franklin Bv., Box 15
Eugene, OR 97403


Copyright © 2004, Earl S. Gosnell III

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