For those of you have have read my blogs over the past year or so, I am about to beat on a familiar drum. And I am going to keep beating it, because I think its a huge point that gets overlooked.
Rachel Held Evans’s recent book A Year of Biblical Womanhood has inspired some strong reactions in certain American Christian subcultures.She is standing up to powerful ecclesiastical bullies, self-proclaimed gatekeepers who are quick to level the charge “unfaithful to the Bible” to those within earshot. She is showing them, with wit and insight, that their game collapses rather quickly.
Let’s be brutally honest for a moment. We’re living in a culture where you can get fired for being brutally honest. We’re living in a culture where it’s becoming illegal to be brutally honest. But for a brief, forbidden moment, let’s be brutally honest.
Women get ahead because of deferential men. Women get ahead when men let them get ahead. Women become powerful because men empower them. Because men share their power with women. Or relinquish their power to women.
It’s men who gave women the vote. It’s men who passed anti-discrimination laws. It’s men who promoted affirmative action policies.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some very capable women. Women who succeed on the merits. Women who go far by dint of their talent and tenacity. Women of great personal accomplishment.
There brilliant women. Tough women. Women who can best most men in an argument.
Take Maggie Thatcher. She clawed her way to the top through brains and steely determination. She earned the top spot. She got there the hard way.
Yet even that was only possible because men cleared a path for her. Thatcher would not have been possible a century earlier. Not because Thatcher would be different. But because her ascent to power would not have been permitted. So even she owed her success to deferential men. And that’s in spite of the fact that she got there on the merits.
But then you have another kind of woman. A woman like Rachel Held Evans, Sandra Fluke, Ellen DeGeneres, or Rosie O’Donnell. These are kept women. Women who go far, not because their ascent is commensurate with their ability, but because they enjoy male patronage. Because it was handed to them.
Take Ellen DeGeneres. She got to where she is, not because she’s popular. The Ellen Show bombed. No, she’s kept in the spotlight because she’s a liberal mascot. TV producers advance her career to prove how socially enlightened they are.
By the same token, the only reason Evans can “stand up to powerful ecclesiastical bullies” is because some accommodating men pulled out a footstool for her to stand on. Because she gets softball questions from fawning interviewers.
It’s like those make-believe superheroines we see all the time. A girly-girl with a tough girl demeanor. A woman with a ballerina build walks into a bar and levels ten beefy men with her kung fu. Of course, that only happens in movies.
I’m reminded of Madame de Maintenon. She wielded enormous clout because she was the king’s favorite. Her power came from her intimate association with a powerful man.
The cultural elite is actively cultivating this feminist fantasy. Girls who play tackle football with the boys. That only works as long as the boys pull their punches. The girl can only play the plucky feminist if the guys play Sir Galahad.
Peter Enns also knows that by heaping praise on Evans, her fans will heap praise on him. It’s a mutual congratulation society.
Men like Enns condescend to women. They demean women of real achievement by pretending women like Evans deserve all this attention and adulation.
Finally, our curriculum vitae won’t get us to heaven. Hell is full of high achievers. The race is not to the smart, rich, famous, talented, popular, powerful, or beautiful. Only the godly enter God’s kingdom.