“A&E” refers to Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin, authors of So Much More. I chose the abbreviation to save space and time.
After the last post about how women shouldn’t have careers outside the home, it makes sense to examine exactly how A&E envision women obtaining daily necessities – by always being attached to a man and allowing him to provide for her:
Biblically, the duty to provide is given to the man. As we read in Genesis 3, because of Adam’s sin, God cursed the ground so that it would be hard for Adam to provide for his family. … Nowhere in Scripture does it even hint that a woman has a duty to provide for herself. Even in a worst-case scenario, our Heavenly Father has arranged for masculine protection for needy women.
I’ve covered before how A&E’s definition of “provision” is broad enough to include many activites regularly done by women, but is still somehow restricted to men only. Now I may have discovered why, because A&E have constructed a distinction between “provision” (something done only by men) and “work” (something done by women):
Though men are supposed to be the providers, and fathers and husbands must support their daughters and wives, this does not exempt any women from their duty to work. There is a distinction between the work women are supposed to do in fulfilling the duties God has given them and being a wage slave to strange men in the “workforce.”
This distinction is completely arbitrary, and seems to serve no other purpose except to prop the idea of “provision” as being a male-only activity. (Again, see previous post on provision for background.) I’d thus like to move on to a more important question, whether or not men are affected by Eve’s part of the curse (and vice versa for women and Adam):
Throughout history, men have had to bear only the curse God gave directly to them. They work hard to provide for and protect their families. They don’t bear children. In our society, women are freely embracing a double standard – the curse of the man (difficulty in providing) in addition to the curse of the woman (pain in childbirth).
I’ve previously covered this idea also, but I’d like to review it more completely here as some more things occurred to me while reading this chapter. A&E claim here that because men can’t get pregnant and experience labor, they aren’t affected by the part of the curse directed at Eve. Conversely, women do not experience “difficulty in providing” (or at least didn’t until feminism came along) and thus aren’t affected by the part of the curse directed at Adam. I don’t buy this, for several reasons. Let’s start with the obvious ones, beginning with one I mentioned previously.
I once decided to try growing heirloom cabbages. Everything was going great, until some hungry green caterpillars found my tiny cabbages and ate all the leaves, killing them before they even had a chance to form heads. And of course, in any garden, you have to go out every day and pull weeds. Trouble is, I am a woman. Thus, if the curse on the ground is directed solely at men (as it is per A&E’s logic), my garden should not have grown weeds or attracted caterpillars. Otherwise, I would be affected by Adam’s half of the curse, and according to A&E, that didn’t happen until feminism came along.
But this isn’t the only way women are affected by that part of the curse. As A&E must be aware, there have been many famines throughout history (and there’s at least one recorded in the Bible). Many of these have been caused by massive crop failures – for example, one of the most famous in recent history, the Irish Potato Famine:
Irish Potato Famine…occurred in Ireland in 1845-49 when the potato crop failed in successive years. The crop failures were caused by late blight, a disease that destroys both the leaves and edible roots, or tubers, of the potato plant. The causative agent of late blight is the water mold Phytophthora infestans. …
By the early 1840s, almost one-half of the Irish population – but primarily the rural poor – had come to depend almost exclusively on the potato in their diet, and the rest of the population also consumed it in large quantities. A heavy reliance on just one or two high-yielding varities of potato greatly reduced the genetic variety that ordinarily prevents the decimation of an entire crop by disease, and thus the Irish became vulnerable to famine. In 1845 Phytophthora arrived accidentally from North America, and that same year Ireland had unusually cool, moist weather, in which the blight thrived. Much of that year’s potato crop rotted in the fields. This partial crop failure was followed by more devastating failures in 1846-49, as each year’s potato crop was almost completely ruined by blight.
Obviously, the Irish Potato Famine affected women as well as men. But wait – that can’t be possible, because this particular famine was caused by crop failure, which means it is derived from the curse on the ground and thus only affects men!
And speaking of famines, this provides a perfect segue into the next topic, how men are affected by Eve’s part of the curse. A&E claim that men aren’t affected by this because they can’t get pregnant. But what about the other part, where Eve’s conception is multiplied? This has a direct and obvious effect on men’s ability to provide for their families: more mouths to feed – and watching their numerous children starve when something like the Irish Potato Famine happens. Since most men are not sociopaths, I assume this would normally cause significant distress. (Though given how many patirocentrists and complementarians insist on portraying men as emotionless sex werewolves, I can see why this might not occur to them.)
Moving on to practicalities, A&E next claim that women never have to provide for themselves, even in “a worst-case scenario,” because God always has a plan for a man to provide for them instead. So how does this work?
What about women who are abandoned, divorced, or widowed? We must remember that God is not silent on this issue. Scripture goes into detail about how women without fathers or husbands are to be provided for. Both Old and New Testaments are full of exhortations to protect and provide for the widows and fatherless. The immediate responsibility rests with family. … Widows without relatives to provide for them are to be cared for by the church.
This sounds good on the surface, and it’s obviously a good thing for relatives and/or a church to provide for those who can’t provide for themselves for whatever reason. Except I have a few misgivings here. First, when A&E see that only families and churches are mentioned in the New Testament, they assume that these are the only options available and anything else is definitively prohibited – except this is, essentially, an argument from silence. A&E cannot prove, solely from the fact that Bible never mentions government safety nets or widows holding jobs, that these things are absolutely forbidden. Though given that A&E are of the strict Reformed persuasion, I’m not surprised they took this route, since this same method is often employed in Reformed theology of worship (the “regulative principle” states that everything not expressly permitted is prohibited, and thus, in its most restrictive form, prohibits things like musical instruments, candles and incense in church).
Related to this, A&E haven’t dealt with any of the historical context either. When the New Testament was written, women didn’t have a choice to work for themselves, and there was no government safety net of any kind. This could put a significantly different spin on Paul’s harsh words about not providing for widows and orphans, because an uncaring or negligent family would be sentencing them to something like poverty, starvation or involuntary prostitution.
Most importantly, though, I think A&E may be underestimating how deeply imperfect the world is. It’s great to say that needy women should never get a job and should always go to their relatives or the church first, but there are many very real scenarios where this is not an option. Even if every church in a given area committed to helping every needy woman they could find – which is a pretty far-fetched scenario to begin with – even put together, they may well not have the resources to do so. Also, many needy women come from families that are just as needy as they are, and might not be of any help. They might also come from unhealthy families that could be a risk to them for various reasons.
The upshot of all this is, A&E will encounter many situations where their plan is just not feasible. So what’s their solution when (not if) that happens? Well, judging only by what they’ve written here, to put strict limits on which needy women churches can help:
Some women (abandoned, divorced, or widowed) have no family able or willing to support them. If this happens, churches should step in and carefully provide both spiritual and financial protection. Churches have a duty, however, to qualify the help they can give. It can only go to those who have proven themselves obedient to God’s standards for family-centered living.
If “obedient to God’s standards for family-centered living” means what it has meant up to this point, in both So Much More and the Vision Forum lectures I reviewed in the Big Box series, this will virtually eliminate most needy women from being counted as “obedient” enough to deserve the church’s help. Any woman who self-describes as feminist or egalitarian will be out of luck (to say nothing of women who aren’t even Christian); as will any woman who doesn’t agree to quit her job or ditch her home business; any woman whose children attend public school; and any divorced woman who refuses to return to her abusive husband and reconcile. This might even extend to any woman who attends a church that has a Sunday school program or a youth group. In other words, A&E only want to help people who already agree with them.
I will say this, though. If these restrictions were designed to solve this plan’s feasibility issues, then they work beautifully – because the number of needy women A&E will actually be able to help with standards like these, will be vanishingly small to nonexistent. See? Problem solved.