I like movements and movement history. They’re… well, moving. There’s something at once romantic and gritty about them. We’re reminded of an invincible nobility against the backdrop of sinister injustice. Movements require ideals and a bunch or a few people willing to put something into those ideals. Movements call forth courage and sacrifice, facing hoses, dogs, lynching and the like. We owe a lot to movements and the fierce men and women–many anonymous–who made the movements happen.
Movements might burst onto the scene out of nowhere, or they may emerge gradually. Important factors line up. The timing is mysteriously (providentially) “right.” The moment has come–usually in some unanticipated spark or surge of energy or light bulb moment that catalyzes things. Think Rosa Parks refusing to move to the back of the bus, the advent of television taking news images into most American homes, and a young preacher King with silver voice and compelling ethics.
I’m not sure people are as taken with movements today as they perhaps were in the 1960s. In popular lore, the ’60s were the heyday of movement politics and causes. Every movement seemed to spawn a movement, or at least a move. But today, it seems more difficult to start and sustain an effort to impact the world, to make a change, to awaken consciousness. Perhaps it’s more difficult because people are more cynical, more jaded, more burned out from the 60s, or more self-centered, materialistic, or just plain disinterested. I don’t know.
But lasting movements require community. They require people who have something in common, a union formed by an ideal, something worth promoting and fighting for.
I’m currently enjoying Demetrius K. Williams’ book, An End to This Strife: The Politics of Gender in African American Churches. It’s a well-written argument for a Galatians 3:28 egalitarianism in Black churches as a redress for what Williams sees as the Black church’s failure to address sexism. Williams exegetes Galatians 3:28 and Pauline passes addressing gender roles, the history of African American struggles on race, class, and sexism, and a vision for the Black church. At the risk of over-simplifying, Williams rejects the Bible’s teaching on gender roles in the church as “patriarchy,” “oppression,” and “sexism.” He’s a feminist, or better stated a womanist, who seems to think as many do that distinction or difference necessarily entails inequality. He’s part of a movement–an intelligent and thoughtful part–to refashion the Black church in this womanist image. He’s a capable scholar and excellent writer. And he’s dead wrong.
I suppose Williams and many others would have little interest or appreciation for a movement like True Woman. I suppose some might label the women at True Woman “brainwashed,” “self-hating,” or “repressed,” buying into White male patriarchy. And they would miss the movement and the point.
My prayer is that True Woman would live up to the very best biblical ideals of womanhood made in the image of God, equal in every way to manhood, yet distinct in carrying out God given assignments in life, home, church, and world. We need a movement of women (and supportive men), for women, for biblical womanhood, for the joyful expression of femininity on mission for Christ. As I scan the Christian landscape, I’m inclined to think that just such a movement might be found in True Woman. Here’s a short blurb from the website, briefly answering the question, “What is a true woman?”
A true woman is willing, serious, and determined to reflect the beauty and heart of Christ to her world. She seeks to live a God-centered life, trusting Him and saying “Yes, Lord!” She knows this is only possible by His grace, and seeks to do so in community….
And this is no light, atheological fluff “for women” like so much literature in Christian bookstores. This movement has theological ballast reflected in the “True Woman Manifesto” which is God-centered, Gospel-dependent, Word-defined, and pro-woman, man, marriage, family, and mission. Praise God!
Like many movements, this movement has its antecedents. Many of the leaders have long been involved in women’s causes, championing a biblical perspective against both the abuses of real patriarchy and misogyny on the one hand and the worldly vision and role distortions of feminism on the other. It seems to me that the women of True Woman–both the leaders and the legions of women who lock arms with them in solidarity–have to wage the battle for biblical womanhood on many fronts, including one front against the all-too-frequent indifference, suspicion, and overly conservative reactions of complementarian brothers and church leaders. It seems to me that both the radical feminist movement and continuing chauvinism and patriarchalism caricature and exploit women.
Only a deep, genuine biblical vision results in true dignity and freedom. But like many embattled movements, the ideals and the work providentially spread and gain momentum. Who knew bus boycotts would spawn national Civil Rights organizations and legislation? No one could reasonably predict the sea change the Civil Rights Movement created by God’s grace. Who knew that a conference for women would spawn a similar movement of thousands of women in the Dominican Republic and parts of Latin America?
But we can’t be over zealous in comparing True Woman to the Civil Rights Movement. The two are miles and miles apart. We haven’t seen with a biblical womanhood movement the massive kinds of changes the Civil Rights Movement produced when it comes to embracing the equality, distinctiveness, rights, and freedoms of women–including the right and freedom to joyfully live biblical, complementarian lives. Much, much more needs to be done for that to happen–but you get the analogy. We need a movement with idealists, stump speakers, foot soldiers, and public appeal. For that movement to happen, we need to shake off apathy, indifference, selfishness, and anything else that hinders the full flowering of faithful femininity–robust in its strength, rich in its wisdom, practical in its living, purposeful and principled in its direction, and fueled by deep faith in God, His word, and His ways. In other words, the movement needs you and me!
What can we do?
1. Pray. Pray fervently for the Spirit of God to blow across the churches and lands where Christ is known and the Bible is honored, giving fresh energy and understanding of the biblical ideal of womanhood. Pray for Christian leaders to joyfully support the full equality of women along with the clear distinctions in roles. Pray for complementarity to be joyfully lived out in both church and home–especially our home and church. Pray for the Lord to providentially arrange more surprising moments where the movement advances decades in an instant.
2. Read, consider, and sign the manifesto. Embody the ideals. Be ennobled by the cause. Receive inspiration and share it with others. That’s how the DR movement began. Perhaps the Lord would be pleased to use your reading and sharing to spark dramatic changes in an individual’s life, a church’s life, or even an entire state or country’s life.
3. Attend this year’s conference or join one of the satellite sites or live-stream if they have one. Let’s be frank. There are a ton of conferences out there these days. A ton! But in my opinion, True Woman is the only conference with an explicit movement agenda and a clear theological vision at its center. That’s no slight of other conference events; it’s a commendation for True Woman. My wife and several sisters from the church attended the very first event and were filled with encouragement and purpose. We often gain spiritual lift and focus from times of concentrated spiritual activity. Perhaps you know someone who could use just such a lift and refocusing? Perhaps you do? Movements must be built through recruitment and engagement. Perhaps this is an opportunity to grow the movement and disciple others.
4. Read a good book or do a good Bible study with some women from your church or other Christian friends. There are lots out there. But since I’m talking True Woman, consider their new study, “True Woman 101: Divine Design.” Other sisters and churches have found ways of bringing the message home.
5. Pray some more. Pray for revival and for an outpouring of God’s Spirit beyond anything we can imagine.