Friday, February 24, 2006

Boundlessly Stupid

My friend Bethany Keeley rants on her blog about an article she read in the Focus on the Family webzine, “Boundless.” This ‘zine is aimed at “single adults,” and touts itself as as a place to explore “love beyond sex, faith beyond sociological stereotypes, and ideas beyond the politically correct.” It does not say anything about exploring (or embracing, as the article does) gender essentialism beyond question, historical generalizations beyond research, and conclusions beyond logic.

I loved Bethany's critique. But I also thought her words were too measured, too generous, too charitable to be called a “rant.” When you're in academia, and you're in a fight worth fighting, you need to bring it. Bethany is a first-rate grad student in communications, but she's also in her first year. I give her another six months before she's learned the true grad school art of opening up a big can of rhetorical whup-a**.

Two further comments. First, I was astonished to read that Maken was a lawyer before the end of her “involuntary servitude to singleness.” Don't they teach logic or research or history any more in law school? I was reading the piece aloud to Deb last night -- the kids were in the room, too, working on craft projects. We were howling in laughter as Jacob picked up on our real-time critique, and whenever Maken made sweeping and unsupported generalizations like “…past generations of Christians…” or “the purposes of marriage were uniformly understood…” or “Today’s singleness is either a lifestyle option or purely circumstantial; therefore it is largely unbiblical,” he would grab a piece of red paper from the craft project he was working on and wave it aloft, as if to say: “Red flag! Warning! Crashing non sequitur ahead! Caution! Facile conclusion just off the starboard bow!”

Second, I am dismayed that anyone is slurping up this stuff. Debra has been giving talks lately at Christian colleges – sometimes solo, sometimes with me along – on issues of feminism and family and career and vocation. Our hearts hurt for the good and godly young people at these places who uncritically accept the Dobsonian party line on “family values.” And our hearts are also proud of places like Calvin College, in whose educational fire God shapes thoughtful young women like Bethany. You go girl! Bring it!


Mary said...

Here's a quote from the article: "Throughout the ages, for example, women enjoyed an infrastructure (their family or clan) to see them into the safe harbor of marriage. From arranged marriages to courtship/calling, all conspired to protect and guide women from squandering their best, most fertile years in futility."

Marriage a safe harbor? To protect and guide women from squandering their best, most fertile years in futility? Hmmm, like the safe harbor Abraham provided Sarah when he made her go to be one of the haram of another king? Or the safe harbor of the myriad royal marriages that were about land and power and cared little if the woman was actually "safe"? Or the recent accounts of men killing unfaithful daughters/wives/sisters?

Since when has marriage been a guaranteed safe harbor for women?

Articles like this make me crazy. My singleness is circumstantial and therefore unbiblical? What about the sovereignty of God in all cirumstances?

Okay, I need to stop. Props to you and Deb on both your lecture circuit of change and to rearing children who use 'non sequitur' in daily language. :-)

Ron Rienstra said...


I can see how this article would really make your blood boil. Welcome to the stove.

(By the way, I don't recall Jacob using "non sequitur" as he affirmed our ranting with his flag waving, but he surely heard that word a few times. Wouldn't surprise me at all to hear it from him now, though!)

bethany said...

thanks Ron. I'll try and be more angry next time.

JCR said...

Ron and Bethany, you're both to be commended for having intelligent, well-thought out responses to that pabulum by Debbie Maken.

I made it up to that awful "safe harbor" paragraph and just got so infuriated I had to stop reading.

I get dismayed, too, Ron, because it is next to impossible to get into any sort of reasoned debate with people who buy into this Dobsonian 'vision' -- at least around here. I've tried, but it always, for me at least, invariably ends up in a Nigel Tufnel Moment*, with me wondering how I can be living in such a different universe.
(*-lead guitarist of the fictional band "Spinal Tap", from Rob Reiner's film, who says, "Yes, but these [amps] go to 11!")

Anonymous said...

does Calvin College not teach the teachings of Calvin anymore? His views on marrige are very differnet from what you seem to be saying here.

Ron Rienstra said...

Actually, they do teach Calvin's teachings at Calvin. In fact, Calvin houses one of the premiere sites for Calvin research in the world.

But like every other theologian, Calvin was bound by his own cultural circumstances, and his views on women reflect that. One of my own professors in seminary, Jane Dempsey Douglass, wrote one of the definitive works on Calvin's view of women, which she characterizes as theoretically egalitarian and functionally subordinationalist.

I like that to think that what Calvin College does -- at its best -- is help Reformed Christians be semper reformanda. Even if that means reforming the reformers themselves.