One of my favorite Dick Van Dyke episodes contains a hilarious scene where Mary Tyler Moore’s character is asked to show off her dance moves by a dinner party guest. Once the guest learns that Moore used to be a professional entertainer before marrying her husband and becoming a mother, he is adamant about having her perform right in the middle of their living room. Moore shyly replies, “Who me? But I’m just a housewife!” Then, unexpectedly she bursts out into unapologetic dance, wowing her guests with her talent.
I think of this scene often since I fall into the category of a “housewife” and enjoy using the humble expression around my husband who knows exactly what I mean when I look playfully at him and say, “But I’m just a housewife!” I usually employ this inside joke when I’m being asked to do something above and beyond what the world would assume I’m capable of as a lowly, downtrodden, uneducated homemaker. Theology seems to fit within that category doesn’t it?
Surely housewives, of all people wouldn’t be interested in the diligent study of the Word of God. After all, when would they find the time between folding laundry, changing diapers, and getting dinner on the table for their men? I will readily admit that time is hard to come by when your life revolves around the needs of others, but if there is one thing that blogging here at Desiring Virtue has taught me, it is that there are lots women out there who, like myself, understand the importance of being diligent students of the Word of God and seeking to better understand their world with a biblical world view. Women–yes, even housewives–are hungry for our God and are not afraid to dive into the deep subjects of theology to find the nourishment they crave. Today I am happy to review a book by Aimee Byrd written to encourage women in this pursuit: Housewife Theologian.
As housewives, we often add to our job titles cook, chauffer, accountant, nurse, maid, and many other things. But have you ever considered being a theologian as a necessary part of your vocation? I have heard many people tell me, “I know that I am a Christian. I have my faith, and that is good enough for me. I don’t feel the need to make it all complicated with theological stuff.” It is heartbreaking and shameful that theology has such a bad reputation. Because of this, I am compelled to investigate such a profound misunderstanding. (Aimee Byrd, Housewife Theologian)
Aimee’s purpose in writing Housewife Theologian is to demonstrate how theology impacts every aspect of a woman’s life from her most basic identity to her relationships, to her vocation. She invites readers to come together as a community of women to study theology together.
Housewife Theologian is written for the purpose of group study. Each chapter (there are 12 of them) ends with journaling questions that go far beyond your typical “For Further Reflection” study guides. They are meant to give you the opportunity to probe into your heart and thoughtfully consider the implications of the doctrines being discussed. You are then encouraged to get together with your Bible study group or women’s ministry or close friend and work through your answers together. Aimee envisions women engaging in genuine fellowship and Titus 2 relationships through this format over the course of a year–even inviting young daughters and neighbors to participate and dive into the deep things of Scripture with you. This is a real strength of the book because it is so easy to read something without truly asking the Lord to conform your heart to the truth that has been presented! By thoughtfully writing out your own reactions and then working through them with other sisters in Christ, these truths are much more likely to take root in your soul. Of course, you needn’t feel bound to reading the book over a 12 month period (I read it in a few weeks for the purpose of this review).
What subjects does Aimee cover? Cooking? Cleaning? No, you will be pleasantly surprised to find a little more “meat” in this book as Aimee takes on the difficult topics of gender distinction, beauty, world view, sexuality, doctrinal purity, the church, vocation and more. I truly enjoyed the depth of the subject matter covered as well as the unique angle Aimee wrote from as a theologian first and a woman second. She expects a lot from her readers, but provides much in return. Some of my favorite chapters were those focusing on beauty and sexuality. Here are a few quotes from them:
Think about the beauty of belonging to the right hour or season, as well as fulfilling our proper role in creation. As a woman, I can’t help but think of the process of aging. It is such a struggle for us because our culture intimately connects beauty with youth. I agree that youth is lovely. But it is not a kind of beauty that we seek as a goal. We are tempted over and over again to try to appear younger than we really are. This is not truth, and it is unattractive. It is awkward to see a woman dressing like someone half her age. Yet we seem to be encouraged to do so by all the advertisements patronizing us. How are we to react to this? Sure, we want to look our best. But what is the goal of the media and Hollywood? Money— not truth. Not beauty. They have exploited beauty, trying to sell us unoriginal, contrived, conformed, packaged beauty.
My pride is so ugly and painfully shameful for me to admit in a book for other women to read. But I know that we all, unfortunately, struggle in this area. Both our environment and the sin in our own hearts have led us in this direction. Beauty is not something that we acquire over others. It is something that we share with others in an appropriate way. It is not the lack of beauty in someone else that makes me more beautiful. Quite the opposite, another person’s beauty can enhance my own!
How often do we let jealousy corrupt our beauty or the beauty of others? What are we doing to make others beautiful? As housewife theologians, we have a unique opportunity to pass God’s beauty to so many others: our husbands, our children, our in-laws, our neighbors, our churches, and our communities. Just think of the ripple effect this could make if we were to take it seriously! We need to recognize the lie that our culture is selling about beauty and turn our eyes to the Creator of all that is beautiful. There is much emphasis today on cleaning up the environment and keeping it beautiful. Well, how about ourselves?
Our sexuality is part of how we communicate to the world. It is a body language that speaks an awareness of the gift and power of our gender. I want to properly communicate this endowment that God has given me as a woman. Like every other gift it demands maturity and responsibility. I am certainly going to communicate my sexuality differently to my husband than I do to my neighbor… To my neighbor, my sexuality says that I am glad to be a woman; to my husband my sexuality says I am glad to be your woman.
Aimee’s honest, and at times playful, writing style makes for an enjoyable reading experience as she walks through some fairly complex issues. With each new subject, she challenges her readers to think biblically as well as deeply about all areas of life, but not without humor and down to earth examples.
One topic that I was particularly intrigued by was the issue of Christianity and culture, or our faith and how it interacts with the world around it. I agreed with much of what Aimee put forth in regard to not slapping a Christian label on things that are not inherently Christian and assuming they are more glorifying to God because you have done so. However, as she makes her way through this particular chapter (chapter 11) I found myself unsure of where I stood on such a black and white distinction between what is “common” and what is “holy.” My hesitation to be in complete agreement became more apparent as she spoke of “different fields of knowledge” and who is best fit to teach in these fields. Her argument can be illustrated in the issue of education in which she argues that “the civil world has the chief responsibility for teaching what falls under natural revelation.” (pg. 162) While I agree that one doesn’t need to be a Christian to have a deep knowledge of biology or mathematics (and perhaps deeper than most Christians), I do feel strongly that without a mind being captive to the Word of God and submitting to a Christian world view, one cannot hope to have a completeunderstanding of such fields. Thus, I tend to place more weight on the church’s role in teaching about general revelation and other spheres of influence. While an unredeemed scientist who has been studying evolution for his entire career can know and understand more facts about biology and carbon dating than a redeemed high school student, his lack of Biblical knowledge and humanistic ideology will always leave him lacking in the ability to fully understand the natural world around him. This of course means that Christians must not take their “secular” vocations lightly. Christian scientists (and those in other fields) should work diligently to excel in their field of study. Apparently there is much discussion within the theological community in regard to how the spiritual Kingdom of God overlaps and interacts with the physical kingdom of this world and I look forward to diving deeper into the complexities of the issue after reading Aimee’s arguments.
As you can see, Housewife Theologian will definitely get your inner theologian pondering some deep subjects! This makes it a great resource for women’s ministries and small group bible studies who are eager to go beyond the emotions-driven bible study material typically offered to them.