CBS Blogger Mocks, Misunderstands Conservative Baptist Teaching on Women

Here we go again. Another instance of a reporter mocking conservative Christian teaching. And giving an atta-boy to Jimmy Carter to boot.In an October 11 post to The Skinny blog at CBSNews.com, Keach Hagey took a reductionist and highly stereotypical slant to biblical teaching on Christian households, mocking the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for offering women "an academic degree in their special, God-given role," which Hagey described as making dinner:

It's not that men and women aren't equals, the professors and students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary explain to the Los Angeles Times. God has just given them different responsibilities in life: Men make decisions; women make dinner. Starting this fall, the women enrolled in the internationally known seminary - one of the largest institutions serving the largest denomination of Protestants in America - will have a chance to get an academic degree in their special, God-given role.

First off, Hagey is misleading her readers. There's no degree in homemaking at SBTS per se. Secondly, her argument betrays a snide bias against a traditional, biblical Christian view of the complementary roles of men and women, both in the family and the church.A look at the SBTS Web site shows that women may earn a "Bachelor of Arts in Humanities with a concentration in homemaking" in the undergraduate college at the seminary. Students study the Bible and Christian theology as well as receive "[i]ntensive instruction in the history of Western ideas" that "will challenge each woman to be familiar with the influential people of our past and to give a response from a biblical worldview." In other words, you can expect students on that academic track will be just as, if not more so concerned with senior theses as with the complexities of making a souffle.But Hagey's biased reporting and armchair theology don't end there, as she attempts to use Jimmy Carter and Jesus to chide conservative Baptists for allegedly telling women in seminary to put away their books, except for the ones with recipes in them:

When one student enrolled in the class admitted she sometimes resented having to change diapers while her husband had a career, she then cheered herself up by quoting Ephesians: "Wives, submit to your own husbands, to the Lord." And from Genesis: God created Eve to be a "suitable helper" for Adam. Of course, the paper [the LA Times] notes that more moderate Southern Baptists - including Jimmy Carter, who has left the fold - don't agree with this line of thinking, and counter with some scripture of their own. When Jesus dined at the home of two sisters, he praised Mary, who spent the evening studying his teachings, above Martha, who did chores. But this is unlikely to be emphasized at a seminary run by Paige Patterson, known for banning women from becoming pastors or teaching men theology during his tenure as convention president in the 1990s.

While Hagey is mostly regurgitating bias from coverage in the LA Times, it's notable that the Patterson slam is her own. Yet Hagey failed to consider that Patterson is hardly an innovator in this matter, following the instruction of New Testament epistles on the role of women in the church and family. What's more, the SBTS Web site has a ready answer for the Mary vs. Martha example cited by moderate Baptists. What's more, you'll notice in the portion I selected in bold that SBTS, while it may not agree with Jimmy Carter on the role of women in the church and family, promises to teach seminary students the so-called egalitarian perspective advocated by liberal Protestant theologians:

The apostle Paul admonished women to "learn" (1 Tim. 2:11) because he expected women to be grounded in the Word of God. Our Lord Himself praised Mary for sitting at His feet to listen and learn (Lk. 10:42). Women in this generation need women teachers who are not only committed to the importance of studying God's Word but who are also formally trained to do biblical exposition. Woman-to-woman teaching is the biblical method of choice (Tit. 2:3-5).We here at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary want to encourage women to prepare themselves for ministries in their homes, churches, and communities. As you consider how to equip yourself, choose from a variety of programs what is appropriate for your own diverse interests and unique giftedness within the boundaries of biblical priorities. In the programs at Southwestern women are introduced to the marketplace of ideas, including both complementarian and egalitarian positions, and they are thoroughly equipped to give an articulate and well reasoned evangelical response to the feministic ideology of the age.

[For an easy-to-read overview of the competing schools of thought on the role of women in the church and family, check out this PDF]Hagey is only the latest example of media figures mischaracterizing conservative Christian teaching on the role of women in society. On May 17, I noticed that a successful female surgeon who had graduated from the late Jerry Falwell's Liberty University took issue with media misrepresentation of Falwell's views on women in the workplace. Wrote the surgeon, Dr. Amy Lipscomb (emphasis mine):

I was disappointed by the final comments of Douglas Brinkley regarding Jerry Falwell’s legacy. His statement that “his returning to family values was returning to women’s being in the kitchen…” is ridiculously far off the mark. I am a graduate of Liberty University, and one of a small number of female vascular surgeons in this country. As a matter of fact, Jerry’s only daughter Jeanne is also a surgeon, and he talked about that often. He was very proud of her accomplishments. That is hardly the mark of a man that believes women should be isolated to home. He did feel that both men and women should be dedicated to their families. Liberty provided me an education that allowed me to breach a very “male” society in the medical profession. As a “first female nightly news anchor”, I think you can appreciate how difficult it is to overcome such barriers and stereotypes. Jerry Falwell was simply a man that wanted Christians to not fade into the woodwork, but to be an integral part of society, and to be bold about their beliefs. There is nothing worse than someone who cowers from his beliefs. I did not always agree with everything Falwell said, but I certainly respected him for his unwavering faith and staunch convictions of his beliefs. He was more honorable than many people will ever hope to be.

[special thanks to NewsBusters reader Jordan Seitler for bringing Hagey's piece to my attention]

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters