I recently discovered that Southwestern Seminary has a Homemaking Concentration under their Master of Arts in Christian Education, their Bachelor of Arts in Humanities, and their Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies. While I agree that we need to think theologically about how we create and live in our homes with issues such as hospitality, marriage, singleness, and child-raising, it bothers me that Southwestern lists these degrees under their “Women’s Program.”
Apparently men do not need to think about “fulfilling God’s plan for the home and those who dwell therein.”* Southwestern wants to prepare women to “be an evangelist and apologist focused upon reaching women, children and families for Christ.” Should men not also want to reach children and families? Can a woman reach a man if only part of a family unit, and how does that work?
To facilitate this goal, in addition to worldview training, “the homemaking concentration student will be equipped to nurture and care for the family, in the area of nutrition and food preparation, by developing a skill in clothing and textile design and through practical experiences for skill development.”
I do not object to the learning of nurture and care for the family, of nutrition and food preparation, or even of clothing and textile design, although I wonder if a seminary is the best place for developing cooking and sewing skills rather than, say, a cuisine or fashion school if one seeks to pursue these subjects professionally. I object to the idea that a woman only properly cares for her family if she sews all of their clothes and makes her own bread. I object to the idea that they limit these skills to women. (Shouldn’t men be offended that Southwestern excludes them?)
More importantly, I object to the idea that issues of homemaking aren’t for both men and women.
When Chris and I married, we discussed how to build our marriage in Christ, to use our home and finances to serve Christ, and to invite others into our home and into our lives. Now as we build a family, we consider how we can keep our marriage strong in the midst of the everyday, how we should raise our children to glorify God and serve others, and how we can continue to invite others into our family life.
We make these decisions together, man and woman as one.
(I would note that single men and single women also think through these issues.)
So why does Southwestern train only women to think about these issues and decisions theologically and to carry them out?
(Can I also note that Chris is mostly a better chef than I am? Or that in many Polynesian cultures, the men cook the meals? Or can I note the incongruity between pink kitchen play-sets and a male-dominated professional cooking world?)
This sends a message that a woman’s theological influence is the home and a man’s theological influence is the workplace, or the world, even. Then we wonder why we have a problem in culture with absentee and workaholic fathers and mothers who struggle with identity and worth. This kind of thinking limits both men and women in hospitality and child-raising. (An image: the wife kisses the husband as he leaves for work. “Well, honey,” she says, one child hanging from her leg, the other from her breast, “You go out and save the world while I raise our children to glorify and serve God.”) It limits skills, gifts, and talents that men and women can use inside and outside the home for God’s kingdom. And it draws false pictures of hospitality and of the home. (What do we do, for example, with the fact that Jesus practiced hospitality though he had “no place to lay his head” [Luke 9:58]?)
I don’t want to take anything away from women–or men–who stay home with their children during the day while their spouses go to an office. Heck, I’m one of them. I want to challenge us to think through the biblical ideal for how we create homes, how we raise our families, and how we practice hospitality. I want us to think through how men and women–indeed, how the Church–together disciple and teach children and how we as uniquely gifted individuals serve God’s kingdom in the world without worrying about ideas of inside or outside the home. Indeed, the world is our home, created by God for men and women to cultivate. We practice hospitality and homemaking in the world, not just inside of Ikea-decorated walls with Pinterest meals. For we are the family of God.
*Quotes from http://www.swbts.edu/index.cfm?pageid=676