Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Mary Kassian on weak women, strong women

Dalrock runs a website that criticises the feminism to be found even within the more conservative evangelical churches in the U.S. It is his area of expertise and he does it exceptionally well.

I have to admit, though, that in his most recent post I was more impressed than dismayed by the female preacher he takes aim at (Mary Kassian). Dalrock is concerned by her twisting of certain passages of scripture; he may well be right in this (I usually understand eventually), but I found much of her sermon to be insightful into the particular vulnerabilities or weaknesses of women, and how these might be overcome.

As I've grown older and garnered more experience, I have come to accept that the ancient view was generally correct: that men are more likely than women to use their intellect/reason to govern their emotions/feelings than are women. The problem is not in the having of feelings or emotions, but in how these are ordered morally and rationally.

The issue is a significant one because in the West one part of the stability of marriage and family was due to the Christian understanding of "caritas" - an understanding of love as being a commitment, settled in the will, by which we willed the good of the other person (our spouse). But caritas can only work if a person has the inner capacity to govern their feelings and emotions. Within the secular mainstream, women are now not expected to do this in their relationships - the general understanding amongst women is that family commitments are based purely on feeling, i.e. the decisive question is radically reduced to "how do you feel?"

A community has to decide not only what kind of men it wants, but just as importantly what kind of women. We need to not only challenge men to develop character to rise above their weaknesses, but women as well. And this is part of the thrust of Mary Kassian's advice to her female audience. Early on, for instance, she notes:
These women were weak in a way that diminished them. It was a negative and contemptuous term.

These women were childish and frivolous and silly and immature and wimpy. They deserved the triple W label: weak, wimpy woman. [laughter]

The point is, they ought not to have been. They ought not to have been that.

In the Proverbs 31 description of the godly woman, verse 25 says she is clothed with "strength and dignity."

Mary Kassian lists some of the sins women are particularly prone to if they weakly allow negative emotions to accumulate:
So many of you women in this room are dealing with sins that ... are just piling up. You haven't confessed them. You haven't repented. You think, Well, it's not a big deal. We'll just leave it there.

Critical spirit, bitterness, resentments, unforgiveness, slander, envy, pride.

And she goes on to observe that:
A weak woman is governed by her emotions. She puts her brain in park; puts her emotions in drive; rationalizes her behavior, excuses, and justifications-we've all done it. I've done it.

I know, but...

I know I shouldn't be daydreaming about that guy, but my husband is so unaffectionate.

I know I shouldn't be watching that movie, but I feel starved for romance.

I know. I know I shouldn't be having another drink, but it helps dull the disappointment.

I know I shouldn't flirt with my boss, but it feels good to be noticed.

I know I shouldn't gossip or stretch the truth, but I want people to value me and affirm me.

I know I shouldn't go further into debt, but those fabulous shoes are calling my name. [laughter]

So it's the "I know, but..." and fill in the blank.

I know, da-da-da-da-da, but da-da-da-da-da my emotions are going take me this way because I just feel like it.

Don't be a wimp, ladies. Don't be a wimp. A weak woman lets her emotions drive her mind. A woman of strength makes her mind drive her emotions.

You can choose joy. You can choose peace. You can choose to believe things that are good and right and true and beautiful and excellent and trustworthy. You can choose those things, and if you choose to walk in joy, your emotions are going to follow along behind.

The point to underline is this: "a woman of strength makes her mind drive her emotions". It is difficult to imagine stable, loving family commitments if women lack this strength.

It seems to me, too, that the higher form of love cannot but draw to itself the will and reason as an expression of the whole person, so that if love really does animate us it will not be thought of as an arbitrary force descended upon us, mysteriously to come and go. It will be with us in our heart and mind and will, and bear the stamp of each.

10 comments:

  1. Thanks Oz Conservative. I haven't decided if I'll do a follow on post, but I have explained this further in my own comment section. Either way, for brevity I'll boil it down to what I see as the two essential issues.

    1) She is preaching, something Paul explains (in 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:11-15) that women must not do. This would always be relevant, but it is especially relevant in this case as the Scripture she is preaching on is a warning closely related to 1 Tim 2:11-15. It is a warning about women being a vector for corrupting the church, and here she is as a woman corrupting the women in the audience (see point 2).

    2) What she is teaching the Scripture means is entirely wrong. She says that Paul was reacting to his discovery that women in Ephesus were disproportionately more likely to accept (and seek out) bad teaching than men, and (like a good feminist) Paul wants to strengthen the women so they will be like the men. This is the point of the sermon; this is what she is teaching. That she got some incidentals right while mangling the Scripture she is teaching (and she ought not teach) doesn't overcome this foundational flaw.

    She explains the purpose of the sermon a few minutes in: (I cut a bit out where you see "..." but see the transcript to confirm that I'm not changing the meaning):

    You can turn there to 2 Timothy 3:6-7. That's the passage we're going to park on this morning, and I'm going to unpack it for you.

    Now, the background to 2 Timothy is that it was written by Paul, and it was written near the end of his life. He was in prison, and he was writing it to one of his protégés in Ephesus, to Timothy in Ephesus who was working with the church there.

    And in the letter, the letter is a bold and a clear call for perseverance in times of difficulty, in times of hardship. It was encouraging the church, but he was also correcting some problems that were in the church in Ephesus.

    And one of the problems that was facing the church there was that false teachers were impacting the church, influencing the church from the inside. And they were finding a disproportionate amount of success amongst the women, because the women were weak...

    These women were childish and frivolous and silly and immature and wimpy. They deserved the triple W label: weak, wimpy woman. [laughter]

    The point is, they ought not to have been. They ought not to have been that.


    If you agree that the bolded part really is the point of 2 Timothy 3:6-7, then at least we know where we disagree. If you think this is what Paul was conveying to Timothy and the rest of the early church, I won't try to change your mind because I don't think it is likely at all. But if you can see how wildly she has gotten this wrong, then you will understand why the entire sermon is the very danger Paul was warning Timothy about in 2 Timothy 3:6-7.

    None of the good things you note she says overcomes this, because it is the core message of the sermon. She never goes back and explains that Paul didn't really mean it the way she said above. She is teaching that women can overcome this weakness, a weakness Paul tells us in 1 Tim 2:11-15 is innate. Despite the fact that she says some things we would agree with, this is a sermon on 2 Timothy 3:6-7, and she gets the Scripture all wrong. This isn't by accident; she has to get it wrong, or she can't be a woman preacher.

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  2. Dalrock argues that weakness in women is innate IN ALL SENSES. However, Proverbs 31 states that the ideal woman in that passage is clothed in strength. So, the ideal woman must be strong in some sense. Something is wrong with Dalrock's exegesis.

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    1. The ideal woman is just that, an idea. Paul was dealing with the real.

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  3. @ASDGamer
    Dalrock argues that weakness in women is innate IN ALL SENSES. However, Proverbs 31 states that the ideal woman in that passage is clothed in strength. So, the ideal woman must be strong in some sense. Something is wrong with Dalrock's exegesis.
    This isn't what I'm arguing here. I think you are thinking of a comment Cane made on my blog. The weakness I'm referring to in my comment above is susceptibility to being deceived. As I wrote, this is a weakness Paul tells us in 1 Tim 2:11-15 is innate; it goes back to the fall. Paul's solution isn't for women to become like men, yet this is the lesson of the sermon. Kassian even points out that that what Paul is referring to goes back to the fall, only to tell the women in the audience the solution is to learn more Scripture.

    And our foremother Eve fell for a lie, and the propensity to fall for them has plagued women ever since.

    Do you know how the FBI trains secret service agents to identify counterfeit money? They put them in a room with real money. And for hours and hours and hours, they study the details of the real thing, and they feel it, and they smell it. And they become so familiar with real money that when they come across counterfeit money, they just know, “Hmm, something’s off, not quite right. It’s not quite the right texture.” And they can pick it out, what’s wrong. They don’t pick out what’s wrong by studying the bad stuff. They pick it out by becoming familiar with the good stuff.

    And it’s the same way with us; it’s the same way with us. In order to combat falsehood, we need to become intimately familiar with truth. We need the Word.


    Studying Scripture is of course a good thing, and it could help, but it isn't what Paul is saying in the verses Kassian is "parked on" and "unpacking".

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    1. Dalrock, I should say that I value your opinion highly. However, I disagree strongly with you about Kassian's purpose in her talk and about its nature.

      I don't believe that Kassian parked on 1 Tim. at all or unpacked it at all, despite what she said. Rather, she used it as a jumping off point. Charitable listening and all that.

      Kassian played with "weak" in her talk. First it was physical weakness, then she changed its meaning to "weakness to resist the devil". Kassian also used "weak" as in "weak minded" or "silly", which is a reasonable interpretation of the greek.

      Kassian, in attempting to fight her brother, was not only weak, but silly. This was her point. She, as a girl, had been operating out of an egalitarian framework and it didn't work. Girls aren't as strong as boys are (or as quick or tactical).

      If girls are silly and weak-minded, then what is our message to them? Isn't it to learn truth and to study scripture and listen to edifying sermons and to learn from godly men to whom the women are accountable?

      Yes, Kassian doesn't discuss accountability and submissiveness, but I think it was because she was aiming at the "Strong" part of the SIW meme of egalitarian feminists, whether "Christian" or otherwise. As I said before, stay tuned for round two.

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    2. @ASDGamer
      Dalrock, I should say that I value your opinion highly. However, I disagree strongly with you about Kassian's purpose in her talk and about its nature.

      Thank you. It is fine if we disagree. This is bound to happen.

      I don't believe that Kassian parked on 1 Tim. at all or unpacked it at all, despite what she said. Rather, she used it as a jumping off point. Charitable listening and all that.

      The problem is, there is no way to argue with her. I'm dealing with what she said. You are going by what you think she meant to say, at least when what she says is very bad. Can we do the same? Can we assume when she said something good she meant something bad? Keep in mind, this isn't an interview, it was a prepared sermon. At the very least, she is reckless.

      I suspect the reason you have so much trouble believing she meant what she said, is because what she said is so obviously untrue. Am I right? Yet as I mentioned on my second post on the topic, what she did fits a common pattern. Check out the Christian feminist explanation of 1st Peter 3 here: http://jenwilkin.blogspot.com/2012/06/weaker-vessels.html She Claims that Peter is only referring to women married to unbelieving husbands in 1 Pet 3:1-6, and only referring to husbands married to unbelieving wives in 1 Pet 3:7. Further, she claims the part to wives was to keep their unbelieving husbands from beating or murdering them. This is pure fancy, yet she argues this with a proverbial straight face. Do you think Wilkin doesn't mean what she says either?

      But leaving the question of whether she intended what she said, there is still the problem of Kassian's teaching being contrary to what Paul wrote there and elsewhere. She tells the women that if they read enough Scripture their tendency to be deceived, which they inherited from Eve, can be fixed. It isn't that she is wrong for urging them to read Scripture, but that she is claiming it can something that it can't. This matters, because the passage you claim she is only "jumping off from" is about the danger of women relying on their own abilities to discern instead of remaining under the protection of a husband or father. Moreover, nowhere does Kassian in the 56 min sermon advise the women to seek the spiritual guidance of their husbands or fathers. In fact, she tells them they have discernment (women's intuition) that their husbands lack.

      If girls are silly and weak-minded, then what is our message to them? Isn't it to learn truth and to study scripture and listen to edifying sermons and to learn from godly men to whom the women are accountable?

      Yes, Kassian doesn't discuss accountability and submissiveness, but...


      Our message to them, or more accurately Paul and Peter's messages to them is to submit to their husband. But this is unimaginable to a woman in rebellion, the very rebellion our age classifies as a primary virtue. Luckily, Kassian (and now you) has an out for them. The sisters can do it for themselves! And who can argue with this rejection of Scripture, because it involves reading Scripture.

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    3. Dal, do we agree that Kassian isn't selling standard egalitarianism? Assuming the answer is "yes", then it follows that she is setting up egalitarianism as a target.

      In analyzing Kassian's talk, we have two choices:

      1) Kassian does a poor job of unpacking the main text and perhaps is trying to deceive women into thinking that she has unpacked the text, or
      2) Kassian merely gives lip service to unpacking the text (or perhaps made a mistake in editing it) and has a lot of fine points in her talk.

      Reading/listening charitably, we prefer option 2.

      Now as to the purpose of the talk. We have thrown out deception as a motive because of the principle of charity. So what is the motive? I see nothing in the talk about the roles of men and women, which would suggest reliance on Complementarianism, so Complementarianism isn't even in the picture. Looking at the talk, it seems clear that the overwhelming majority of the talk is aimed at overturning egalitarianism. The talk is primarily an attack on egalitarianism. Sure, there are parts that have to do with application. Definitely, Kassian is teaching, but she is teaching the most basic stuff. Read scripture.

      It seems like you think that Kassian should have been teaching submission instead of scripture reading as the primary way to avoid being silly. There is one glaring problem with your suggestion--a huge number of women weren't married and Paul wasn't pushing them to marry if they weren't widows. Slaves and virgin women. Slaves couldn't marry and virgins didn't have to if they had the same gift as Paul.

      Yet, these women needed to be in submission, same as men. To whom ought they submit? To the leader of their house church. A low level manager who could deal with individual issues.

      We find lots of single/divorced women attending church who CANNOT be submitted to their husbands or fathers. The single women COULD move back in with their fathers and it might be wiser for them to do so, but scripture doesn't require them to. Paul encourages widows to remarry, but men are tending to avoid marriage. So, what is our message to these unmarried women? Kassian's talk is excellent for them.

      Do we tell these women to marry???? At the same time we are warning men against the dangers of marriage/frivorce????

      A big piece that is missing from today's churches is the notion of pastoral leadership on the house church level. We can't blame feminists for this. That organizational change is needed for your solution--women to be submitted to a godly man--to be practical.

      She tells the women that if they read enough Scripture their tendency to be deceived, which they inherited from Eve, can be fixed.

      I don't read her that way. Rather, she says that scripture reading can help them compensate for the inherent weakness of the distaff sex to be deceived. That doesn't fix or prevent deception, but maybe it mitigates deception, makes it less likely, or makes correction more likely and easier.

      I suspect that Kassian thinks that women OUGHT to submit even though she claims that men have no right to DEMAND submission of their wives. This is really an irrelevant point. I doubt that Kassian would say that men cannot exhort their wives or confront their wives about sin. Rebellion is sin.

      One thing I find encouraging about Kassian's talk is that she isn't pushing Complementarianism there. Maybe she's seeing problems with Comp.?

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  4. Dalrock says above:

    "These women were childish and frivolous and silly and immature and wimpy. They deserved the triple W label: weak, wimpy woman. [laughter]

    The point is, they ought not to have been. They ought not to have been that.

    If you agree that the bolded part really is the point of 2 Timothy 3:6-7 ... "
    -------------

    Contrary to what Dalrock seems to be saying, I did not get the idea from Mary Kassian's talk that she was teaching the women what the point of 2 Timothy 3:6-7 was. Rather, I got the sense that Mary Kassian was calling women to a higher standard - and used 2 Timothy 3:6-7 as a base position. To paraphrase her point: "2 Timothy 3:6-7 tells us what we women can be at our worst; Christ is calling us to a higher standard than that". That is a point clearly different from the point Paul was making.

    Women have innate characteristics. So do men. Christ calls us to put off that old man and take on the new one. Are men the only ones called to do that? Does that calling apply also to women? If the answer is "yes", then we must accept that - in terms of our salvation, for both male and female - "innate" is not destiny. "Rise to the standard that Christ calls us to" was the thrust of Mary Kassian's talk. Why would Christ call women to that higher standard if he knew they were not capable of reaching it (with his help).

    Rather than clutter this post with links to different scriptures, I will give this one link that contains many of the scriptures I am alluding to in my point here. If these scriptures apply equally to women, then focusing on the "innate" in anyone, male or female, is not scriptural. I thought anyone who truely understood the mechanics of the "new birth" in Christ realized that.

    http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/The-New-Man-In-Christ

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  5. @theadsgamer
    The Proverbs 31 doe not exist. She is a wishlist given to a future king by his mother for his future queen. Read the whole thing.

    @Oz
    I wonder do you hold men to the same standard? Mary, who is forbidden by the Bible to preach you think is ok because you like some of what she said. So a man also disqualified, such as an adulterer or a violent man or someone who does not provide for their family ....is it OK with you as long as you like their sermon as well?

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    1. Carlotta, I think I should have made it clearer that I am currently thinking my way through some of these issues right now and so didn't want to immediately take sides on the issues raised by Dalrock. It sometimes takes me a little time to process the points made by Dalrock, partly because he belongs to a church tradition that is a bit different to mine, but partly too because he is sometimes sharper in picking up the underlying trends than I am.

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