When I was in my twenties, I attended a “Bible” study on how to be a Good Christian Woman.
Good Christian Women, I was told, stayed home with their children. Mothers who worked outside the home were compromising, trading their morals for material gain.
Good Christian Women decorated their homes with artistic flair, making a beautiful, comfortable nest for their loved ones to nestle into. If they couldn’t afford magazine-ready furnishings and decorations, they scoured flea-markets for irresistible finds, or got that sewing machine humming!
Good Christian Women put on fresh clothes (or Saran Wrap, if they were still childless), a gloss of lipstick, and a squirt of perfume before their husbands arrived home from work in the evening.
Good Christian Women served their families the best meals money could buy–meats, potatoes, veggies, salads, and delectable desserts, always homemade and preferably organic.
Good Christian Women always said a chirpy “Sure!” to any suggestion their husband made–even if that suggestion was financially irresponsible.
Is it just me, or does that sound expensive?
In fairness, I think being a Good Christian Man must be pretty pricey, too. Being the provider is a big task to shoulder, especially when your wife has to cashflow all those roasts, toss pillows, and rolls of Saran Wrap. And heaven forbid she homeschools–there’s a thousand dollars down the drain, right there!
The real problem, though, comes when we confuse our ability to create certain material circumstances with spiritual success, or failure. If the husband’s spiritual role is to be the provider, what does it say about him when he can’t find a job? If the wife’s spiritual role is to be the manager of her home, what happens when her husband takes off, and she has to work sunrise to sunset to support her children? Is she less virtuous? Less spiritual? Less blessed?
While I tried my best to live up to the “Good Christian Women” standards I was clobbered with in my early twenties, it was the knowledge that most of them would be completely unattainable for my sisters in Liberia, especially in the midst of a brutal civil war, that kept me from accepting them as normative.
Those things are wonderful. But they are a byproduct of privilege, not spirituality.
We live in a society that associates wealth with virtue, and poverty with sloth. Extreme poverty is criminalized as we weigh down our most vulnerable citizens with demands they cannot meet.
What about you? Have you seen this phenomenon in action? How?
How much money DOES it take to be a Good Christian?