Last week a woman’s blog post went viral, making some corners of the internet pretty much lose their minds. The post entitled “Men prefer debt-free virgins without tattoos” started showing up in debates and discussions all over my social media, shortly after it was published. People were buzzing, and it garnered attention from writers in and outside of Christian circles. Maybe you saw it too?
Lori Alexander is a wife, mom/grandmother, and ultra-conservative (read, patriarchal) Christian blogger at TheTransformedWife.com. Lori writes mainly on marriage and gender roles, and feels called to teach this perspective to others, largely through her writing and social media presence. She bases this on Titus 2:3-5: “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” (NIV)
Where she is coming from
On Lori’s “about me” page, she shares that she and her husband Ken struggled for over 20 years in a difficult marriage, but, as her testimony implies, once she started allowing God to transform her, the strife in her marriage ceased. You have to read between the lines a little, but I think it is pretty clear as you read through her posts and bio, that she had a rocky marriage until she learned to submit to her husband in a more “Biblical” manner. To quote some of Lori’s earliest posts: “I finally figured out I needed to change myself and now I am happy. Ken (her husband) didn’t need to change, I did.” “We argued all the time. He drove me crazy. Everything he did bothered me…it took lots of work for a while. I had to pretend to be cheerful around him…” and “I HATE it when Ken ‘criticizes’ me…I was listening to a program the other day and the man was saying his wife had to realize that when he was correcting her, it was just that…correction, not criticism…I needed to realize I’m far from perfect and listen to his correction and learn”. She suggests that her transformation (into a ‘submissive wife’) is the reason that her marriage (and the marriages of her children as well) is now happy. She gives no indication that her husband also strove to make their marriage happier and healthier – the implication being that she was solely the problem, the one and only person that needed to change. It is almost as if she is suggesting that men are without sinful nature, that all marital conflict is to solely the blame of women, and that women are the only ones who need to repent/grow/change. This becomes the tone of her blog, site-wide.
It’s a tough burden to place all the weight of a difficult marriage on one person.
Is the wholesale scapegoating of women Biblically appropriate? Beyond that, why does the post – her entire blog, really – bother me so much?
Fear and Condemnation…
Because her words invite me to a place of fear and condemnation. Fear that I’m unworthy because I am not attractive enough (by whichever standard is handy); fear that I have doomed my family to poverty and want, because I have student loans (something she seems to put on par with promiscuity/adultery); fear that I was wrong to pursue my education (though, ironically, that is how I met my husband); fear that I am damaging my children because I am not a stay-at-home mom (compounded by guilt, because I actually desire to be a stay at home mom, but our circumstances do not currently allow it); fear that my desire to use the gifting and training that I have been given (and affirmed in) is in itself sinful, because I am a woman, and therefore inherently unfit for ministry…
…and on and on and on.
Her blog also bothers me, because it tempts me to fear that what I might post in an effort to honor God, may be weaponized to hurt people.
I want to give Lori some kind of credit. I want to excuse her, even a little, because she seems to be coming from a sincere place. I want to give her some wiggle room because I think she starts with some truth –even if I think she twists it and takes it way too far. I want to give her some grace too, because God only knows how many mistakes I have made (and will still make, here on this blog and offline). BUT, I also have such concern for others like me, who are not edified by her words, but are brought under condemnation by them. My heart is so saddened for the women who will feel the weight of her words, like a forceful shove, sending them reeling away from Jesus. I am saddened for the women who might end up believing that they have to reduce themselves as much as possible in order to live a pleasing and Godly life, or to have marital harmony. And I’m angry and frustrated that all of this takes the focus off of Jesus and onto ourselves.
…vs. Conviction and Grace
I’ve read dozens of responses* to the original post, but I think Phylicia Masonheimer’s response is one the best of all that I have read: “I hope you see that Christianity is not about what is imprinted on your skin, but what is imprinted on your heart. We love because Christ loved us. Some people get distracted along the way, focusing on behavior instead of the source of behavior. But Christ has never called us clean ourselves up to deserve Him, but to come empty-handed and be changed.”
It’s like coming back up for air, when you didn’t realize you weren’t breathing.
I am reminded that it is so necessary to know the difference between condemnation and conviction. Condemnation prompts us toward shame and hopelessness. It makes accusations, blames, comes from a place of judgment, focuses on behavior, and channels our focus onto ourselves. Godly conviction, however, prompts us toward hope, points to change, and offers a solution. It focuses on Jesus, and our identity in Him. It leads to repentance, yes, but includes encouragement and offers peace.
To me, and so many others, Lori’s writings are not convicting, they are condemning.
God forgive me for every time I fall short, every time I fail to communicate well. Thankfully, I am reminded that in my imperfection, He is shown to be perfect. Let us be reverent. Let us teach what is good, and let us not lead others to malign the word of God, just as Titus 2:3-5 instructs.
* a simple internet search will bring up many interesting responses to the original post, ranging from thoughtful, witty and down-right scathing. Two others I think are worth a look are An Open Letter to the Author of “Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins Without Tattoos” and A Response to “Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins Without Tattoos”