Evangelicals write their own Proclamation on the Family

A document entitled the “True Woman Manifesto” made its debut in mid-October at a conference for Christian women (promotional video, h/t). Its audience is Evangelical women, but its ultimate aim is to spark a revolution to undo much of the sexual and feminist revolutions since the 1960s/70s.

Starting with the fact that it was debuted at a women’s conference, there are some striking similarities between the True Woman Manifesto and the LDS document, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” What follows is a side-by-side comparison of some key passages.

(I realize that most of our BCC readership is quite familiar with the language in the Proclamation, but who knows, maybe we’ll get some visitors to this post.)

Gender:

[Manifesto] We believe that the creation of humanity as male and female was a purposeful and magnificent part of God’s wise plan, and that men and women were designed to reflect the image of God in complementary and distinct ways. … Men and women are both created in the image of God and are equal in value and dignity, but they have distinct roles and functions in the home and in the church.

[Proclamation] All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

Marriage:

[Manifesto] Marriage, as created by God, is a sacred, binding, lifelong covenant between one man and one woman.

[Proclamation] …marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God…

Life:

[Manifesto] Human life is precious to God and is to be valued and protected, from the point of conception until rightful death.

[Proclamation] We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.

Women designed to be nurturers; children:

[Manifesto] Children are a blessing from God, and women are uniquely designed to be bearers and nurturers of life, whether it be their own biological or adopted children, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, or other children in their sphere of influence.

[Proclamation] “Children are an heritage of the Lord” … Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.

The above quote from the Manifesto is noteworthy for acknowledging women without children. The Manifesto also includes this about single women: “God’s plan for gender is wider than marriage; all women, whether married or single, are to model femininity in their various relationships….”

While I appreciate the progressive approach in including single and no-child families, the Manifesto also includes language not found in the Proclamation that I find to be troubling. The consternation that many feel in regards to our “preside” language notwithstanding, contrast it with this vision of the male/female power dynamic:

We are called as women to affirm and encourage men as they seek to express godly masculinity, and to honor and support God-ordained male leadership in the home and in the church.

When we respond humbly to male leadership in our homes and churches, we demonstrate a noble submission to authority that reflects Christ’s submission to God His Father.

Selfish insistence on personal rights is contrary to the spirit of Christ who humbled Himself, took on the form of a servant, and laid down His life for us.

However one feels about “preside,” I think it is significant that the injunction to preside is directed at men with the idea that the command entails righteousness and a heavy burden of responsibility. In contrast, the above text repeatedly tells women to submit, but with no corresponding directions to the men restricting their behavior under this scheme.

Discuss.

Comments

  1. Note to my BCC friend who drew my name for Secret Cyber Santa this year:

    Please do NOT send me a framed print of the Manifesto. I will want to burn it, but my wife will convince me to place it in a corner of the garage–next to the dusty framed Proclamation print.

  2. That’s sad Randall.

  3. Mark Brown says:

    This is interesting, Cynthia. I assume that this document was drafted by a committee after open debate and haggling back and forth over words and phrases, then voted on like a political platform. But it would be interesting to know how the committee came about.

    There are several things about the document to like — the emphasis on caring for those around us, the recognition that we are to emulate God, and the idea of submission to his will. I assume Evangelicals agree that those are good things for men to do as well as women, but since this is a women’s manifesto, the part about men is left out.

    The document insists that women and men have distinct roles, but I’ve read it twice and cannot see where those distinct roles are described in any detail, aside from bearing children and submitting to the leadership of males.

    I get a big laugh out of the line that enjoins women to “model femininity”. Supermodels are undeniably feminine and I’m happy to see them gain approval from Evangelical Christianity, after all, they’re God’s children too.

    We need to remember how much our understanding of men and women has changed over the past 3 decades. The parts of the manifesto about females submitting to males, certainly gives us heartburn, but among the over 50 set, I find that view very common, even in the church. Our leaders call talk all they want to about a partnership of equality, but many of us still believe that the patriarchal order means that men are in charge. If you read this document as part of a church talk without revealing its source, my guess is that about 50% of the congregation would nod in approval.

  4. Rameumptom says:

    It is interesting to note the similarities and differences. I’ve long pondered their insistence that women are subordinate to men, contrasted with our insistence that the two are equal, though with separate divine responsibilities.

    I know many attack LDS for our stance, thinking our women are placed in a secondary position. I just don’t see the same fervor being used against the evangelical position, which places women not as equals, but secondary.

  5. Remember that there is no centralized Evangelical hierarchy. This manifesto is not binding upon any individual church or member in the Evangelical movement.

  6. Re: 4
    Rameumptom, maybe it’s because Evangelicals, at the end of the day, still appear to be more normalized than the LDS.

    I mean, you can have hundreds of people say, “I like my Mormon friends because they are good people,” but that won’t stop what comes next: “but I think their beliefs are weird.”

    Even though this Two Women Manifesto is similar, people won’t perceive it as so.

  7. Phouchg–the Proclamation isn’t “binding” either, at least not until it’s canonized. I’m not sure what you’re getting at?

  8. #6: I think our beliefs are weird, too.

  9. Thomas Parkin says:

    I think some Christan movements have always gone considerably farther than we do in promoting a hierarchy of men over women. I remember when the “Promise Keeper” movement had a lot of traction. I recall hearing one of its leaders speaking, and me generally agreeing with his points. Then, all the sudden, he said something to this effect – “we are not suggesting men ask for their power in the homes back, we are suggesting that they take it back …” Well, yikes.

    We have always had the 121st section, and beliefs about the divine character of both sons and daughters of God, that have tended, if not always fully succeeded, in ameliorating the potential power play. ~

  10. #3 Mark–“I assume Evangelicals agree that those are good things for men to do as well as women, but since this is a women’s manifesto, the part about men is left out.”

    Yes, I should add that as a caveat to my paragraph expressing concern about the one-sidedness of the instruction to submit. The Manifesto is addressed specifically to women, in a way that the Proclamation isn’t, so structurally it makes some sense that it is one-sided. I still feel that there is something qualitatively different about the submit language in the Manifesto’s message from the Proclamation’s message.

  11. Christ’s submission to God His Father.

    Much as I want and try to understand the Trinity, I just cannot get my head around this.

  12. I don’t know. I still prefer the Prairie Muffin Manifesto.

  13. gst: prairie muffins = road apples?


  14. 11) Prairie Muffins own aprons and they know how to use them.

    12) Prairie Muffins prefer others above themselves, seeking to serve God by serving others, especially members of their own household.

    17) Prairie Muffins place their husbands’ needs and desires above other obligations, arranging their schedules and responsibilities so that they do not neglect the one who provides for and protects them and their children.

    18) Prairie Muffins are fiercely submissive to God and to their husbands.

    19) Prairie Muffins appreciate godly role models, such as Anne Bradstreet, Elizabeth Prentiss and Elisabeth Elliot. They do not idolize Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House on the Prairie) or Louisa May Alcott (Little Women); while they may enjoy aspects of home life presented in their books, PMs understand that the latent humanism and feminism in these stories and in the lives of these women is not worthy of emulation. [wha??? -ed.]

  15. YES. It’s about time someone told Alcott and Ingalls Wilder where to cram their latent humanism.

  16. I am struck by the stark contrasts between the two, even in just the passages quoted here. The wording on life (“from the point of conception to rightful death” in the Manifesto), women (summarized in the next sentence) and marriage (no “one man and one woman” in the Proclamation) includes very important and deep differences in each section – again just in what it quoted here. When you take the entire context of the “primary roles” and “individual circumstances” paragraph of the Proclamation and set it next to the section of the Manifesto on women, you are seeing two VERY different views.

  17. Note to Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Louisa May Alcott:

    Ma’am, I’ve known prairie muffins. Prairie muffins are friends of mine. And you, ma’am, are no prairie muffin.

  18. I really love the Prairie Muffin manifesto. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

    A few favs:

    11) Prairie Muffins own aprons and they know how to use them.
    18) Prairie Muffins are fiercely submissive to God and to their husbands.
    24) It is not possible to fit Prairie Muffins into a box. They come in many shapes, sizes and flavors [emphasis, mine]

  19. Single women aspiring to be Prairie Muffins will be known as “Muffin Mixes”

    24) It is not possible to fit Prairie Muffins into a box

    Imagine all of those prairie dawgs, anxiously trying to get those muffin mixes out of the box.

    All in all, a most unfortunate choice of metaphors.

  20. Cynthia, I think you are exactly right that the whole issue of “presiding” places the pressure on men, whereas the manifesto seems to place the pressure on women to submit. In my mind, these are two very different concepts. My wife would not submit to me for one second, but she would certainly let me take the responsibility for presiding on certain issues.

    A complete understanding of presiding verses submitting is also crucial to understanding the temple endowment process as well, imho.

  21. I find it interesting that evangelicals consistently word the man/woman relationship in stronger terms than the LDS. I would hypothesize that in the LDS church, because we have the priesthood organization, the patriarchal order is plainly manifest and self-evident. Evangelicals, who lack this outward and clear manifestation of the patriarchal order, thus feel the need to be more self-conscious and blatant in their rhetoric.

  22. It’s not just a rhetorical difference, either. There’s a real body of doctrine (derived mostly from Paul) about male headship that Latter-day Saints completely reject. That’s partly why it bugs me when vestiges of it creep in around the edges of our culture, if not our teaching.

  23. Kristine (7) – While “binding” can be a charged term, I think Phouchg’s point is that a manifesto by an Evangelical group does not carry the same weight for followers of the non-centralized Evangelical movement as does a proclamation signed by the First Presidency and the Twelve, read in a general conference, and described by an official publication as “the…definitive statement on the family” of the highly centralized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By extension, I imagine Phoucg means that the former is not necessarily representative of the views of the Evangelical movement, whereas the latter is representative of the views of the Mormon church.

  24. “Selfish insistence on personal rights…”

    HUH? That sounds so odd to me. Are they trying to say that women shouldn’t have fought for the “right” to vote? What about the “right” to equal pay? Where does that sentence lead? Maybe they are saying rights in the home? I’m just baffled…

  25. “Selfish insistence on personal rights…”

    I am hoping (and for now assuming) that the message here is on the nature of the insistence (or the manner in which one insists) on personal rights. Certainly, it would be odd to call the rights enumerated by Lyndsey as “contrary to the spirit of Christ.”

  26. Maybe you’re right JT. I guess I was reading it that insistence on personal rights in and of itself was selfish. Not that the insistence could be selfish if not done in a certain way.

  27. “Selfish insistence on personal rights…”

    I’m reading this as a rejection of the Pro-Choice viewpoint, which certainly would be consistent with most Evangelicals.

  28. kevinf- I think you are right but there is so much in the manifesto already about life and the importance of life. It seems you could take that statement, “self insistence on personal rights”, so far as to reach all of the rights woman have ever worked for including the pro-choice movement.

  29. Lyndsey,

    I agree with you, there seems to be an attempt to justify settling for second class status on a lot of fronts in this manifesto. I had not seen the pro-life viewpoint attached to that statement yet.

  30. I’m just really wondering what “godly masculinity” is.

  31. #31,

    Godly masculinity would be defined as a combo of GST and Steve Evans as mission comps. Co-ZL’s actually

  32. Mark Brown says:

    And of course, we need to bear in mind the fly in the ointment here. Except in the case of Evangelical Christians, it’s more the size of a Pterodactyl.

    The source of authority for this undstanding of the roles and duties of men and women is said to be the bible, and while many conservative Christians cite biblical authority when defining a position on feminism or gay rights, they ignore biblical teachings on divorce. The proof is that conservative Christians divorce at a greater rate in American that adherents of any other system of belief, including atheism.

    The point I am making here is that biblical authority is a post hoc explanation for a position the women in question probably would have already taken anyway.

  33. Mark Brown says:

    mmiles, godly masculinity is like pornography. It’s hard to define, but you’ll know it when you see it.

  34. Mark, does that mean I have to see gst & Steve’s love child to see godly masculinity?

  35. Agreeing with Mark Brown on the divorce data for Evangelicals. I have seen the data and he is right. Anecdotally 9 out of 10 evangelicals in my office have been divorced at least once. My partner is the only one not divorced

  36. Does that data correct for when respondents become Evangelicals? What is the survey question? If it’s (1) “Have you ever been divorced?” combined with (2) “What is your religion?” that wouldn’t be as helpful as “Have you ever been divorced?” combined with “What was your religion at the time of your divorce?” It could be that divorcees just tend to find Jesus, get born again, whatever you have to do to identify as an Evangelical, in higher numbers than people that haven’t had that trial. It wouldn’t be surprising.

  37. But what the hell do I know about social science data, divorce, or anything else.

    Ray, I’m going to drive over to your house and knock your block off.

  38. Actually (if it’s not too late for a sort of serious comment), if you’re going to try to make a case against feminism, I think it’s more honest to do it on anti-individualist grounds and the notion of Christian sacrifice than on some sort of gender-essentialist view that contends women will be happier if they act in accordance with their nurturing, spiritual natures that disdain decision-making or self-governing authority. Give me good old-fashioned male headship instead of chicken patriarchy any day.

  39. Evangelicals divorce at a higher rate because everyone else just lives in sin!

  40. Kristine, you make an excellent point. It is easy to see this up-front version of patriarchy and reject it. It is harder to root out more nuanced (if we can call it that) forms of patriarchy.

  41. I’m moving tomorrow, gst – and I’m not leaving a forwarding address.

  42. I like our manifesto better.

  43. re: 5

    That’s an understatement. I’d bet that 99% of the Evangelicals in the U.S. have never heard of this manifesto. Can we get more info on who produced it? What conference? What group?

  44. Godly masculinity: Is this a meme?

    http://deseretbook.com/store/product/4973684

  45. Well, call it chicken patriarchy, but I like that our Proclamation addresses men and women together and says stuff like

    In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.

    I like my quasi-scripture to have plenty of wiggle room.

  46. Mike, you are probably right that this hasn’t received very wide exposure (yet?). It seems like this group is trying to be a Promise Keepers type thing for women. Here’s some information from their “About” page:

    In 1997, the Lord began to impress on Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ heart the need for a widespread movement of revival and reformation in the hearts of Christian women. …
    Nine years later, in 2006, Nancy and the Revive Our Hearts’ team agreed that now was the time to begin to plan the first-ever True Woman conference.

    On October 9-11, 2008, over 6,300 women gathered in Chicago, Illinois, for Revive Our Hearts’ first-ever national women’s conference. This conference launched the True Woman Movement with the unveiling and signing of the True Woman Manifesto on Saturday, October 11.

    Join the True Woman Movement

    The True Woman ’08 conference is just the beginning! We’re praying for a widespread movement of revival in the hearts of 100,000 Christian women around the world….

  47. Seriously… I can’t be the only one wondering if there is some group of evangelicals who sit around look at the revelations/inspiration of our Church leaders and say, “that’s a good idea, we need to copy that…”

    Either that or they are just as likely picking up on the same spirit and acting on it.

    But it does seem ironic that a group who so loudly insists we’re all going to hell can be counted on to follow in our footsteps in many areas, albeit it usually takes a decade…

  48. And let me just add that I am also glad we don’t use the word manifesto anymore! What a way to shoot your statement in the foot semantically these days.

    A Proclamation has so much more emotion coupled with authority, etc to it.

    Manifesto these days just has me thinking about the unibomber or Karl Marx…. and yes I know the term was used in our own past as well.

    :)

  49. Mark Brown says:

    In comment # 3, I said this:

    If you read this document as part of a church talk without revealing its source, my guess is that about 50% of the congregation would nod in approval.

    I continue to believe that. But I think there is a big difference between the way Evangelical pastors and Mormon bishops would treat different couples where the wife didn’t submit to her husband’s leadership. The following scenarios seem about right.

    Man, speaking to pastor: “My wife won’t submit to my leadership.”

    Pastor: Perhaps we can get her to counselling, or to the 30 day Godly woman makeover. She will be happier when she learns her role.

    —————————-

    Man, speaking to bishop: “My wife won’t submit to my leadership.”

    Bishop: “Give me your recommend right now and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

    I conclude that chicken patriarchy does haver some drawbacks, but in current practice, it is much better than the alternative.

  50. MikeInWeHo says:

    I think it’s odd that people in the Bloggernacle discuss “the Evangelicals” as if they were a well-defined, much less unified community. The situation really couldn’t be further removed from the LDS experience in that regard.

    Heck, the BCC permabloggers look like the Q12 compared to Evangelical leaders.

    If a female version of Promise Keepers takes off (don’t hold your breath) then perhaps this manifesto will gain some traction, otherwise it’s irrelevant.

  51. If you read this document as part of a church talk without revealing its source, my guess is that about 50% of the congregation would nod in approval.

    I can’t envision this scenario. I don’t know any Mormon women under the age of 100 who wouldn’t chafe at some of the language in this document. And I don’t know any Mormon women over 100, which is why I can’t speak for them.

    I also suspect that if an evangelical man goes to his pastor and says, “My wife won’t submit to my leadership,” the pastor is more likely to suggest that there might be something wrong with the man’s leadership than that there must be something wrong with the wife. In the Mormon scenario, I reckon the bishop is most likely to just laugh in the man’s face.

  52. I take some of my last comment back. My 85-year-old grandmother might nod at this document, but it would probably be because she was falling asleep in church again.

  53. the BCC permabloggers look like the Q12 compared to Evangelical leaders.

    Nice, Mike – and true on more than one level.

  54. There is no denying it, everything from the format to the content resembles the Proclamation on the Family. I wonder if they contacted Church headquarters for permission to use the POTF as a template for their statement.

  55. MikeInWeHo says:

    ‘True Women’ just doesn’t connect the way Promise Keepers does. Since they may be listening, let’s help them come up with a better name for their movement. I propose Muffin Minders. (hat tip to gst)

  56. StillConfused says:

    “We are called as women to affirm and encourage men as they seek to express godly masculinity, and to honor and support God-ordained male leadership in the home and in the church.” Actually, I rather like that one. Men do respond well to encouragement of their spouses. The second half of hte phrase isn’t as groovy but it depends on if God-ordained is qualifying “male” or “leadership”.

  57. I would be more interest to see to explore what other differences there are between the Manifesto and Proclamation.

  58. And people think we are weird?

    All that emphasis on feminity = no pants evah, no makeup, no hair dye. I sit here wearing pants with the makeup I put on for church and my roots needing tending. And we are the weird ones?

    Wonder if the Prarie Muffins are also into Christian Domestic Discipline? (Spanking naughtiness with some bible and domestic abuse thrown in.)

    I’ve been following the blog of a “Christian Fundamentalist” I think she has as much in common with real Christianity as the FLDS do with mainline LDS. Frankly if she is a “Christian” I don’t wanna be one.

  59. A three-part response to the TWM is up at HEvencense. Here’s Part 1

  60. I know I’m late in commenting on this, but I need to point out that this is a document from evangelical complementarians. They generally affirm that women can’t be pastors, serve in local church leadership, and sometimes they restrict women from teaching co-ed Sunday school classes. Their position is similar to the LDS church’s, but for different reasons; I’ve never heard Mormons justify their subordination of women with 1 Timothy 2:9-15, which is the keystone of evangelical complementarianism. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is one of the key complementarian organizations.

    There is another side to this argument coming from evangelical egalitarians. We aren’t “fringe,” we aren’t feminists, we aren’t liberals and we don’t reject the authority of the Bible. The largest evangelical denomination with over 50 million members, the Assemblies of God, is egalitarian. Christians for Biblical Equality is the main evangelical egalitarian society.

    I imagine people don’t attack evangelicals for their position(s) on women because within evangelical Christianity there is choice. If you don’t agree with the subordination of women, you can go to an egalitarian evangelical church. That doesn’t work in Mormonism. If you don’t like that women don’t have the priesthood, get in line, apostate.

    Anyways, I’m not the least bit surprised that this “True Womanhood” document (what a stupid name!) resembles the Proclamation on the Family. I drew the parallels between evangelical complementarians and Mormons years ago.

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