You've heard the French term "femme fatale"? In mythology, history and literature, she's a deadly woman. Mysterious and irresistibly attractive, she leads men into dangerous, and often disastrous, situations. We see her as a villain.
Sadly, such women do exist.
Such men do too. In popular thought, Don Juan and James Bond typify the "homme fatal" (deadly man). We see them as heroes.
As much as I hate to break it to the guys: People don't suspect every man of being James Bond.
As much as I hate to affirm what many woman already know: People - particularly those of our conservative American church culture - often allege that all females are Eve, easily deceived and ever prone to entice Adam to sin.
Also in our church culture, it's widely believed (though not always openly taught) that the ideal woman:
* Draws her identity and value from her role in home and family.
* Heroically supports her particular church subculture - pouring out her life in volunteer labor (even when it becomes detrimental to her home and family) and accepting as gospel the stances and choices of her church leaders.
*Conducts herself like the helpless damsels of yore, ever dependent on strong men to save her from the dragons out there - but even more, from the dragon within.
Accepting the shame of her gender, the woman trying to live up to this Ideal suspects: Only by staying within these parameters can she hope to restrain the femme fatale lurking inside her.
Would you want to know?
One man gifted in personal evangelism loves to strike up conversations with strangers. He usually asks people what they believe about God, about heaven, about Jesus. Then, he'll ask, "If what you've believed isn't true, would you want to know?"
So how would you answer that question? If what you've believed isn't true, would you want to know? If the three points above do not frame God's expectations for women â€“ if, rather, they reflect the Confederate view of womanhood â€“ would you want to know?
If this description of the Ideal Woman emerged between the Second Great Awakening and the Civil War - when the Southern church refused to listen to the Spirit's voice regarding the treatment of whole groups of people, and attached the label "biblical" to a view of women drawn from the ancient Greeks and tales of medieval knights - would you want to know?
If you've accepted as "gospel" a startling array of false assumptions that squeeze women into a cramped and often suffocating box, would you want to know?
By now, you may feel nervous and frightened. You may wonder, "Is she advocating womenâ€™s lib?"
I am advocating freedom for women (and men!) from stifling parameters God did not set.
I'm not advocating a militant, combative, pushy or domineering womanhood. I'm not advocating anger or conflict between the sexes. Quite the opposite. I'm praying for women and men what Paul prayed in Ephesians 1:17-18: "I ask - ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory - to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do" (MSG).
I assure you: The Lord is the one asking his people, Spirit-to-spirit, "If what you've believed isn't true, would you want to know?"
Far better than any of us, he knows: Just because we learned it in church doesn't mean it's true. Our church culture prides itself on teaching what is biblical. And it does offer us Scriptural truth - mixed with religious-sounding beliefs and practices that came from people, not God. Some of these beliefs and practices are recent inventions. Some were imported into the church centuries ago - including the notion that inside every female believer lurks a femme fatale, an Eve, who cannot be trusted with authority or given a voice.
We who have lived with this mindset all our lives may not recognize the way it slams the redemptive work of our Lord, nor the horrific double standard it creates. In embracing this teaching, we're agreeing: Men are released from the curse and made new in Christ; women, not so much.
Yet, "Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself â€¦ We are all able to receive God's life, his Spirit, in and with us by believing" (Gal. 3:13, 14 MSG). Moreover, "Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come" (2 Cor. 5:17 GNT).