What’s a Girl to Do? Part 3: Consider the Obstacles

July 16, 2012

I think we’ve established why Titus 2 relationships between older and younger women are important. But, what we’d all like to know now is how to encourage them. Before talking about practical tips for encouraging these relationships, it might be helpful to ask why they don’t happen as easily or as often as we’d like? Let’s first consider the obstacles. I’ve identified four (though there are plenty more). I’ll cover only the first in this post.

Obstacle #1: Generational Divides leading to a critical spirit about other generations

Gender roles and feminism
    Times are a changin’. If you asked a 20 year old and a 60 year old to articulate their thoughts and observations about the feminist movement, you’d likely hear very different things. We younger women sometimes associate feminism with sexual promiscuity (or “freedom” as the world would say–from the traditional female role as being the more sexually restrained among the two genders.) And we think of the early waves of feminism as tame, and as the catalyst for some very good changes–like equal pay for equal jobs, right to vote, right to hold property in our names, right to defend ourselves against so-called men who abuse women, and the re-emergence of the father in the home (statistics vary but nearly all reveal that the amount of hours fathers spend with their children per day has significantly increased over the last 20 years).

But we younger women sometimes forget (or maybe some of us just don’t know) the sinister motives of some of the early proponents of womens’ liberation. Many of these women despised the God-given role of a woman to be a help-meet for her husband and to be focused on her home, and instead encouraged widespread denigration of men, refusing to honor them for their leadership roles in the church and in the home. Some of these women also fought for eugenics and abortion as population control in order to force women out of the home and into what they deemed more “fulfilling” roles. Older women often question a younger woman’s motive for working outside the home because they recall those earlier waves of feminism which devalued two of God’s most common blessings to women–the role of wife and the role of mom.

Marriage and Family
The institutions of marriage and family are clearly suffering from the continual attacks of feminism. Tim Keller has compiled some very helpful statistics in his book the Meaning of Marriage. He is my source for the next three statistics. Only half of American adults are married. That is 50% down from 72% in 1960. (I don’t have a statistic for the number of unmarried, cohabiting adults.) One-half of all those marriages will end in divorce. And today 60% of American babies are born to unwed parents. (Keller, 22) I think you can say that Satan and his minions are attacking the family unit as God defines it in Genesis. These cultural shifts influence the church as well and influence the younger populations’ perception of marriage. Marriage is no longer the “honorable estate” that God declared it. Many people are delaying marriage because they don’t want the constraints of family life.

As I prepared for this talk, I googled the average marriage age for a woman (in the western world) in 2011. I got some conflicting answers–but most were in the 26-30 range compared with 20-22 range for women in 1960. Today, the 20 or 30 something woman is more likely to receive a higher education and is more likely to remain single. If she does marry, it is likely to be much later, she will likely have fewer children, and she is more likely to return to the workforce after a short maternity leave than her 1960’s and 70’s counterparts. The reasons for all these differences are varied and complex. My point is simply to illustrate the changing trends in marriage and family for recent generations (specifically Gen X and Millennials)

Since 1980, there has also been a trend toward individualism, youth culture, and segregation of the generations. Hit the early 2000s and you have whole residential areas set aside for 50+ empty-nesters. And those divides between the generations–culturally and physically–often lead to suspicion and/or a critical spirit of those outside our generation.

We experience generational divides over almost everything. My mom grew up in a generation where smoking was considered healthy and coffee was deadly. You can’t live 10 minutes in our society without hearing about the direct link between cigarettes and lung cancer. Meanwhile, reports about the anti-cancer, anti-dementia, anti-high blood pressure, and anti-type 2 diabetes properties of coffee are coming out daily.

Today, pregnant women run in marathons and then sleep their newborn babies on their backs. 30 years ago pregnant women were afraid to lift their arms above their heads and slept their babes on their tummies. We can’t even agree on physical health and baby care!

But those are some of the broad cultural differences. Another category we need to be aware of is our perceptions and misconceptions about the other generations in church.

Generational Divides in the Church
Have you ever been guilty of thinking the older women in the church have grown lazy and are not as actively involved at church as they used to be? If you are an older woman, have you criticized the younger generation for being self-consumed and proud know-it-alls? Or perhaps you think the younger crowd is far too concerned with culture and fads and justify it by wanting to make the church “relevant” to today’s generation. Younger women–have you proudly dismissed the older crowd for being too narrow and more concerned with traditions than evangelism? Are you guilty of self-righteously judging the older women because you feel they have misjudged you for your choices? Older women, have you accused younger women of having untested faith and of being ignorant of history? Do you question their commitment to the home? The potential for disagreements is great. And these disagreements and misunderstandings between the generations tempt us toward criticism of the other generations.

What is the antidote to a critical spirit about other generations? LOVE is generally the Biblical principle in all our interpersonal relationships. Let’s converse with other women with a genuine desire to understand, to seek information, and to find wisdom. Let’s love–therefore let’s not think evil. Let’s “be completely humble and gentle; [let’s] be patient, bearing with one another in love…mak[ing] every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2

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