Thursday, August 9, 2012

From Kinder, Küche, und Kirche to Career Feminism

From Kinder, Küche, und Kirche to Career Feminism
(Children, Kitchen, and Church)
by Ethan Bolstad

This is a paper about change, change that has greatly transformed the common perception of what it means to be masculine and feminine. Many of those living through this change did not, nor could not, have imagined the degree to which these changes would impact not only society in general but also the church itself. Those living after the change would barely be aware that a change had ever taken place. Aside from historical references, this paper is not about the change which took place within the world, but only the changes which took place within the confessional Lutheran church bodies comprising the Synodical Conference. It is the intention of this paper to lead the reader through these changes by comparing the commentaries of Martin Luther and the earlier LC-MS (pre-1940’s) theologians, to the later (post WWII) teachings of the LC-MS, WELS, and ELS. Once the changes have been identified, the current church bodies will be in a position to reexamine the issues, and ask themselves whether or not these modifications were made because their Lutheran fathers were in error due to legalism, or if these changes were accepted due to the demands exerted by a reform movement called Feminism, which happened to be especially active during these changing years.

It is also important to keep in mind that these pre-1940’s theologians, whom I am about to quote, were very influential men within Confessional Lutheranism. They were leaders of their time. They each possessed a brilliant mind, were well versed in Scripture, and wrote great works. Their works are still some of the best within Christendom, and we continue to use them routinely, to this day, within our Lutheran seminaries. We can find their works on the shelves of our pastors’ offices, as well as on the shelves of or church libraries. These were by no means, obscure, little known men, who had a vendetta against women. They were simply presenting to their listeners what Scripture had to say concerning the role of men and women. The Early Missouri Synod, 1847-1940 The Missouri Synod was founded in 1847. This was during the time of such people as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Margaret Fuller. This was a time of change within the world. This was a time during the early stages of the Feminist Movement, whose effects would soon spread across society and into the Church. This was a trying time for the people of the world and especially for the Church as they tried to maintain their identity in an ever growing unchristian population.1 These cultural changes were enormous and would range anywhere from seating arrangements to clothing styles/ modesty, head coverings, woman’s suffrage, career women, daycare/nursing homes, delayed marriages for an education, contraception, and even the concept of authority. Let us take a look at some of these changes.

In the Missouri Synod throughout the nineteenth century, women and children were seated together on one side of the church, opposite the men. These women would wait in their pews in silence and receive communion only after their husbands had first received it.2 There is still evidence of this today, in many of their old church buildings, where little hat hooks can be seen on the back of the pews, but only on the pulpit side where the men would sit. The women’s side did not have these little hooks because they were expected to keep their heads covered in accordance with 1 Corinthians 11:6. The men would sit on the pulpit side of the church so that they would be better able to hear the pastor away from the noises of the children, but then were expected to go home and preach this message to their families. Obviously, the men and women of today’s Lutheran churches no longer follow these seating arrangements or the head covering mandate, but it has been forgotten, only to live on in silent memory within dusty old books.

The Missouri Synod used to teach that the woman’s sphere could be defined by the German expression “Kinder, Küche, und Kirche” which means “Children, Kitchen, and Church.” The synod believed strongly that a woman’s role was to give birth to children and raise them, to care for and help her husband by being a domestic, and by being a good church-going woman. This was her calling given to her by God. And with this responsibility, God also gave her natural abilities which would help her to care for her husband and educate her children. It was only natural, and a matter of time, before the idea of educating children would eventually extend to other children, not her own3.

For hundreds of years, and even in the days of Luther, there were women teachers, but the difference between our time and theirs is that women now commonly teach and have authority over men. The Missouri Synod understood that there were many capable women who had the ability to educate, but they also believed very strongly that this authority should only be over other women and young children, and even in these cases the number of women teachers should be kept to a minimum, for a woman’s true calling was to be a wife and mother. A Missouri Synod pastor, J.C.W. Lindemann, in 1872, was very concerned over the matter of women teaching young men, and concerned with the consequences for the boys under such feminine influence.4 A few years later, Professor George Stoeckhardt, in 1897, agreed with Lindemann and said that teaching should not be her life’s ambition, but that her aspirations ought to be reserved for marriage and the raising of a family.5 This became difficult to enforce as the years went by and women continued to seek higher education and teaching positions. It should also be noted that in America at this time, only 5% of the married women were out in the workforce earning an income.6 But this would not last for long.

During this time, the Feminist Movement was challenging the United States government by campaigning for a right to vote. But in 1887, LC-MS theologian Francis Pieper, upset with the United States Senate over the proposed suffrage amendment, called women’s suffrage “a proposal that stands all natural order on its head.”7 The synod at the time believed that women were not ever to exercise authority over men. In 1899, the faculty members of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, made the statement that “All women in general are subordinate to men.”8

In the world at this time and more specifically in the United States, the women and men of the Feminist Movement continued to march and sound their trumpet, calling for change and demanding that women be released from the prison of their homes. In 1914, the Great War broke out in Europe, and the American people grew a strong distaste for anything German, including the German people, and this included much of the German speaking Missouri Synod. This put considerable pressure on the Synod and forced them to fit in with the rest of America. They started to accept the English language into their churches, and reluctantly accepted two constitutional amendments: the prohibition of alcohol, and woman suffrage.9 With the Nineteenth Amendment (Suffrage) now ratified by the States, the Feminists had a voice within the government and would soon have a foothold over the churches of America. Before this time, it was widely understood that because a man was the head of the home, he would vote for his household, taking into consideration the needs and desires of his wife and children.

From 1917 until 1924, Concordia Publishing House published Christian Dogmatics by Francis Pieper. In this four volume set, Pieper discussed many topics, including creation, justification by faith, angels, and so much more. One of the many topics he discussed was women. Not surprisingly, Pieper put great stock into what Luther had to say and agreed with him on this issue; he even quoted him frequently. “Luther maintains consistently that God’s creation of man and woman with a different sex appoints and fits them for a separate sphere of activity.”10 Pieper taught that the woman’s “separate sphere” was being a domestic: working from within the home and caring for husband and children.11 Along with this, he taught that women in general were in subordination to men in general and that this goes back to the order of creation and therefore remains applicable for all times.12 He also wrote against the idea that the woman’s sphere was determined by culture; he wrote that it was a permanent order established by God.13 And in keeping in line with Proverbs 31:31, he made it a point to praise women for their duties.14 It can be seen that Pieper was a man of considerable intellect and also a man who cared for his church very much. He fought hard to repel what he perceived to be false teachings at the doors of his synod, until the Lord decided to give him rest in 1931.

In 1919, Louis J. Sieck, an LC-MS pastor and the future president of Concordia Seminary, admitted that he and his colleagues did not take women suffrage seriously, but thought that it would die off on its own. But when he finally heard the wind roaring behind the waves, he spoke and wrote against the idea and against the whole notion of the Feminist Movement. He said that this movement was “one of the most serious menaces to the home, Church, and State which the devil has put to work in our country.” He also said “whatever aims to take women out of her proper sphere and place her on the same level with a man is a blow at the home upon which the welfare of the Church and the State rests.” He made it clear that he believed that the woman’s place was within the home, but because he did not take it seriously and was not prepared for this issue, he based his argument on tradition instead of basing it on Scripture, which in the end, hurt his cause.15

In the 1920’s, the synod decided to place restrictions on the enrollment of women in higher education, by keeping their enrolment down to 20% of the total enrollment, as an attempt to slow the rise of women teachers. But this did little to keep out the wave of women. The synod saw this as a problem and continued to believe that a woman’s primary role was within the home but because they were unable to slow this trend, a new policy was started, one of looking the other way. Mary Todd, author of Authority Vested, makes this observation: “The numbers grew, but the Synod continued its pattern of supporting a principle while ignoring the practice.”16

In 1922, Concordia Publishing House published The Popular Commentary of the Bible by Paul E. Kretzmann. This was a man who, like Luther, sought to take the Bible at face value and did not want to add to or subtract from it. He taught that women in general were not to have authority over men in general, in any area of life, whether it was within the home, in the church, or in public. He also maintained that her sphere was concerning the care and love for husband, children, and home. He wrote much on this topic, especially when commenting on 1 Timothy 2:9-1517 and Titus 2:5.18 He made it clear that the command for a woman to be a domestic was not Paul’s command but rather it was God’s command, and he criticized the women of his day who were trying to confuse the issue and break out of their proper roles.

In 1925, a teacher named John Eiselmeier, became another voice who made his concerns known over the feminization of the educational system. He said that it is dangerous for a society to put its boys into “the hands of women” while they are at an age when they are developing into men, and he called for men to come back into the educational field.19

In both Europe and America at this time, there were many changes taking place, but some were reluctant to say too much, due to being scripturally unprepared to tackle such issues. In the late 1920’s and into the 30’s, Theodore Graebner, a Seminary professor and editor of the Lutheran Witness, was concerned over what he thought was a rise of legalism within the Synod. He warned not to “make more sins than there are.” He said this in reply to a letter from a young pastor on the matter of the Nineteenth Amendment, and stated that “The thing is done, women now have the right….Now let them Vote.”20 In 1926, the Church of Thuringia composed the first set of guidelines for a position of theologically trained women who would help their pastors. Soon after this, Hamburg passed a position similar to this within its own churches. In 1927, Prussia followed suite, as did a number of other churches in Germany, but even within these churches, these women were excluded from the pastoral office.21

Despite the changes which were taking place throughout the world, many within the LC-MS continued to hold to their old beliefs. In 1929, Concordia Publishing House published The Christian Home, by John H. C. Fritz. This little thirty-page booklet doesn’t look nearly as impressive as Luther’s Works, but the wisdom it contains speaks volumes. In it he states, that there is a direct relationship between the condition within the home and the condition within the world. The breakdown of the home leads to a breakdown of morality within the world. Within his lifetime he saw a rise in public sinning, and he blamed it on the deterioration of the home, and strongly urged people to go back to Scripture.22

He did not believe that physical abuse, much less emotional abuse, was a reason for a divorce. He would have disagreed with the pastors of a later generation who, at times, recommend divorce for reasons other than adultery, and he does not play with words to make physical desertion mean anything other than what it simply means.23 But he does say that if a woman’s life is endangered by her husband, she should instead, separate from him for a time and allow him to make amends. He further tells us that desertion is not a cause for a divorce but that it is divorce. A woman who has been deserted by her husband should consider him to be dead, seek a legal divorce, and get married again.24

Fritz, like the men before him, also taught that the male sex was to lead, provide, and protect, and he did not encourage women to step into this sphere but rather encouraged them to remain within their own sphere.25 He says very clearly that the wife’s role was to be within the home, caring for her husband and children.26 He then writes that the modern woman is “sinning against God, interfering with nature, and unsexing herself” due to the fact that she is trying to remove herself from the home and move into the man’s sphere.27

On the issue of children, he was just as consistent, and agreed with what had been taught by the earlier church fathers concerning birth control and the attempt to prevent oneself from having children. He taught that it was unnatural and sinful.28 He also taught that it was wrong for children to neglect their elderly parents and treat them as if they were pieces of furniture to be forgotten in the corner. He believed that they should be loved and cared for as one of the family.29

In 1932, Concordia Publishing House published Pastoral Theology: A Handbook of Scriptural Principles, also by John H. C. Fritz. This book was intended, and was used, for the teaching of young seminary students. This is what Fritz wanted these students to preach once they received their call. In accordance with his own book and with the Lutheran church fathers, he interpreted from Scripture that men were to lead, provide, and protect, and women were to care for husbands, children, and homes. Fritz taught that it was a perversion for men or women to try and move into one another’s sphere, and that it was the responsibility of the pastors to warn against such things.30

In 1934, Concordia Publishing House published Christian Dogmatics: A Handbook of Doctrinal Theology for Pastors, Teachers, and Laymen by John T. Mueller. This is what he had to say: “Both the man and the woman serve best in that relation or sphere in which God created each, Eph.5, 21-33; Titus 2, 3-5; 1 Cor.7,20, whereas the abrogation of the divine order will result in confusion and injury for human society, Prov. 1, 24-33.”31

In 1937, Lutheran Book Concern published Commentary on the New Testament by R.C.H. Lenski. In it, he stands in agreement with the conservative LC-MS theologians of his time by claiming that the roles between the sexes did not disappear with the completion of Christ’s work but rather were “sanctified by it.”32 But on the other hand, he did disagree with them on the matter of women teaching in public. He thought that the issue of women not teaching men, was only to be applied within the church, and not out in the public world. “A learned woman may discourse to a whole class of men.”33 But he then comes right back in line with the teachings of his day and claims that “All scripture condemns the refusal of married women to give birth to children.” And then he goes further by saying that the home is the place for wives and mothers, and they are to manage it and watch over it. He even claims that it is “Woman’s divinely intended sphere.”34 When commenting on Titus he again affirms what he said previously, and makes it clear that women are to be homemakers. He stresses the importance of church-going women and said that the world will judge a church by the conduct of its daughters.35 Luther’s Views As we have seen, these theologians of the early Missouri Synod were in almost complete agreement with one another on the issues of gender roles. Not surprisingly, they were in agreement with their Lutheran fathers, who in turn were in agreement with Luther. Throughout his life, Luther taught that men and women were not to move into one another’s sphere, but to remain as God created them, either masculine or feminine.36 He didn’t consider it to be within a person’s decision to change or alter the sphere in which he was placed. He made this clear and taught against the idea of women leading, providing, and protecting and against the idea of feminizing men into becoming homemakers. Each has to remain as God created them: either male or female.37

He also believed that once a couple was married, they should not prevent a blessing from God by cutting off their seed. But they should understand that God is the taker and giver of life. He considered the procreation of children as more than a blessing but as an actual Christian duty.38 Luther was very much against the idea of birth control and stood beside the Church Fathers in the condemnation of Onan spilling his semen upon the ground.39

He also believed that a woman’s very body was built for the care and instruction of the children, and that women should long to be mothers, for this was one of the reasons for which she was created.40 He considered their ability to give birth to be their highest calling.41 Throughout his life, Luther is heard expressing the views that bearing children, or the desire to bear them, should be at the heart of the Christian woman. He even appeals to the Natural Law of their anatomies, and points out the fact that their bodies are built for this.42 He also writes about the detriments of not accepting this God given responsibility.43 Luther taught, that in order for a woman “to manage the household and train children,” she would need to be in her home for much of the day.44 He spoke extensively on this topic throughout his life, and made a very big deal of Abraham’s brief reply to God concerning his wife’s whereabouts.45 It should also be noted, that Sarah had no children at this time, and yet Luther interpreted these verses to mean that she needed to be near her home. Luther understood that the woman’s calling did not begin or end with the raising of children, but that her duties also concerned the care for her husband and the home as well.

Throughout Luther’s ministry, he taught that men were to be leaders, providers, and protectors. He taught that the men were to be the ones taking the initiative and making the decisions, not only within the Church or the home, but also within society,46 obviously doing so with love and consideration for their wives and children.47 He taught that men were to be the ones nourishing (or providing) for their families,48 and that it was the men who were to be the ones protecting their families.49 He never changes his position on this; he consistently puts men and women into two separate categories or spheres.50 And at no point does he teach or even imply that the order of creation is limited to the home and church but makes it very clear that the order of creation was also to be applied to society. He even taught that the order of creation was to exist until the end of time.51

This is not to say that Luther thought less of the woman’s position; on the contrary he believed that she was her husband’s greatest blessing.52 He even quoted Scripture by calling her the “treasure of the house”, and made a marvelous statement that gets right down to the fact that women, who care for husbands, children, and homes, are a wonderful blessing here on earth to both the family and the Church, as well as society.53 And he didn’t believe that these teachings should be silenced by the Roman Church (which emphasized celibacy), but rather the church should be teaching these roles to its congregations, for the benefit of the Christian people.54

As is plainly seen, the LC-MS theologians of the pre-40’s were in near, if not total, agreement with Luther on the issues of gender roles. They believed, just as Luther did, that men and women were to live and operate in two separate spheres of influence, and that great harm would come to the family, church, and society if these spheres were to become confused, and exchanged between the sexes. But for all their strength, leadership, and devotion to the all powerful God of heaven, these men, living during such turbulent times, were not able to stand long against the forces which the world was dashing upon them. In 1938, the Parliament of Norway passed a law allowing women into all civil and ecclesiastical offices.55 Very soon the rest of the world would follow. (To Be Continued)
(Endnotes available upon request)

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