What’s Wrong With This Picture?

The nomad and the anarchist accuse the domestic ideal of being merely timid and prim. But this is not because they themselves are bolder or more vigorous, but simply because they do not know it well enough to know how bold and vigorous it is. –G.K. Chesterton

Have you ever sat too long in the doctor’s waiting room and resorted to browsing through a children’s magazine, desperate for something to read? (For the sake of my example, we’ll assume you never even considered cracking the cover of the ubiquitous People magazine beckoning on the table.) Remember those mind-bending — to a five-year-old — puzzles which show two similar pictures, but in the second picture there are some differences which you are supposed to spot? What’s wrong with this picture? is the name of the game, and some of the changes can be quite subtle, making a mature woman spend way too much time poring over those junior periodicals and missing the nurse’s call when the examination room is finally free.


It’s been said art imitates life, but in this media culture life often mirrors art, and I’ve been thinking how we can get the wrong impression if we don’t carefully examine the picture we are presented by those who paint a scenario they want us to believe in.Last January I happened to be in Washington, D.C. with my daughter and a family friend during the annual March for Life. As ardent pro-life supporters, we knew we needed to join with the thousands of others on the Capitol Mall and by our presence, at least, show that we were on the side of life and unborn babies. It was encouraging to be among so many people who oppose abortion and want to see it stopped. But as I listened to the speeches from the podium, I grew restless and frustrated. I had heard the same speeches before, many times, over the past couple of decades. “If we only elect so-and-so” or “If we only get rid of so-and-so” were the most common refrains. That seductive stick with the juicy carrot of judicial appointments which could overturn Roe v. Wade was waved about several times. Most of the speakers were women.

I turned to the girls with me and looked them in the eye, and quietly gave them my take on the things I was hearing. Abortion in all 50 states throughout all nine months of pregnancy was declared “legal” by the Supreme Court in 1973, 27 years ago. Some in the pro-life movement claim minor victories as some abortion mills close down or statistics show slight decreases at times in the number of abortions, or Congress passes a law banning partial birth abortion. But reality is that we still have the blood of over one-and-one-quarter million babies each year crying out from the ground (Gen. 4:10). I told the girls that legal action to stop those deaths would be a wonderful blessing, but I don’t believe anything will change until the hearts of women who want those abortions are changed. They don’t want their babies. Why?

I notice that more and more of the leaders of pro-life and pro-family organizations are women. They are articulate and gifted women, skilled at public speaking and good at rallying the troops, like Joan of Arc or Deborah. It doesn’t take being a Sherlock Holmes to make a reasonable deduction that in order for these women to hold those leadership positions, they have to devote a lot of time and energy to their careers. That doesn’t leave much time for home and family. I will get in trouble for saying it, but I can’t help noticing that the empress is wearing a business suit and not an apron. And these are the women who are supposed to encourage women inclined to end an inconvenient pregnancy to instead sacrifice their time and energy in order to have a baby. Titus 2 for the twenty-first century.

That is one way the picture has some subtle changes from what we ought to see: many of the spokeswomen for the blessing of babies are living a lifestyle which portrays the feminist dream of power, prestige, and leadership in the public realm, a lifestyle which is not conducive to family life, let alone so-called “traditional family values.”

This brings me to a related issue which skews the picture our conservative friends are crafting: the whole-hearted endorsement of so many women for political office in the recent elections.

The frequent mention of the anomaly of Deborah during a time when every man was doing “what was right in his own eyes” has become a din almost as annoying as those vuvuzelas at the World Cup. She was one woman called out by God when there were no men with the gumption to take the lead and fight the scary Canaanites. Today, we have numerous women stepping into positions of leadership in every realm, but the real phenomenon is the strong support of so many conservative Christians for female political leaders, to carry the banner for those “traditional family values.”

I do not think it means what you think it means. –Inigo Montoya

The most prominent Deborah, of course, is Sarah Palin, who is angling for the highest office in the land. She recently proudly proclaimed herself a feminist. As she travels around the country giving high-paid speeches to tea party activists anxious for political hope and change, she speaks of “empowering women” and “a new revival of that original feminism of Susan B. Anthony. Unfortunately, that feminism laid the ground-work for the feminism of NOW, Hillary Clinton, and Gloria “A Woman Needs a Man Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle” Steinem.

And I know I will get in trouble (again) for saying it, but what about Baby Trig, single mommy Bristol, and husband Todd? What are they doing while Sarah is taking on the liberal establishment and reclaiming feminism? Who is holding down the home fort?

We hear a lot about Deborah, but not so much about Jael. Some friends just had their fifth baby the other day, and her middle name is Jael. That same day, I was in a store and the young woman who was the clerk had a name tag that said, “Jael.” I commented on it and told her about my friends’ baby. The clerk, who sported several tattoos, was touched and told me her parents named her for the woman in the Bible, and she said she needed to go back and read the story again. I encouraged her to do so.

Do you know the story? After Deborah rallied the troops and encouraged General Barak to stop hiding behind her skirts to go after the Canaanites (she did NOT go into battle herself), the Israelites kicked their numerous behinds (i.e., “routed their troops”), and the enemy General Sisera ran for his life. Tired and scared, Sisera was given refuge by a woman named Jael, who lured him into her tent with assurances of safety. She kindly offered him a glass of warm milk, which every woman knows has soporific effects, and this time was no different. Soon he was sawing the logs, and Jael put an end to him with a tent peg to the temple. It’s not a story often told in Sunday schools, which may be why Deborah is more well-known than Jael.

This tale, set in the context of a time of great turmoil and apostasy in Israel, begins and ends with a woman. Deborah herself pointed out the irony of victory coming at the hand of a woman. Not exactly an imprimatur for future generations of women leaders. And the second woman stayed home and finished the job, using her domestic skills to foil the enemy. Imagine that.

What is it we are wanting to accomplish? Do we want to address symptoms or causes in our quest to set things straight? First we need to agree on which picture is true and which is distorted. We need to portray a lovely picture of the blessings of being a woman at home, having babies, being content as the helpmeet rather than taking the lead. We need to understand the great power in that privileged position and see God’s great providence at work as He brings opportunity knocking at our door, without the need to gallivant about looking for greener pastures or quixotic quests. Faithful service over a couple generations will generate greater hope and change than dozens of political campaigns filled with the same old platitudes, wrapped in a different package for a new crop of gullible voters.

We need more Jaels, not Deborahs.

Except to Heaven, she is nought;
Except for angels, lone;
Except to some wide-wandering bee,
A flower superfluous blown;
Except for winds, provincial;
Except by butterflies,
Unnoticed as a single dew
That on the acre lies.
The smallest housewife in the grass,
Yet take her from the lawn,
And somebody has lost the face
That made existence home!
–Emily Dickinson

3 thoughts on “What’s Wrong With This Picture?

  1. You write so eloquently what I’ve only begun to think about! During the 2008 election, if I ever brought up the, “But, she’s a woman,” line about either Clinton OR Palin, I would be shot down faster than the buffalo by whomever I happened to be conversing with. The issue is not whether or not they CAN do the job, whether they are QUALIFIED to do the job, but whether, as you point out in reference to Palin’s abandoned family, they SHOULD do the job. Thank you for articulating these sentiments so well!


  2. Thank you for using a quote from my favorite movie! Also, thank you for reminding me of the story of Jael. I never thought of her in this light, and she is the perfect answer to the Deborahs of the world!


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