Pastor’s Column: A Woman’s Place…

Jim Coppoc.

Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker’s recent commencement speech at a small Catholic college in northeast Kansas has stirred up quite a bit of controversy. Although Butker took swipes at all sorts of traditionally marginalized groups, including everyone who falls under the “diversity, equity and inclusion” umbrella, most of the online furor that has followed has to do with Butker’s views on women. In his speech, Butker told a large room full of recent college graduates that the proper roles for the women among them are wife and mother, and that they should stop chasing their career dreams. Almost comically, Butker chose to quote single, childless, self-made billionaire Taylor Swift as out-of-context support for some of his arguments. Harrison Butker’s position might stem from common views on religion, but it is certainly not Biblical.

The two most cited examples of wives and mothers in the Christian Bible are the first woman, Eve, and the mother of Jesus, Mary. While both women did end up as mothers, for Eve this was a punishment for her and her partner’s sin, and for Mary, motherhood came out of wedlock. Neither lived exactly the kind of life men like Butker have in mind.

That aside, any analysis of other women in the Hebrew/Christian Bible pretty clearly shows a surprisingly large number of influential women known for their roles outside the home. Deborah, for example, was a tribal leader in Hebrew society. Miriam, Huldah and others were prophets. Esther and Ruth, while both married at some point, also each wrote their own books, which became part of the Biblical canon. Hagar was a single mother who remained faithful in adversity. Mary Magdalene was a single Christian convert who traveled with Jesus as a disciple. Priscilla was a teacher and church leader. Phoebe was a deacon. Lydia was a businesswoman. Rahab helped the Israelites infiltrate Jericho. Jael drove a tent stake into an enemy’s head. Over and over, the Bible brings us powerful women whose lives and vocations show strength far beyond the “traditional” roles of wife and mother, even in the books written by men. Even old, misogynistic Paul recognized the influence and leadership of women in the early Christian church. And Jesus himself chose to start both his messianic ministry and his life after resurrection by revealing himself to women.

It is absolutely a valid choice, in or out of the Bible, to be a devoted wife and mother. It is also a valid choice for a woman to become a prophet, go into business, or run the government. All of these choices are lifted up in the Bible as examples of good and faithful women doing the work God called them to.

Jim Coppoc serves the Ripley United Church of Christ at 400 S. Main St. in Traer. He lives in Ames and Traer, and also holds a “day job” as Director of Integrated Health Services for Center Associates in Marshalltown and Toledo. Jim can be found online at www.facebook.com/jim.at.ripley.