Around 1975 I became interested in how women were being treated in the church and in the home. What I observed did not agree with how Jesus treated women. I began to study what the Bible says about women and to read books by Christian authors dealing with these issues. In 1983 I bought and read Kari Torjesen Malcolm’s Women at the Crossroads: A Path beyond Feminism and Traditionalism. Thirty years later I decided to read it again. I was excited about what I learned and decided to share it with you.
Kari was born in China, where her Norwegian parents were missionaries. As a teenager she spent three years in a Japanese concentration camp with her mother and her brothers. The Japanese army had killed her father and burned their home. In prison she underwent an identity crisis. She began to pray, “Lord, I am willing to stay in this prison for the rest of my life, if only I may know you.” She discovered that her identity was in her relationship to her Lord.
Kari’s parents were egalitarians. Their relationship was an equal partnership. She thought that all Christian marriages were like her parents’. She was shocked when she came to United States in the 1960s and discovered that Christian women were struggling with an identity crisis. Secular feminists were teaching that women should find their identity in a career and enter the job market to compete with men. Anti-feminists, particularly Christian traditionalists, were teaching that women should find their identity in being wives and mothers, caring for their children and homes.
As Kari learned more about life in North American, she realized that evangelical women were trapped between two wrong choices: pursuing a career regardless of the cost to the family or retreating to the kitchen and denying the call of God on their lives. She came to the conclusion that neither of these alternatives was acceptable. Women should find their identity in serving a loving Lord and using their gifts for his glory.
It saddened Kari to discover that many evangelicals had rejected the new order that Christ came to establish. A woman friend told her, “Without the chain of command in the home, we would have chaos.” Men have been taught that God has given them the power to rule their wives and children. Kari states, “When the husband rules over the wife in spiritual and temporal matters, he can become the mediator between his wife and her God.” As the son of her close friends put it, “My father serves God and my mother serves my father.” In 1 Timothy 2:5–6, we read, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” It is dangerous when a patriarchal system makes the husband the mediator between his wife and God. Is he not usurping the place that belongs to Christ alone?
In the Philippines, where Kari served as a missionary, almost every Christian home had this motto on the wall: “Christ is the head of this house, the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener to every conversation.” She wondered why she rarely saw this motto in evangelical Christian homes in America. Was it because the husband had replaced Christ as the head of the home? She writes, “A home is Christian only if Christ lives there and the family embraces his values to love each other and the oppressed poor of our world.”
I highly recommend that you find a copy of this book and read it. It will inspire you to follow him with a servant heart like his (Mark 10:42–45; John 13:1–16; Philippians 2:1–11). It is time we forsake the gender power struggles that started with the fall and learn to work together as equal partners in the home and the church