Church

In Search of Titus 2 Influencers: A Call for Biblical Femininity in the Negative World

Amy Simmons

A couple of weeks ago, a seemingly random video lit a firestorm on X (formerly Twitter). Featuring a group of co-eds dancing suggestively to a song containing such lyrics as “shake it for the camera,” Christians were split as to how to view the young women’s behavior. Some focused on their lack of discretion, others discounted it as just another benign viral dancing video; still, there was something missing from the conversation. What stood out to me most was not easily noticed but upon further reflection has larger ramifications: a little girl with a big yellow bow in her hair, struggling to keep in lock-step with the group. I wondered what kind of impression this type of display was making on her and other girls growing up in a post-Christian America. What type of femininity are young women learning through social media influencers and pop idols of the larger secular culture, and can the church offer a more excellent way?

Christians throughout history have battled against the insidious influences of the pagan cultures around them. However, as a nation founded on Protestant beliefs, we find ourselves in uncharted territory. The morals and values that we once shared as a country are now considered toxic and hateful. The topic of gender is especially under attack, as the progressive left seeks to eradicate any differences between the sexes. In our up-is-down, right-is-wrong culture, Millennial (born approx. 1981-1994) and Gen Z (born approx. 1995-2009) women are expected to find fulfillment through education, career, and possibly marriage and children, if there’s time. The promise that women can “have it all” instilled by their mother’s second-wave feminism keeps them in a perennial hamster wheel they do not know how to stop – even if they wanted to. One viral video made this achingly clear when one such woman shared how she longed to stay at home with her children but could not sacrifice her comfortable lifestyle. Young women today are looking for alternatives to what feminism offers, but due to a dearth of godly examples in the church, are looking to internet influencers – and they have responded.

Tradwife = Happy Life?

Much ado has been made about the recent trend towards traditional femininity and motherhood made popular by “tradwife” (short for traditional wife) influencers seen on image-driven social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok. The aesthetics come in a variety of forms: from 50’s era kitsch, to pioneer-style homesteading, to beige-mom domestic goddess. The boss babe attitude has transferred to a stay-at-home model, as many of these influencers are savvy entrepreneurs. Call it a fad, call it a marketing gimmick; what you cannot call it is irrelevant. Though many of these women are not orthodox Christian believers (the most popular being Mormon), they are meeting a need young women have for God’s created order in the home. This current generation of wives and mothers has seen the negative effects of feminism seen in tug-of-war style marriages where neither party seeks to relinquish their selfish desires for the good of the other. The tradwife life appears to offer women a vision of marriage that more closely aligns with biblical teaching in that they are supporting their husband through managing the home (Titus 2:4-5) while deferring to him as the head of the household (Eph. 5:22) with loving respect (Eph. 5:23).

Still, detractors to this movement argue, rightfully so, that homemade sourdough and frilly aprons make a biblical wife not. Many of these influencers do not have a solid Christian theology to underpin their efforts, therefore potentially leading many women to unwittingly fall into a materialistic trap of homemaking as an end goal rather than a means to an end of living a sanctified life to the glory of God. Like every good and perfect gift from God, we can sometimes put our hope and expectations on something that inevitably will fail us. While seeking to faithfully steward our homes, it’s important to remember where our true reward lies. So, while it’s good and honorable to embrace a traditional view of marriage and domesticity, women must remember to keep their eyes on the Savior who alone can enable them to fulfill their God-given role. That brings up the question, if social media influencers cannot provide a truly biblical example of femininity and motherhood, to whom should they look?

A Modest Proposal

Modesty has fallen on hard times in the Evangelical world. Millennial women in the egalitarian camp claim to have deconstructed from the purity teaching of the 1990’s such as Lifeway’s True Love Waits campaign, accusing them of “body shaming” women. CCM artist Matthew West was pressured to take down a music video where he playfully implores his daughters to cover up, and Elisabeth Elliot, a revered purity proponent of the past, has been accused of propagating an ideology of abuse for affirming traditional marriage. At the forefront of this effort is self-styled Christian sex-pert Sheila Gregoire. She employs a victimhood framework when critiquing traditional gender roles and sees hierarchical marriage structures as inherently abusive. Along with her Gen Z daughter, she utilizes every 4th wave feminist talking point to malign the church’s long-standing view of chaste behavior as unfairly “gendered” and therefore misogynistic. This is based on the supposition that the complementarian view of modesty is rooted in the idea that women’s bodies are dangerous which drives a desire to “police” what women wear, thus placing the onus on women when men are tempted.

To broadly state that modesty promotes the subjugation of women, as Gregoire & Co. does, is to flout biblical wisdom (and basic biology). The Book of Proverbs warns young men to avoid the temptress’ snare and that a lack of discretion in women is as irreconcilable as “a gold ring in a pig’s snout” (Pro. 11:22). Women, on the other hand, typically have different temptations. Like their ancient mother, Eve, they are vulnerable to deception. As the Apostle Paul notes in his letter to Timothy, “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Tim. 2:4). Feminism in all of its iterations has ushered in a great delusion in the church. So if the proverbial train has already left the station, where do we go from here?

So far the American Evangelical church has no answers. While pragmatically useful at times, the complementarian model, itself a concession to feminist criticisms, was doomed to fail from its inception. Aaron M. Renn broaches this topic in his recent book, Life in the Negative World, based on his viral 2022 First Things article about the rise and fall of Christian cultural influence in America. He devotes an entire chapter to the great gender dilemma in the church, citing John Piper and Wayne Grudem’s complementarian/egalitarian framework as a major tipping point, which he insightfully describes as a “third-way” approach. Renn states, “Theologies of triangulation are also likely to fail in the long run…just as Clinton-Blair politics are out of favor today, so third way approaches in theology are losing their luster” (pg. 185). Renn admits that there are no easy solutions since the negative world has become hostile to all forms of accountability to God’s created order. Renn concludes, “Gender is one of the most critical areas for evangelicals to discern today…strengthening our own communities for the negative world requires that we repair our own sexual economy” (p. 186). Some see this repair happening through a return to biblical patriarchy (which Renn sees as an implausibility in our egalitarian society). Others believe that complementarianism can still be redeemed with stricter guardrails. But what if – and this may sound crazy – what if local churches ditch the women’s bible study curriculum and conferences and actively practice the instructions given in Titus 2?

A Negative World Catechism

Seeing that the younger generations are yearning for a timeless, truer form of femininity, older women who have bucked the feminist cultural trend can offer clear, biblical instructions on how to live as God-honoring wives and mothers. This would be a dramatic shift from current women’s ministry trends, which resemble therapeutic counseling sessions rather than a means of training young women “to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands” (Titus 2:4-5). Pastors may assume that women are receiving this teaching from their mothers, but as mentioned before, women of past generations largely have imbibed the secular model of womanhood. These Proverbs 31 women can provide a godly example to emulate, and, unlike online influencers, their teleology is not based on a materialistic understanding of femininity.

Detractors may say this is too simplistic. However, consider the alternative. Should we continue on our current trajectory, the American church will continue to concede to cultural pressures and fail to be the salt and light the world needs. As the world gets darker, countercultural believers need to shine brighter. This means taking unpopular stands like embracing a traditional view of marriage roles. To do this, churches need to explicitly teach the principles of biblical feminine virtues so that they can better discern truth from error in the culture. Without a solid biblical foundation, they are easy pickings for the worldly influencers.

Conclusion

In our secular, post-modern society, people will continue to debate over the definition of a woman, and they will try to further blur the distinctions between the sexes. However, what they cannot do is offer life-giving answers to the existential crisis young women are facing. They are currently drawn to influences that, though right in diagnosing the problems, offer short-term solutions. The church can offer an eternal perspective that will meet women’s present needs while training her up to be a virtuous woman for little girls to emulate. A woman of whom can be said, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future.” (Pr. 31:25 NASB).

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