“Biblical Baking” Gets Controversial at Houghton College

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free
cookies do not always wish to remain stacked.photo © 2007 Klara | more info(via: Wylio)

I’m a big fan of Houghton College, mainly because some of the nicest people I’ve met through the years claim it as either their employer or alma mater.  (I’m talking about YOU, Dave, Lori, Nolan, Andrew, and Kaylan!)  So I was interested to see that the “biblical womanhood” debate has really heated up over at Houghton.  

Apparently, a female student launched a club (and corresponding Facebook group) entitled Operation Domestic Diva in which participants bake cookies for the men on campus in order to fulfill the “Biblical principles found in Proverbs 31.” The initiative has sparked a campus-wide debate about biblical interpretation and the roles of women, as well as a second group called Students for Egalitarianism in Marriage.  

Reading the Facebook wall made me chuckle and groan at the same time. (I especially enjoyed the comic relief from the guys—“Keep baking!” “Glad you ladies are reading your Bibles!”) It reminds me a bit of my days as a student at Bryan College, when I first bumped into the concept of “biblical womanhood” after some students questioned whether women should be allowed to run for president of the student body. 

This only confirms my suspicion that, particularly among evangelicals, the debate regarding women’s roles in the home, church, and society is far from over. If you want to get a sneak peek at what the Christian community will be talking about in 5-10 years, just spend some time on a Christian college campus.From evolution to religious pluralism to homosexuality, the issues that play out on the national scene often begin in classrooms, late-night dorm room discussions, and chapel services.

I’m only a month into my year of biblical womanhood, but already I’ve deemed myself a bit of expert on the topic, so I have some advice for the students at Houghton College: 

Enjoy the diversity.
Everyone loves the idea of diversity until the reality of it becomes uncomfortable. The best thing about attending a nondenominational religious college is that you get to rub shoulders with people who come from a variety of backgrounds and theological persuasions. Enjoy the fact that you are eating lunch with both Calvinists and Arminians, sharing a bathroom with both complementarians and egalitarians, and learning history from both Republicans and Democrats. Unfortunately, we humans have a nasty habit of surrounding ourselves with like-minded people as soon as we have the opportunity to choose, so this may be your best chance to listen and learn from people who see the world a little differently.  Hopefully, you will develop a habit of it that will continue long after you have graduated. 

Don’t question one another’s integrity.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the majority of the students at Houghton College take the Bible seriously—whether they’ve joined the baking club or the career club.  Bakers, resist the urge to suggest that those who disagree with your interpretation of the Bible do not take the Bible seriously. Egalitarians, resist the impulse to make caricatures of those who perhaps apply Scripture more literally than you. This is not a faith issue; it’s an interpretation/application issue. And take it from me, we are ALL selective when it comes to applying the Bible to our lives. So cut each other some slack and begin with the assumption that even those with whom you disagree just want to do the right thing. 

Use the Bible as a conversation-starter, not a weapon. 
Simply throwing verses at each other will get you nowhere fast.  Raise the level of discourse by asking one another questions like these: How do we know which parts of Scripture apply universally and which are culturally constrained? Why do we “pick and choose” the way we do? What is the cultural context of the passages in question? How might our own cultural assumptions be affecting the way we approach Scripture? 

Be nice to each other.
Ladies, the only stereotype worse than women as doormats or women as power-craved is the stereotype of woman as backstabbers and gossips. Don’t let this incident perpetuate that! Be kind to one another and patient with one another.  Focus on what’s important—friendship, worship, tolerance, and that physics quiz in the morning.  

Gentlemen, enjoy the cookies and stay out of it. 

So, what advice would you give the students at Houghton College as they begin this conversation?

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