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The Lady

This is not about politics or it should not be. It is about the thousands of women I have met who are mothers, simply wives and mothers. As a group they get terrible press and it does have a painful impact. They do not complain to me, but if you ask how they feel about their portrayal in the culture, you better be prepared for an answer.Work hard at being a wife and mother and you are pictured as a selfish life-denying drudge. “Barefoot and pregnant” and in need of liberation, you are pathetic and sadly don’t know it. You cannot really be blamed for your child-like behavior. Men made you do it. One Berkeley stranger stopped my wife in the street with her baby carriage and said, “You did not have to have those children.” My wife calmly said, “It is a little late to tell me now.” and walked on down the street. But when did having a baby carriage become a sign of oppression?Of course, most homemakers don’t stay at home all the time. Like the Biblical example of womanhood in Proverbs, they are leaders in their community. However, even there society has a great stereotype for you: “the church lady.” You are a busy body with too much time on your hands. Worse still you are taking jobs from people who need them. Besides late night humorists have proven that you are querulous and ugly.Suppose you are attractive, your house is in good order, and you seem to have it all together. Ah, then you are a Stepford Wife with no soul. If you do have a soul, we know it is full of repressed and hidden pain. As ABC describes it, you are a “desperate housewife.”Education is set up to promote career and denigrate homemaking as an option. If it is presented, it is done in an offhand and unattractive way. (“Of course, most of you will want to be a success.”) We have “Take Your Daughter to Work” day, but no one suggests “Keep Your Daughter at Home,” at least in the main stream media.Even Christian colleges often encourage this attitude. “Why do you think God had you get a degree from Wheaton (a prestigious evangelical school) if you were just going to be a mother?” one of my students innocently asked my wife. My wife just wisely listened, but then wondered when homes had stopped requiring our best.I have found the homemakers of America to be amazing, the cultural glue that keeps society going. They run the volunteer organizations that keep society healthy and government small. They are beautiful, but not in the nearly dead, taped-into-place (usually by men who don’t like women) fashion model sense. Homemakers are very bright, replacing an expensive and socialistic education system with a varied home-school network of their own. It has grown so amazingly and is so effective, that feminists would celebrate it, if they did not hate the women and ideology involved.”Dare to defy!” said sixties feminists and then marched their followers into corporate cubicles. “Dare to defy!” said my wife to the spirit of the age and replaced the popular culture with one of her own making. She creates music, educates, and art. Who is on the cutting edge?What have we lost? We have lost that rare and precious thing: the Lady. One would never be crude around her, because she was too good for it. She was no prude and could walk through a sewer for her family without it touching her if she had to do so. She was the West Virginia woman, proud and free, who worked hard in the fields and created the folk art of modern museums without knowing it. She created effortlessly. Every Lady becomes a reflection of Our Lady, a high calling indeed.Of course, some women will choose not to marry or will be unable to do so. Other married woman will not have children. They will work outside the home. There is nothing wrong or “less than” about this calling. My own church has always had women whose work outside the home was valued as “equal to the apostles.” They ruled kingdoms and wrote great books. Not one of them felt the need to demean their sisters with the holy calling of homemaker. They praised the keepers at home and their sisters at home thanked them for their noble labor.When I was a feminist, I thought the ideals of real choice were what the movement wanted. I know better now. There was never a place for mothers and children, or even men, in the brave new world of mainstream feminism. It is a war against tradition and homemakers, slaves to the feminists, were the first casualty. God help me, I too fell for that rhetoric for a while.So Theresa Kerry has merely, thoughtlessly, repeated the cant of the Women’s Studies Programs of the nation. Who can doubt that this is what she feels? It is time to express our anger and defend homemaking. It is a job. It is a calling. I have seen it from beginning to its end and it is a mighty thing. Ms. Kerry value is never measured in money and the life lived in pure service, never touched by a paycheck, is great indeed.There is a place in any civilized culture for the Lady, the woman will not stoop to conquer. She is the woman who works hard, often thanklessly, to create without pay. Her children rise up to call her blessed.If America wants a First Lady, we know where to turn. Of course, this not a constitutional role, we have had a bachelor president and the Clintons. The republic can stand without a Lady.Theresa has chosen to be no Lady and that is her right. She seems an accomplished person. It is not a bad thing to be no Lady, even in traditional societies other roles are open to women. Thank goodness our culture allows even more freedom than most for people to fill the God has called them to fill.However Theresa must not demand the respect we would show a Lady. We will treat her as she has become. If she wants to be the hard talking woman of the world, then she will receive that respectful treatment. That is an ancient and honored role. (Would she were an Alice Roosevelt!) If she must denigrate Ladies, she must not be surprised if they strike back in their own ways and she must not cry foul if the men who love them defend their worth. For we know their worth, it dazzles us every day.Every Sunday I see the end of the Lady: the beautiful woman, the churchwoman. She is the grandmother kneeling in prayer in the pew across from me. She is well turned out, as she honors God with her best. She is worn perhaps, but like stretch marks in a mother, these are the marks of love. Yes, as Hallmark-greeting-card as it seems, she has become more beautiful with time. Her soul is nearly fit for Paradise as the Master has smoothed away all the youth and left the good behind. Her eyes shine brighter now.Every day I see another Lady: another beautiful woman, my wife. She has hard days. The job of creating civilization is great. She strains under the added load of being a Lady in a society that despises her role. God help me, I have not always seen her great value or the worth of it all myself. She is with me every day and so the sanctity of her path is lost to me. I need to be reminded.Ms. Kerry has done this for me today. She has caused me to stop and look at the woman next to me, so strong and so often tired. How can I honor her? How can I go beyond words to show she is a Lady and of great value, greatest value, to the nation?I remember. There is one other role now much missing in our culture: the Gentleman. Having married a Lady, allowing such glory to be near, I have the duty to change. And so I am reminded of the Lady and Gentleman in the White House: the man who married his social inferior for love and not money and the woman who civilized the man and helped save his soul. They are a good pattern for me to follow. Since I am married to a Lady, like the First Lady, I must strive to become a man like the President, a Gentleman. So help me God.Who said politics could not elevate the soul?

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