Book Review: Passionate Housewives Desperate for God

Passioante Housewives The authors of Passionate Housewives Desperate for God, Jennie Chancey and Stacy McDonald, purpose to encourage women in their roles as homemakers and to dispel various homemaker myths: the 1950s stereotypical housewife, vacuuming in pearls and high heels; the perfect super-mom; and the bored, sensual “desperate housewife” of TV fame. They not only outline the biblical teaching of a godly homemaker, but also encourage her that God will give her the strength and grace she needs.

They also want to speak out and warn against feminism and the inroads it is making into Christian culture. I knew that feminists frowned on stay-at-home mothers, but I didn’t realize quite the extent of it. The book is well-documented in its confrontation of feminism: here are just a couple of quotes of feminists themselves:

No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.

~ Simone de Beauvoir, “Sex, Society, and the Female Dilemma,” Saturday Review, June 14, 1975.

Being a housewife is an illegitimate profession…The choice to serve and be protected and plan toward being a family-maker is a choice that shouldn’t be. The heart of radical feminism is to change that.

~ Vivian Gornick, University of Illinois, “The Daily Illini,” April 25, 1981

So much for women’s choice!

The authors also argue against what they call “Me-ology” — “books that encourage women to ‘pamper’ rather than ‘sanctify’ their flesh,” the idea that it’s “okay to live for self.” They’re not against the occasional bubble bath or time alone, but rather the idea that women should put themselves first in order to be better wives and mothers, or that they need to “escape” from their duties. The Bible teaches in many places that Christians are to live their lives in service to God and others and not for self and the more we try to grasp for ourselves, the more miserable we and our families will be (John 15:12-13, Matthew 10:39, Philippians 2:3-7, II Corinthians 5:15, Matthew 25:40, Matthew 16:24-26).

While it may seem counterintuitive, the lesson is true: living more for self will only keep us further from that true joy we’re after as women. God wants us to know that we can’t do it all, so that He can do it through us — so that He can equip us with the grace and strength we need to accomplish His will — which includes serving Him by serving others’ (p. xxv).

Please understand there is nothing intrinsically wrong with [spas, massages, pedicures], as long as we understand that we don’t need them to be content or healthy and that we aren’t somehow deprived if we don’t get them. There are many ways we can relax and enjoy ourselves when God gives us opportunity, but to feverishly pursue solace in worldly leisure and personal pleasure is to run to an empty comforter (p. 15).

I think this book is a great encouragement to any homemaker, particularly the chapters “Embracing Your Sacred Calling” and “So Show Me What a Keeper at Home Really Looks Like.” I have multitudes of quotes marked that spoke to me, too many to list, but here are a couple:

We must view serving our families as acts of service to God, rather than as acts that “get in the way” of serving Him. Martin Luther wrote about this very idea:

[Christian faith] opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as the costliest gold and jewels. A wife…should regard her duties in the same light, as she suckles the child, rocks and bathes it, and cares for it in other ways; and as she busies herself with other duties and renders help and obedience to her husband. These are truly golden and noble works (from a sermon titled “the Estate of Marriage”) (pp. 55-56).

You see, homemaking isn’t about the house itself or the things it contains. Being keepers at home is about focusing on the Lord in all the everydayness so that our houses become centers of hospitality, forgiveness, training, business, welfare, charity, shared mourning and celebration, and — oh, yes — lots of tracked-in mud, crumbs under the chairs, and everything else that goes with human beings. We must not lose sight of the fact that our homes are God-given tools to bless others. They aren’t the end goal; they are, simply, one of the means to the end. And what is the end? Dying to self, laying down our lives, serving others that Christ may grow His kingdom and transform the world and ourselves as we do things His way (p. 94).

No talents are wasted in the Kingdom of God, and putting gifts to use in the service of husbands and godly households is not akin to burying talents in the ground. Proverbs 31 should put that notion firmly to rest, as Scripture demonstrates the wonderful scope for creativity, productivity, and achievement given to the godly keeper of the home (p. 106).

Any mother of young children has, I am sure, experienced this kind of scenario:

I remember one night praying fervently (after the baby had been up twelve or thirteen times), “Please, God, please, please, please let him sleep.” And then I heard the inevitable scream. I cried into my pillow because I knew it was only an hour before I had to get up. Wasn’t God listening?

So I pulled [the baby] into bed with me to nurse, quieted his fretful wails, and drifted off to sleep one more time, desperately hoping for just a “few more minutes” of rest. Yet, as if in a dream, I heard the distant voice of one of my older children, “Mom…Mom, Melissa’s throwing up.”

It was true. Sleep was not meant for me that morning. But I had a choice: I could be bitter toward the family God had called me to serve, or I could ask God to give the strength I needed to die to self and glorify Him. At the end of the day, though I was physically tired, I marveled at how I had made it through and was able to see ways God had eased my burden and refreshed my soul. I was able to nap when the baby rested later in the afternoon, a friend had made an “extra” casserole and wanted to know if I wanted one, and my time seemed to be multiplied. — I was shocked at how much I had accomplished. When we trust God, take our eyes off our troubles, and simply choose to do what needs to be done, God blesses us.

Your burdens will seem lighter as you allow Him to carry you. The hours of sleep may not always be [what] you would choose, but they will be enough — He always gives us enough. Give thanks to God for His provision, for the life He has given you, and for the family He has entrusted to your care.

While the book is filled with wonderful advice and encouragement, there are just a couple of things I would disagree with. One is the idea of the “dominion mandate,” taking God’s instructions to Adam and Eve far beyond what I believe is meant there. For example, one sentence on page 43 says, “If we are faithful in bearing and training up our children, by God’s grace, we will see a growing army for Christ — an army that will take dominion of the godless nations of the earth for the glory of God.” I put a big question mark next to that sentence in my book. I don’t see any instructions in the Bible for New Testament Christians to “take dominion of the godless nations of the earth.” We’re told to share the gospel and make disciples, and all through the New Testament to live a life that glories God, but we are also told we’ll face opposition and persecution, and Christ’s kingdom won’t be fully realized until He returns to Earth.

I also have problems with what they call “the myth of a quiet time.” I do know that when children are small, finding time alone with the Lord is a challenge and might not look like it always has before, and I wrote about that in a post titled “Encouragement to mothers of young children.” And that’s basically what they are saying as well, but to call it a “myth” seems to me to give the wrong impression.

And finally, though Vision Forum, through which this book is published, has a lot of good material and promotes many of the same values and beliefs I do, I would disagree with them on a few things. As just one example, I’ve mentioned before that a woman’s primary ministry is to her family (I Timothy 5:14, Titus 2:4-5, Proverbs 31:27), whether she works outside the home or not, but Vision Forum teaches that even unmarried women should not work “alongside men alongside men as their functional equals in public spheres of dominion (industry, commerce, civil government, the military, etc.)”  (see point number 14 here). They take what I believe to be an extreme view in some areas. Neverthless, I think much good can be gleaned from heir materials though most of us would not embrace some of their more extreme stands.

(This review will be linked to Semicolon’s Saturday Review of books and Callapidder Days’ Spring Reading Thing Reviews.)

15 thoughts on “Book Review: Passionate Housewives Desperate for God

  1. What a great review. Those quotes by feminists make my mouth drop open is disbelief. And I agree with your reservations about some of the attitudes the book seems to manifest.

  2. Thanks for this review, Barbara. I always know I can count on you to give a balanced review! I agree with you about the more radical views of Vision Forum. There was a time when I was influenced in my thinking by an online friend I greatly admired, but upon further examination realized that some of their beliefs are taken to an extreme. That was one thing that kept me from reading this book, knowing it was produced by VF. It sounds like it has some good teaching in it, so I might try to get it sometime.

  3. Thanks to feminism, nobody is raising the children. In my personal opinion (which is worth exactly what you paid for it), feminism has done more to destroy the family than legalizing gay marriage ever could. Legalizing gay marriage won’t suddenly make everybody gay and anti-family, but the feminist movement actually preaches against creating and nurturing families.

  4. Awesome review and I think I agree with you on your opinion of VF entirely. I think they offer good materials but find them a little too extreme for my liking. Nevertheless, I DID enjoy reading this particular book and found it to be encouraging.

  5. I loved this book… I loved how it emphasized service and selflessness, and showed from scripture how these are the things that truly lead to “self-actualization” rather than the striving to for some elusive sort of “fulfillment.”

    I do agree with your concern about the idea of a “dominion mandate,” and I share some (but by no means all) of your concerns about Vision Forum. However, I found the discussion of the “myth of quiet time” to be almost revelatory. I was trained to see a daily quiet time as essential for proper spiritual discipline. Like every other Christian mom, when my children were small it was very difficult- sometimes impossible- for me to fit one into my day. At times I became resentful towards my children when they would interrupt my prayer time.. didn’t they know I *needed* it?? But really, that attitude was nothing more than self.. wanting to meet my own selfish desires before giving service. This book was the very first place I had ever heard this viewpoint and I felt the sting of conviction immediately upon reading it.

    This book is one of those that I pull out and re-read every year… I like it that much.

    By the way, your review was wonderful- very informative and very balanced too☺

  6. That was an excellent review Barbara! I love that when you read a book, you read every sentence! I probably would have blown past some of the things that you hit on. I would have thought “hogwash!” and gone on and it never would have come up in conversation! But you picked out the positives as well as the negatives and really stated your opinions in a non-confrontational way! I don’t think I want to read the book… but I think it was a great review! I AM now sitting here wondering if God means for all women to “serve” family… or if God just means for all people “to serve”. (of course, the idea of the feminists taking MY choice away does not sit well… they want women to have freedom of choice about whether to KILL an unborn baby – but not to have the freedom to choose to stay home and take care of baby! Hmmmm…)

    • I think God does intend for married women to serve their families first and foremost. So much of instruction in Scripture to woman is about the home and her responsibilities there. But we should all serve even outside the home as well. I’ve had a post “brewing” on the back burner of my mind about serving in general…hopefully I can sit down and put it into words at some point.

  7. Pingback: Spring Reading Thing 2009 Wrap-Up « Stray Thoughts

  8. Thank you Barbara for posting your thoughts on this book.
    I have not read the book yet, but from those that have I have noticed some positive and negative results.
    I definitely believe we as Christians are called to serve. After all we are not better than our Savior and He said He came to serve. He calls us to serve and die to the flesh daily. Serving with the right heart is a true expression of love. First and formost that would be at home with our family. From there we reach out to the world.
    I have noticed a bit of a growing trend that is scary. It seems (and especially among the homeschoolers … of whom I am one) that there is such a huge focus of drawing into ourselves and forgetting the world. Perhaps that is what the Dominion mindset is, I just did not know the name. Their thoughts seem to be… grow large Christian families so there are more Christians in the world and eventually we will take over. They have forgotten the call of our Lord to GO into the world and make disciples. They also seem to think that just because we homeschool and are Christians that all our children will be Christians. Homeschooling is not our salvation, Jesus is and our children have to make their own choice to follow Him. And Jesus is raising up many Christians from non- Christian backgrounds, of which I am one. I thank God for those who reached out to me and told me about a Father who really loved me, and of Jesus our Savior who gave up everything for me.
    Anyway that is a bit of a rabbit trail. I do intend to read the book, but I am thankful I read your blog on it before I did.
    bless you!

  9. “Legalizing gay marriage won’t suddenly make everybody gay and anti-family”

    Please. Only radical feminism does this; original feminism gave women civil rights and great blessings. To compare those blessings, which enabled women to fulfill their different callings from God, to the evil of gay marriage which goes against all things good and natural is an empty and foolish attempt, imo.

    ” really, that attitude was nothing more than self.. wanting to meet my own selfish desires before giving service.”

    That’s exactly the kind of legalistic and false thinking that the VF tries to force on women: desperately needed time with God is “selfish” and “unncecessary”. That’s a lie, and hopefully not what the authors intended to express here.

    Barbara, thank you for this excellent review. My concerns with the VF are more like condemnations than concerns; I have basically seen the deepest dirty core of their heart. Surprisingly, though I despise their obsessive fantasy of ruling the world with cradles full of babies, I didn’t mind the idea of taking dominion over unGodly nations. The president of this country alone is reason for me to pray for such an occurence. I’ll be buying this book next month and I hope to find some wisdom apart from the VF influence. Thanks!

  10. Thanks, Barbara, for this wonderful review. I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while and now, after reading your thorough take on it — including all the wonderful quotes — I feel I’ll know what to expect when I do. Great job! Love those homemaker books 🙂

  11. Pingback: Semicolon » Blog Archive » Saturday Review of Books: June 20, 2009

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