A silly dangerous idea?

August 31, 2007

Gary Ledbetter has a column in the Southern Baptist Texan entitled "A silly dangerous idea?" In it he attacks critics of the controversial new homemaker degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The biggest problem with his piece is not his discussion of the program but rather his attempt to exclude some commentators from the discussion. He wrote:

When the news media want to ask someone about a homemaking course at a Southern Baptist seminary, where do they go? Well, naturally, they turn to an unmarried pastor and a formerly Southern Baptist liberal whose work is largely dedicated to berating the SBC and its leaders. Maybe they are the only ones who don't get it.
Did you catch what Ledbetter attempts to do? He does not confront their arguments but instead claims that they do not even have a right to speak on this subject because of who they are. That is not only a logical fallacy but suggests that he is unable to truly answer their charges. Wade Burleson has done an excellent job of critiquing this mistake in Ledbetter's column. Burleson wrote:
However, that kind of thinking is inherently dangerous because it lends itself toward theological inbreeding. Think with me for a moment about ridiculing any criticism on the basis of 'They are not one of us or can't understand us.'

With that logic no married couple would ever ask Jesus or the Apostle Paul what they think about marriage because they were never married - and can't relate. Nobody would ever ask Christians what we think about abortion because we have never experienced the process. Nobody would ever ask a conservative pastor what he thinks of higher criticism because he doesn't believe in it- or use it - and is not sympathetic to liberal theology. Ironically, if this kind of logic were to be followed, then the editors of the Southern Baptist Texan and Baptist Press would never again write any article expressing criticism against homosexuality or the gay agenda since both aforementioned magazines are "conservative" and can't understand liberalism.

The premise of Mr. Ledbetter's opinion piece is illogical - unless you intend to remain entrenched in a polarizing viewpoint that categorically rejects any criticism from people "not like us."
Amen! Ledbetter's argument is absurd and dangerous because it attempts to shut down discussion. Let's focus on the issues and not the people. Let's let everyone make their argument and see how things turn out. But let's not attempt to stack the deck or kick people out of the discussion just because we do not agree with them.

Ledbetter also goes way off into left field as he attacks courses he does not like at secular universities, which leads to the ridiculous and unsupported suggestion that Southwestern's critics would rather see classes in things like witchcraft. It is quite unbelievable that he would be so intellectually dishonest! This illogical attack again avoids the substantive issues concerning Southwestern's program.

Finally, Ledbetter throws out the sexist card. He wrote:
Is there a sexist aspect to the extreme criticism of the homemaking courses at SWBTS? I think maybe so. If men and women are different in important ways, they will have different areas of competence. I'll stick my neck into the slipstream of thousands of years of human experience and suggest that women are temperamentally better equipped than men to manage the home and nurture children. It is foolish to treasure work outside the home more than work in the home. In fact, the future of the world hinges on the latter. It is demeaning to suggest that unless women actually do all the same things men do, they have missed something crucial. I think it's sexist.
Huh? So saying that women should be allowed to choose the life course they feel called to is sexist? Of course, the only reason he is usually that attack is because he is trying to stop the barrage of attacks accusing Southwestern of being sexist. After all, they are the ones that are only allowing those of one sex to take the classes. What if a man wants to learn how to take care of his home? Too bad! That is not allowed simply because of his sex, which is the definition of sexism. This is, after all, the same institution that is being sued for firing a professor just because that professor is a woman.

An Ethics Daily article today reported about the criticism of Southwestern's program from a stay-at-home mother. Here is that section of the article:

Interviewed live Aug. 24 on NBC's "Today Show," Rachel Hamman, author of Bye, Bye Boardroom: Confessions from a New Breed of Stay-at-Home Moms, viewed the degree as "a throwback to the 1950s."

Hamman has a bachelor's degree in communications. She worked with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, E. & J. Gallo Winery and Merrill Lynch before co-founding The Golden Rule Foundation, a children's charity. She now, according to her online bio, writes books as a "happily married stay-at-home mom."

Hamman told "Today" that homemaking is "on-the-job training, 24/7" that cannot be learned by reading a book. "I just don't think it should be in a classroom setting," she said. "And if a setting like that is available, [it's] very sexist in the fact of, where's the course for men? Where is the course for men to be better spouses and better communicators?"

She also objected to defenders of the degree who describe it as a way to combat divorce.

"I fail to see how the divorce rate can be tied into a woman learning to darn her socks better," Hamman said. "I think that is absolutely ludicrous. If you're going to get a degree--I think a degree should be for a woman, if she chooses to be a homemaker--get a degree in something that can actually be a viable skill that--if she ever has to support herself outside the home--she has something to fall back on."
Thus, it seems the program is flawed because it is designed in a sexist manner. Rather than providing more useful teachings for the women, it instead focuses on reinforcing stereotypical gender roles.

Ledbetter ends his rant with:
The notion that it is dangerous, silly, or superfluous is ridiculous and probably dishonest.
Actually, the only thing that is dangerous, silly, superfluous, ridiculous, and probably dishonest is his column.